Sharing Best Practice
As a four time-awarded Outstanding School and a National Teaching School, we see our role is to blaze a trail for outstanding educational practise, in the area of complex needs.
This section of the website is dedicated to showcasing examples of best practise, which may be of interest to our colleagues, partners and the wider educational community.
External partners and other professionals recognise that leaders and governors are committed to ensuring that the school remains a centre of excellence that others can learn from.
Teacher Handbook: SEND – Embedding Inclusive Practice
‘I know embedding inclusive practice is important, but how do I do it?’ This is a recurring question that has inspired the release of Whole School SEND’s new Teacher Handbook: SEND – Embedding Inclusive Practice to help primary, secondary and specialist teachers across the country.
Launched by nasen with input from a leading steering group, members of the Whole School SEND consortium and Merton Special Training Association, this comprehensive resource will empower Headteachers and senior leaders, class teachers, Early Career Teachers (ECT), SENCOs, support staff and teaching assistants to meet the needs of learners with SEND through a strengths-based, solutions focused approach.
Authors Amelie Thompson and Katherine Walsh state: “The approach we have taken to writing this handbook reflects the approach that is needed to embed inclusive practice across schools - a shared vision and true collaboration, underpinned by professional challenge and respect for everyone’s strengths and expertise.”
As we created the Handbook, stakeholder engagement was an important feature, ensuring that the final document is rooted in practitioner expertise and perceived need. Contributors included families and pupils, teachers, heads of department, educational psychologists, therapists, and mental health professionals.
The Handbook aligns with the EEF’s Guidance Report Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools (March 2020), and positions the Graduated Approach and the Assess: Plan: Do: Review cycle as the golden thread running through the document.
Containing 185-pages of advice, best practice and case studies that brings theory to life, the expectation is that teachers will dip in and out rather than read cover to cover. The order of the sections encourages the reader through a particular sequence, reinforcing the notion that through securing high-quality teaching and universal provision as a first step, all learners are supported.
The Handbook is broken down into eight sections:
- Understanding the role of the teacher - exploring our own role as educators within the current legislative context; intersectionality and contextual safeguarding, highlighting our opportunity as educators to make a wider difference.
- Knowledge of the learner considers how all learners learn. We are reminded that it is by being adaptive in our practice and being curious about our learners and their learning that we bring about the best outcomes.
- Planning inclusive lessons covers inclusive practice in detail, guidance on learning approaches, language used, working with teaching assistants and remote education.
- Creating an inclusive environment looks at barriers to learning, classroom environments, routines, resource implications and supporting learners with sensory needs, alongside transitions.
- Subject-specific guidance focuses on teaching strategies that could be used within your lessons, providing advice to ensure you are doing everything you can within your subject area to meet the needs of the learners in your class.
- Graduated approach emphasises the importance of the teacher’s role in identification of need. Specific strategies are identified with informative sections on working with external agencies and specialists.
- Strategies to scaffold learning provides specific strategies to support learners within each of the four broad areas of need as well as a discussion about neurodiversity and co-occurring need.
- Teacher wellbeing looks at how teacher wellbeing can be enhanced in the workplace, looking at the teaching environment, supervision and resources.
The Handbook is available online as a PDF – a deliberate decision to keep it as accessible as possible and to allow teachers to refer back to it over time, for example when receiving a new child with a particular need into your class, you may want to refer to the condition-specific guidance.
A really useful feature we have built into the PDF is a Home button on each page. Clicking on this takes you back to the table of contents and there is also a sidebar which helps you to navigate the Handbook if it is kept open whilst you are reading. A further feature is that all links are embedded, including external links and links to other parts of the Handbook itself.
Since December, over 2400 people have already downloaded the Handbook. We hope many more do so.
Written by Tina Harvey, Executive Headteacher, Perseid School,
Co-Lead MSTA (Merton Special Training Association), Deputy Regional SEND Lead for the SESLON region.
The Thrive Approach and MSTA
At Perseid School we recognise the importance of emotional and social wellbeing and the negative impact that poor wellbeing can have on pupil’s behaviour and learning. Therefore, to support pupils with developing their social and emotional wellbeing the school integrate the Thrive Approach into everyday practice. Addressing early emotional needs builds resilience, decreases the risk of mental illness, prepares children to take their place within a community and equips them to be ready and willing to learn.
We aim to continually deepen our understanding of how social and emotional learning develops and thus be able to support our pupils to build a secure emotional foundation, which in turn will impact on their wider academic learning. We recognise this is core to our work as a school.
Our school environment, resources, learning approaches, timetables and planning are all informed by our understanding of how importantly each impacts on social, emotional and academic development and learning.
The Thrive Approach is a specific way of working with children that supports their social and emotional wellbeing, enabling them to engage with life and learning. The Thrive Approach draws on the latest research into brain science, child development theory, attachment theory and research into the role of creativity and play in developing emotional resilience. It uses a developmental framework to clarify the connections between emotional and social development, behaviour and learning. Knowledge of the social and emotional learning that takes place age appropriately support the school in planning experiences, activities and opportunities at the appropriate level.
These developmental strands come online sequentially and remain in play throughout life.
Life events can introduce episodes which can become interruptions in some children’s development. The Thrive Approach supports staff in planning and creating provision in response to need with reparative strategies as part of a systematic planned approach.
Staff engagement with pupils to build positive meaningful relationships is key to support pupils’ emotional health and wellbeing. Staff build these relationships by being attentive and responsive, reliable and predictable, anticipating needs and meeting needs without a fuss and ensuring they are available to regulate the child's emotional and physiological state.
