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COVID19 and our children with SEND #ThereIsAlwaysHope

RAINBOW

 

We are in uncharted and unprecedented times at the moment which are testing us all in endless and often unexpected ways. No matter who we are we are all affected both practically and emotionally by the impact of COVID19.

As a special school headteacher I am responsible for a group of the most vulnerable and complex children and I recognise the need to ensure we continue to provide a school base for those who really need us either because of their parents being key workers or because they are vulnerable in the context of safeguarding. I also recognise and want to support the needs of my staff team who have some very real and valid concerns about the practical implications of continuing to be in a workplace where social distancing and maintaining the advice around additional personal hygiene routines which are told are a MUST are not only a challenge but in some cases with some of our most complex pupils impossible.

I am sure I am not alone in feeling that the last 2 weeks as a headteacher have been 2 of the hardest weeks I have ever experienced. Responding each day to the latest curve ball coming our way, managing the conflicting expectations of the government, LA, parents and staff with everyone looking for me to lead whilst I assimilate the latest advice, review and respond in the best way I can knowing why we are doing what we are doing – ultimately to stop the virus spreading and to save lives.

It is important for me to say that I have a fantastic team in school who have supported me every step of the way. My leadership team have worked collaboratively with me and the wider staff team have been doing amazing things online to support the children who are no longer able to be  in school. Currently the things we are doing with parents are shared via our school dojo account however we are currently working on setting up a home learning page on our website in which we can share more widely and in a longer term way some of the fantastic things our staff have set up e.g. a daily sing and sign session, online storytelling as well as endless bespoke activities / communications by our staff who are all acting as key workers for every child in school to ensure daily contact. I also appreciate how the families of our children are supporting us, keeping their children at home when they’re able to and engaging with our staff team to support their children’s home learning.

Yesterday evening I was invited, along with a small group of colleagues to have a conference call discussion with Vicky Ford MP  and representatives from the DfE with regards to Coronavirus and special schools. We had been asked to submit issues we wished to raise with the minister prior to the meeting which as you can imagine were broadly similar and formed our agenda of 5 key items: –

  • Supporting the workforce ( social distance / PPE  / testing)
  • Sustaining provision / local coordination
  • Communications
  • Planning for September / transitions
  • Sharing good news stories

What I can reassure colleagues of is that both the minister and DfE representatives were very aware of all of the efforts that colleagues across the country are doing to support our most vulnerable and complex children with SEND and were very keen to hear about other ways they could work with us and support in the areas we raised with them as above. They are very appreciative of the things that we have all put in place very rapidly and very much see our place as key workers in the overall context of stopping the spread of COVID19. This is backed up by the open letter that the minister sent out to colleagues on the 24th March and the thank you letter to colleagues written by the Secretary of State to all colleagues on 25th March in which he made a specific reference to special schools. 

We know people have been facing and will continue to face challenging times, however, even in our darkest days we have to remember why we are all doing what we are doing

#ThereIsAlwaysHope

Time to say goodbye!

Working with children with special education needs  and their families is in my blood!

From being a 6th form student studying for my A levels, I volunteered one day per week at a local special school. I was one of those people who always knew what they want to do! I applied and was successful gaining a place at Westhill College in Birmingham where I completed a B Ed with ‘special needs’ as my main subject. My teaching placements were in both mainstream and special schools. on one of the summer holidays during my degree course I went to live with a family who had a young person with ASD so I could deepen my understanding of the experience of a family with a child who has SEND ( they advertised in college for someone to be placed with them to support over the long summer break) . I am pleased to say I am still in touch with them as I am with a small number of families of other children I have taught over my career.

I was lucky to find a teaching job in an all – age special school close to where I then lived in Blackburn, Lancashire where I taught classes of mainly secondary aged pupils with a range of special needs and was also subject leader formusic teaching music throughout the school including to classes in the primary department. I was there for just over 10 years. During that time I was also teacher governor leading the curriculum committee and held a responsibility post for assessment throughout the school.

I was delighted to be appointed to a deputy head post in an all – age school in Rochdale for my next post where I enjoyed teaching in every class in order to cover PPA time for the teachers. During this time I completed my NPQH – I had no intention of becoming a headteacher – I was doing it to become a better deputy!

I gained my first headteacher post in a small special school in Manchester in 2002. The school was established as an assessment centre for children for whom it was uncertain whether they would need specialist or mainstream provision and whilst they were with us we completed their statutory assessment. The school also had a mainstream playgroup as part of the provision allowing full inclusion of children playing and learning together. It was fab! During my time at this school I also  became very involved with Chernobyl Children’s Project and had the opportunity to go on a visit to Belarus to support the work they were doing. During the time I was headteacher there I also completed my M Ed in Educational Leadership.

I took up my post as headteacher of Camberwell Park School in September 2006. Since being at the school we have grown in size from 85 to 146 pupils with plans in place for further expansion, we have been judged outstanding by Ofsted 3 times  and have gained the Gold Award for Investors in People 3 times. The school has an amazing hard working and committed team of staff and the children are most certainly at the heart of the school.

During my tenure as Headteacher at Camberwell Park I became a National Leader of Education which has earned me the privilege of working with a supporting a range of other schools across Greater Manchester. From 2015 to 2019 I also enjoyed setting up and co- running a weekly SEND themed discussion on @SENexchange on Twitter alongside @Cherrylkd

After 14 years as headteacher of Camberwell Park School and 33 years working with children with SEND and their families, I have made the decision that it is time for me to take early retirement.  I will be leaving the school at the end of the summer term. Dora, who has been at the school with me for the last 2 years is retiring with me ūüôā

Last year I was honoured and privileged to have been awarded an OBE by the Queen in her New Years Honours list. It was a humbling and emotional  and special experience which for me captured how important children with SEND and their families have been and will always be in my life.

