“Can you photocopy 6 Disability Living Allowance applications? Can I take the laminator home? Have you scanned the paediatrician’s forms? Where is the social communication folder? Can we take it home? We will need a GDPR exception form. Are you taking the Attention Autism Bucket? Will you make the films?”
It was March 23rd – schools are to close, there was a frenzy in our small office as staff members grabbed folders, files, resources so we could try to continue to support families and children and schools. How were we to continue whilst we entered the lockdown phase?
It is now June and we have had 10 weeks of intense interactions via many new platforms; living rooms switch from classroom to meeting room via videos, conference calls, online forums. As professionals we have heard stories of confusion, anger, triumph and success from schools and families.
At our weekly virtual staff meetings, we discuss what we have learnt each week, as well as starting to look forward at what we are going to implement for the future?
These are three ways in which we can move SEND learning forward after lockdown.
I attend, organise and contribute to Team around the Child meetings. Usually it would take weeks to set a date that everyone could do, inevitably someone drops out, the date needs to change and now only 2/3 of the group can contribute. A new date is set but there is no physical space available, we need to look for another day. This tended to be a common pattern when arranging these meetings pre-lockdown, but I have seen a real shift in the attempt to organise these meetings during the crisis. There is no challenge around travel. You can, if necessary, arrange your diary to have 2, 3 or even 4 in a day. Ultimately, doing things virtually has made coordinating diaries so much easier. Everyone sends the reports ahead of the meeting (as you can no longer physically hand them out) allowing added time to prepare. Additionally, some families now have access to resources and professionals who would not normally be available because of time or travel constraints. Obviously, there are some added benefits to face-to-face contact, but does this need to happen for every meeting? My tip: ask yourself – Can we do the meeting virtually? If the answer is yes, not only will this be more time-efficient for yourself, but a wider team around the child will be able to attend. As a colleague said “I have had meetings with staff and children in Brighton, London, and Nottingham this morning – 3 PEPs done and no delayed train travel. I would have needed a day for each one before lockdown and then further write up time.”
The lockdown has made all of us look at how and what we offer to support our SEND learners. During this period, we have seen a shift towards video conferencing, online learning, telephone conferencing and discussion groups via a digital platform. However, what has changed the most for our SEND pupils is the ‘where.’ For many learners, we have seen a real engagement in home learning. Many have made rapid progress with academic skills, acquired a range of knowledge and have developed better behaviours for learning. At home we are seeing a relaxed but confident approach to learning and an interest in different subjects. Learning from home means pupils engage at a time that suits them. They can participate without having to deal with social demands, there are limited distractions from peers, and we avoid a sensory overload. My tip: Consider where learning takes place. Can we create a package of learning offering a mixture of home/remote learning and face to face learning?
I will regularly speak at school coffee mornings with parents and/or governors on SEND topics. Attendance can be variable. During lockdown, these have been moved to a digital platform with some running during the day and evening sessions proving more popular with working parents. Digitally, attendance has increased considerably; we are even considering operating a booking system. People seem so much happier to join from the sofa, or in between a work meeting. It takes less out of parents’ free time and I am seeing wider family members joining too. My tip: Consider when you offer training sessions and aim to keep many on a digital platform. Not only will this cut the cost of the building hire and the time involved, but most beneficially it creates an opportunity for a wider audience and engagement.
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