Merton Special Training Association (MSTA)
In 2019-2020 MSTA approached Merton’s Attain group to offer the delivery of the Thrive Approach’s 10-day Childhood Practitioner course in order to help meet Attain’s identified priority group. The specific aim was to improve the mental health and resilience of pupils in receipt of SEN support, particularly in years 5, 6 and 7 and so that they have a more successful transition to secondary school by upskilling key staff in their theoretical and practical knowledge.
The Licenced Childhood Practitioner course offered 12 delegate places in total to each of the cluster school groups in Merton and one place to each of the borough’s three special schools.
Feedback from course attendees was overwhelmingly positive.
Four months after the course MSTA did a follow up with course participants to establish impact over time. Participants were asked if their learning impacted their practise and on a whole school approach. Comments received:
- We have been communicating THRIVE activity suggestions with parents at home with their children and also been doing some 1:1 Thrive work with children at school who we feel have needed it in particular. Of course, we used the profiling toolkit initially to help identify gaps. We will do whole class profiles when the children return to school.
- We have begun implementing a thrive approach at my school and really starting to consider how the gaps in children's emotional development has an effect on them in school and life. This learning has been invaluable in supporting this.
- The training has strengthened my understanding of neurodevelopment, and given me a deeper understanding of what children are capable of at each of the stages. It has improved my practise, in that I am more able to recognise when children need ‘Being’ activities, rather than formal learning.
- The science and research that underpins the Thrive Approach has given me greater confidence in being able to make necessary adaptations for each individual, and more able to justify the reasons for these, and has also supported parents further understanding their children’s behaviour.
- We are expanding the primary provision, and this will be a part of staff induction.
- Nurture is embedded in the ethos of our school. Personally, I found it interesting to learn more about the brain. We will look into the possibility of doing whole class profiles when the children eventually come back. I thinkin the current climate more than ever; children's emotional well-being must be our first priority when the children return to school. ?
Whole School SEND
For the equivalent of approximately one day per week, our Executive Headteacher Tina Harvey undertakes a role within Whole School SEND. The Whole School SEND Consortium, which is hosted by Nasen, brings together schools, organisation and individuals who are committed to ensuring that every children and young person with SEND can achieve their potential at school.
The Whole School SEND Consortium is delivering the Department for Education’s Strategic Support for the Workforce in Mainstream and Special Schools Contract which is now into its fourth year.
Tina explains the nature of her role and the partnership:
My role is that of Deputy SEND Regional Lead for the South East South London (SESLON) region. I work with our regional lead, Amelie Thompson, and two further deputy leads. Our focus over the 2019-20 year has been:
- Identifying key networks and stakeholders within the region to drive the prioritisation of SEND in schools,
- Contacting and building relationships with these key networks and stakeholders,
- Meeting with representatives from the Teaching Schools Council, Regional School Commissioners, Ofsted, MAT leadership, Opportunity Area Leaders, Ofsted and Local Authority leaders – to identify priorities for improving SEND provision locally and disseminating good practice,
- Encouraging schools to join the Community of Practice,
- Raising awareness of the free Whole School SEND Consortium resources, such as the SEND Review Guide, to support school-based professionals to reflect on the strength and weaknesses of SEND provision within their settings,
- Providing bespoke support to selected Local Authorities with Written Statements of Action following Ofsted/CQC Local Area SEND Inspections,
- Raising awareness amongst regional networks of research and engagement opportunities across the wider contract – for example the trial of the SEND Review in school-based early years and sixth form settings,
- Providing regional intelligence to support sub-contractor led projects, such as resource development or pilot training programmes,
- Representing the Whole School SEND Consortium at national and regional stakeholder events and in the media,
- Supporting national education policy development.
I greatly enjoy this role for many reasons, not least because of the opportunities for networking. I enjoy working with existing local regional and national networks to create opportunities to share knowledge. Ideas and expertise. This year we have also had success in moving our regional training online, meaning that many more colleagues have been able to benefit from input.
Engagement Model Training
From September 2021 the DfE’s Engagement Model Assessment Tool, designed specifically for pupils working below the standard of the National Curriculum and who are engaged in non subject specific learning will become compulsory in schools nationwide.
The Engagement Model is an assessment tool which works alongside a schools’ current assessment and curriculum and identifies five key areas of engagement that are important to enable pupils working at this level to make and maintain progress. Pupils who will be assessed using the model will be at the very early stages of cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.
The five areas of engagement are Initiation, Persistence, Exploration, Anticipation and Realisation. Providing opportunities in the curriculum for these five areas to be developed is essential in ensuring progress towards the National Curriculum can be made. At Perseid we recognise the importance of these areas for all our learners as we seek to immerse them in a full and rich curriculum.
Two of our leaders are Local Engagement Model Leads and have delivered training throughout the South East of England to support schools as they prepare to implement the Engagement Model and we will continue to be a source of support for schools during this time of transition and beyond.
Merton Special Training Association
Formed in 2012 initially as a Teaching School, Merton Special Training Association (MSTA) works to deliver support for schools in the areas of Continuing Professional and Leadership Development (CPLD), School to School Support, and Initial Teacher Training (ITT).
MSTA offers a range of courses and programmes to develop leadership skills as well as improving teaching and learning, and is always in the process of developing more, including on request. Courses are aimed at those working in both mainstream and special schools and are run from Perseid School, Cricket Green Schools, Bishop Gilpin and Ricards Lodge High School.