From the moment children join us we are assessing them: not with tests but with observations and questions. Because we are a small school, staff easily and readily share thoughts about children. We have an open door policy with parents and engage parents at the earliest opportunity if we have any concerns.
In general, the approaches to teaching and pastoral support that work best with children with SEND also work best for all children. Our classrooms are well-organised, calm and attractive; teachers plan clearly structured, interesting, accessible and engaging work; and we all work hard to make sure all of our pupils really enjoy school, are motivated and get the most out of it.
All children have different starting points, different experiences and different responses to teaching and learning. Our first principle is ‘quality first teaching’: this means that the classteacher has a responsibility to ensure that all members of the class, irrespective of needs, feel included, succeed and can access work at the right level. This will involve teachers in considering groupings, planning work in different ways and at different levels. This is known as differentiation. Teachers differentiate through:
- How much adult guidance is given – e.g., an adult may work alongside the child;
- Giving each child careful feedback about each piece of work, and probing understanding with questions and prompts;
- How much scaffolding is given – e.g., there may be prompts for each paragraph of writing;
- How much is expected – e.g., asking the child to complete 5 calculations rather than 10;
- How much repetition there is -e.g., understanding that some children need to repeat tasks many times to secure understanding;
- How much time is given – e.g., allowing more time to complete a task;
- The level of challenge in the set task and how much independence is expected – e.g., setting different tasks with different degrees of challenge.
We know that if teachers can get this right, more children experience success and make progress. Accessing high quality teaching means less SEND support is required.
How do you make sure that all teachers teach in the inclusive way you aspire to?
We know that high quality teaching and skilful support will make a big difference to the progress of children with SEND. Making sure that this happens in all our classrooms is one of the most important things that we as school leaders do.
Eleanor Palmer’s Leadership Team works constantly with teachers and support staff to develop effective teaching and support for all children including those with SEND . Teachers are observed, do paired teaching, watch more experienced teachers teach and attend regular staff meetings at which we focus on:
- carefully differentiated (taking account of different needs) planning which ensures that all children are able to make progress;
- making sure that the classteacher takes full responsibility for all children’s learning and progress;
- making sure the classteacher understands the needs identified in previous years, and communicates them to the new staff team;
- using a wide variety of teaching approaches, including guiding learning through demonstration;
- providing a stimulating, rich and interactive classroom environment;
- using regular, clear and rigorous assessments that help teachers to plan next steps and to track pupils’ progress and identify gaps in their understanding;
- how to help all children to develop their skills as learners – and to persevere when they find learning difficult.
You can read more about how we support good learning in our whole school Teaching and Learning Policy.
For our teacher appraisal, we use the eight National Teaching Standards to develop the knowledge, skill and confidence of all of our teachers as part of their professional development: Teaching Standard No 5 focuses on the adaptation of teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.
Support staff have annual appraisals too and meeting the needs of SEND pupils will form a part of this, including observing them at work.
Do staff understand special needs?
All staff have a good core awareness of Special Educational Needs. As a UNICEF Rights Respecting School, an awareness of disability and inclusion is central.
We also have regular training and guidance to meet the needs of our children. This can come from a member of staff who supports our school, e.g., recent training on ‘working memory’ from our Educational Psychologist, developing communication skills through the use of video from our Language and Communication Therapist and most recently, support staff training on managing distractibility from our Occupational Therapist.
We provide or access specialist training for Teachers and Teaching Assistants as relevant for those who support children with the most complex needs – for example a Specific Learning Difficulty, a Visual Impairment, or Autism. We are lucky that Camden has a constant programme of courses for staff.
All staff new to the school have an induction programme which includes detailed information about the range of pupils in her/his class, personal support and detailed guidance on how to provide high quality teaching and support. We also use the knowledge of parents/carers to do this.
As soon as we know that a child is coming to our school with particular needs, we review our provision and provide relevant on-going training. In particular, we will provide relevant training and guidance for your child’s teacher on meeting any specific needs.
Every year we ensure a proper transition is conducted and we will ensure the child’s teacher can receive guidance on your child’s specific needs as understood by the SENCO and any previous teacher.
If my child has special needs, can they take part in everything the school has to offer?
Our starting point is that all children can access and be included in the full curriculum including all visits, clubs, sports days, assemblies and residential. Extra steps will be taken to ensure that their inclusion is successful. To include everyone is really important to us at Eleanor Palmer.
We do a risk assessment and when necessary make reasonable adjustments to plans and arrangements, e.g. booking a taxi to save walking, creating a special book to build up to a special day out.
In Year 6, we can make applications for ‘special arrangements’ for the end of primary school tests (SATs). If professionals judge that, for example, extra time, enlarged print or a Braille paper, would help, then special applications are made by the school.