1. Work closely with parent carers in everything that you are planning. For many students their parent carers have taken on the extended role of teacher, therapist, support worker and much more for nearly half a year. They have supported their child’s learning using the lessons and activities provided by schools as well as offered a whole host of activities to develop their life skills. Your pupils will have learnt loads and made lots of progress, maybe not in the way that you would have expected had they been in school but still very valid. For those pupils who have been in school their parents have also played a key role during lockdown, many providing essential support to ensure that the nation can get back to “normal” as quickly as possible as well as supporting their family. Parent Cares know their children, they will be able to tell you what their child has learnt, what they may have struggled with, what they have achieved and what may have caused them stress or anxiety. Listen to what Parent Carers have to say and keep up that dialogue throughout the year.
2. Plan activities that celebrate all that the pupils have been doing throughout lockdown either during home learning or in school sessions. The pupil who has learnt to bake a cake can show their peers how to do this, the pupil who has learnt to ride their bike can explain what that was like, the pupil who has read extensively can share some of their favourite books, characters etc and the pupil who drew some fantastic pictures can have them on display in an “art gallery” in the classroom. All of the learning from the time since lockdown needs to be celebrated – it is very important to the pupil and therefore should be important to teachers as well.
3. Review your SEN Register to ensure it is up-to-date. Have your EHCP pupils been getting everything that is written in section F of their plan throughout lockdown? If not, how are you going to ensure that this is rectified in September? Have all your SEN Support pupils been getting their additional and/or different provision throughout lockdown? If not, how will you ensure that this is in place for September? Have you considered pupils who may have had or will have significant SEMH needs on their return to school? Will you add these to your SEN Register or will there be a whole school policy to support mental health and wellbeing for everyone?
4. Work with the external specialists to ensure that your pupils will be receiving appropriate and relevant support in September. Find out what has been offered during lockdown and gather any information about progress that the pupil has made. Consider any new pupils that have been admitted to your school and the specialist support that they may require. Where will you commission this additional support from? Local authority, private individual/company or an agency may all be able to support your school but you need to consider costs, amount of time required and service that can be provided. You also may need to consider that there still may be a moratorium on visitors entering the school building so this support may still have to be provided virtually.
5. Ensure that new pupils that have transitioned from another phase of education are given the support and guidance that they need to settle into their new school. Many will not have had a great deal of transition support in the summer term and so therefore the first few weeks of being in their new setting will be crucial. This is very important for pupils with SEND. Hopefully SENCOs will have discussed their pupils and paperwork and information will have been passed on but it is important that you keep in touch with the receiving setting for at least the first term to ensure continuity. Remember that many of these pupils will not have been in school for 24 weeks so will have missed a significant tranche of this year’s curriculum. Starting the year with a barrage of summative assessments/tests may not be helpful for some pupils, they are going to require a period of “getting to know you” sessions first.
- Social, emotional and mental health has got to be top priority – this should be a whole school priority for all staff and pupils.
- Health and well-being – this is a significant part of the new guidance on Relationships, Sex and Relationships and Health Education which need to be implemented from September 2020
- Physical activity – Many pupils will have had limited physical activity during lockdown – they may have been self-isolating or a member of their family self-isolating, they live in a high rise flat with very limited outdoor space or they have spent most of their time in their bedroom (by choice).
- Creativity – Many children have been very creative during their time at home but for some the lack of resources has inhibited what they have been able to do.
- Additional support – We need to ensure that our EHCP & SEN Support pupils will get the additional support that they require to support their learning and development.
- Therapeutic input – We also need to ensure that all pupils who require therapeutic input receive this as quickly as possible especially if they have had very limited input during lockdown.
- Thematic approach – Would it be a good idea to develop a whole school curriculum with a thematic approach for the first term giving time for everyone to settle and be able to process the “new normal”.
We also need to consider what will happen if some pupils do not return in September (Social distancing rules, those who are still self-isolating or those who are finding it difficult to re-engage). What will their home learning curriculum look like – will it follow what is going on in school – if not how will you re-integrate those pupils once they do get back into school?
I recommend that you take a look at the Recovery Curriculum from Prof. Barry Carpenter and Matthew Carpenter. This is a curriculum construct that you might wish to consider in your setting to support all pupils back into full-time schooling.
7. Update your SEN Information Report – This is a mandatory report that should be reviewed annually and placed on your school website. It outlines the SEN offer that your school provides. You may need to revise this in light of the pandemic and what you are able to offer and who is going to be providing all of the additional provision that is required. If classes are still having to work in “bubbles” with only certain members of staff then it might be that a pupil in that class will not be able to receive their intervention from the normal member of staff as they are working in another “bubble”, however, the school still has a duty to provide the additional and/or different provision to support that pupil. This needs to be part of your SEN Information Report.
8. School Leaders are already thinking about staffing for the start of the new term – what they don’t know at the moment is how many staff will actually be returning. Some may still have to be self-isolating or are living with an individual who is having to self-isolate and therefore will not be able to return at the beginning of September. Those responsible for SEND need to be working closely with school leaders to try and develop a time-table for support and interventions for SEND pupils especially if the “bubble” model is still being used.
The recent announcement of the additional funding to support pupils to “catch-up” will also have to be considered – for many children with SEND this will be a real advantage but who is going to deliver, what are they going to deliver and when are they going to deliver it? All questions that we need to be thinking about now and planning for ready for September.
- Do not want to leave parent/s
- Have found remote learning much better than being in school
- Don’t know if their friends are still their friends
- Know that school will be very different
- Anxiety about leaving the house – possibly parental anxiety
- Were already struggling before lockdown
- Were excluded before lockdown
- Concerned about how much they have missed and worried that they won’t be able to catch-up
We are going to have to think about innovative ways of re-integrating these pupils back into school. This may mean that we have to think differently about how our pupils learn. If working from home using a virtual classroom removes the stress and anxiety of attending school then why can we not offer this as an option post-pandemic?
10. Finally, look after your own mental health and well-being. As a leader of SEND in your school you are the advocate for all SEND pupils. They are going to need you to be strong and resilient in order to ensure that they do not get a bad deal and they get every opportunity to succeed to their full potential even after nearly six months in lockdown.
Join Lorraine Petersen OBE and Sarah Davis for a free online workshop for SENCOs and Senior Leaders preparing for the new academic year! Register here …
Date: Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 3.15pm to 4.15pm