Foundational Practices in SEND

Assistant Head of Learning at Exeter House School.

Schools are highly complex places and the current climate surrounding students with SEND simply adds to this complexity.

Despite this, we can still deliver expert teaching to all students and it starts with a set of core, transferrable and tangible foundations.

Within this blog we will be highlighting ways in which schools and classrooms can provide systematic approaches to supporting students with SEN. A more in-depth version of these foundational practices can be found in my new group on the IRIS Connect platform.

Introduction

We know that routine, predictability and consistency are crucial for students who find learning most difficult. We want to limit anxiety to enable a student to focus on their learning. We want to reduce extraneous noise to hold their attention for longer periods of time. Most importantly, perhaps, we want them to feel safe and secure in their environment so they can be as independent as possible.

All students deserve quality first teaching – regardless of their needs. In fact, good teaching for SEND is good teaching for all.

So, how is this achieved?

High quality teaching and learning is formed by creating a clear structure that inspires, motivates and challenges all learners. A structure like this, perhaps:

In order to be successful at supporting students with SEN; classrooms need to have solid foundations which create routine, structure and familiarity. Applying these foundations consistently can ease the pressures on our cognitive load, enable students to learn in an effective environment and allow us to work towards expert teaching. The aim is to see these foundations embedded in every classroom and we call these the Tier 1 Basics.

Once this is established, it’s important to look at curriculum design and ensure that the student is on the correct pathway for them. Students with SEND have spiky profiles so it’s important to play to an individual’s strengths. For example, a student may find speaking in front of a class a daunting task – but with the support of a communication core board, they are able to clearly articulate an answer.

Finally, the structure looks to develop expert teaching with bespoke packages for each classroom through a self-improving system. We want teachers to be reflective and know what their next steps are. This is achieved through cleverly designed coaching pathways. There are great examples on the IRIS Connect platform and they will even build your own if you ask nicely.

For now, we will focus on foundational practice and in particular the Tier 1 Basics.

The six areas that are displayed above were carefully considered and if applied consistently can support any learner to be ready to learn in their classroom. This why these six areas are so crucial:

Be Intentional

Everybody needs to know their role, why they are doing it and how they will make it happen in order to thrive.

Communication

Communication is the key for students to be able to learn effectively. They need to a means to communicate in order to access learning and they need to be listened to.

Be Prepared

Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail! Classrooms are busy and fast paced – therefore you need to be organised to get to what you need in a timely manner. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing student engagement.

Plan for Pinch Points

There are certain times of the day that without careful planning can become challenging. You will be able to identify these and put proactive plans in place.

Be Clear & Confident

This is about having shared ownership and understanding of the process and plans that are in place. It doesn’t always work out as we expect on a given day and that is ok. Sometimes the process takes a long time, but eventually, you will reap the rewards.

Be Overtly Positive

We ‘set the weather’ for our classrooms and the more positive we can be the better. The way we present ourselves has a huge impact on the relationships we form with students. Rewarding the positives, rather than sanctioning, is a powerful way to build relationships and improve engagement.

By following the Tier 1 Basics, the hope is you can create a positive classroom environment for all involved by empowering them to feel:

  • Confidence – they know what they are doing, they have done it many times and experienced success
  • Security – they don’t feel under pressure or like they are being watched because they are in their comfort zone
  • Enjoyment – they’ll take pride in their work, it will make them happy and they will be able to share their skills with others

 

Hopefully, the Tier 1 Basics can provide you with a framework to hang your classroom practice on and you can see the benefits of taking such an approach. It is an effective tool at all levels of a school – from on the ground delivery through to monitoring the quality of provision. Use it to form the basis of learning walks and coaching conversations; keep the messaging constant  to get full understanding and buy-in. Do this well and you will reap the rewards of your efforts and your school will be calm, well-ordered and learning focused. 

Conclusion

To summarise, yes schools are complex and yes SEND is even more complex at the moment. But, by securing foundational practice with a framework that is clearly understood and constantly monitored you can create a classroom environment that enables every child to learn. Routine, structure and predictably help us all to thrive.

Key Takeaways:

  • Consistency outweighs intensity – It’s important to understand this work is a process and may take a long period of time – there are no silver bullets. But, consistently applying these strategies will help create a routine and structure for all involved.
  • Caveat – Coherence outweighs consistency – Everyone involved needs to understand what the expectations are. Therefore, communication needs to be clear and concise to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.

Further Information

For a more comprehensive breakdown of the Tier 1 Basics, with videos to watch, tips and key takeaways check out this brand-new free Group on IRIS Connect:

If you’re not an IRIS Connect customer, please get in touch to speak to one of our consultants: Book now

About the Author

Josh is the Assistant Head of Learning at Exeter House School. With over a decade of experience working in special schools, having held roles that range from Teaching Assistant through to Senior Leadership, he is always looking for creative ways to align current research and ideas to the world of SEND and is passionate about sharing his knowledge with like-minded educators in order to further improve the support for young people who find learning the most difficult.

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By clicking Subscribe you consent to us contacting you regarding our products and services, as well as other content that may be of interest to you. You also consent to us storing your personal data to provide you with the content you are requesting. You can unsubscribe at any time. To find out more about how we manage your data, please review our Privacy Policy.