The advert for my post will go live at the end of this week – will start making it real at that point! I know that Camberwell Park School will continue to be an amazing place because of the amazing people that work there!

I have not made any plans for my retirement as yet – I will see what opportunities come my way. What is for sure is that I will always remain Passionate about advocating for Children with SEND and their families, Respectful of the families I have worked with over the last 33 years, Organised in continuing to advocate for SEND after I have left the school e.g. through social media, Understanding of the challenges faced by our families of children with SEND and Dedicated to doing whatever I can to support SEND in the future. I will always be PROUD to have had the opportunities I have had the privilege to work with so many special people.

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher of Camberwell Park School

September 2006 – July 2020

 

 

Curriculum under the spotlight

The summer break is a good time for reflection about key aspects of school as well as planning next steps. I am taking this opportunity to blog as I reflect on our school curriculum, after all it is central to the day to day experience of our pupils in school so worthy of high regard and consideration.

I am writing this from the starting point of our school having been inspected by Ofsted in January 18 and am pleased that our curriculum was praised in terms of¬†offering¬† “a high-quality curriculum to pupils. It is both motivating and exciting.¬†In addition to English and mathematics, you offer a rich, imaginative and varied, learning experience that significantly contributes to developing pupils‚Äô self-belief,confidence, personal development and life skills”. Ofsted Jan 18

I embrace some of  the increased freedom which is being offered to us around curriculum and assessment Рthe autonomy of being able to respond to the specific needs of the children in the school and establish a bespoke curriculum which meets their needs and an assessment system which effectively demonstrates progress and achievement. Understandingly however, with increased autonomy comes enhanced accountability and in addition to whether our assessment systems have the rigour and accuracy required, we are now finding our curriculum increasingly under the spotlight. Curriculum is likely to become an increased area of focus in Ofsted inspections

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector,¬† has talked about how¬†Ofsted would be looking at how schools‚Äô curriculum is impacting on pupils‚Äô school experience and what makes a ‚Äúreally good curriculum‚ÄĚ.

The school’s curriculum is organic. The position we are in today follows many years of review, changes and adaptations in relation to our school population first and foremost as well as local and national requirements. It is also not the work of one person. The curriculum is a whole school endeavour. Our senior leadership team are supported by forward thinking subject leaders and value staff meeting discussion giving input to the whole school team on aspects of curriculum development and how this is experienced by the pupils each day . This includes meetings of curriculum teams which include groups of teachers and teaching assistants planning and working together on curriculum areas including STEM, K+U, Health¬† and emotional well being, communication and language, Expressive arts and design and EYFS.

Our curriculum is relevant to the group of pupils and the context we are working in as well as underpinning the ethos and philosophy of  our school in terms of what we believe is important for our pupils to learn and therefore I would not expect it to be automatically transferable to other schools,  however I find it useful considering how others approach aspects of school improvement as a stimulus for review and discussion and I hope that maybe reading this might give others a similar opportunity to reflect on their own curriculum in a helpful way.

Where we are now

Core curriculum: We believe our children have an entitlement to a core curriculum of National Curriculum subject areas. In addition to Maths, English and Science, Foundation subjects are delivered in a topic based way through our spiral curriculum

Enhanced curriculum:  The school enhances and enriches the core curriculum offered to the pupils in a range of ways including Open Futures, Rights Respecting Schools, ECO Schools, Forest Schools, Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural, British Values, Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning, peer massage, yoga, pupil voice, school council, and Friday Fun Clubs.

Personalised curriculum :

All children attending Camberwell Park School have an Education, Health and Care Plan. These outline their individual educational, health and social care needs, the provision they need to meet these and outcomes expected across the next stage of their life.¬† We see the EHCP as an integral part of the children‚Äôs curriculum planning and use the outcomes to identify the children MLT‚Äôs (my learning targets).¬†The areas of personalisation include: Mobility, Behaviour, Characteristics of Learning, Communication, Life skills, Personal and social development and sensory skills. Our highly skilled staff then use the MLT‚Äôs and their own knowledge of the children to plan a personalised curriculum offer for each child.¬† This can include but not exclusively ; support plans from our multi-agency partners; pediatrician, school nurse, SaLT, Physio, OT,¬† specific subject intervention groups, opportunities for social development or opportunities for emotional development.¬† This was also acknowledge as a positive aspect of our work in our January inspection as in relation to our pupils’ EHCPs it states : “These goals are then broken down into small achievable steps, and a personalised curriculum is¬†developed to enable the pupil to work towards achieving the goals”.¬†¬†Ofsted Jan 18

As the needs of the pupils vary across the school and in different classes, teachers have autonomy over the structure of their timetables and the weighting they give to different areas of the curriculum in their timetables however they must be able to evidence how their timetable meets the individual needs of each of the pupils in their class.

Our next steps

The needs of our pupils are changing and it is essential that we continue to respond to this in terms of our school organisation and curriculum and therefore our ongoing programme of curriculum review will support subject leaders and curriculum teams to work with the leadership team in ensuring that the Intent of each area of the curriculum is clear, we implement the curriculum in a way that is meaningful to the pupils right across school and that we are able to measure the impact – the important ‘so what’ question¬† to make sure what we offered our pupils has made a difference in a way that is relevant to them.

 

Thank you for reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Dora – our school dog

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Having a school dog is not a new idea – there are many schools now that have school dogs and there is a raft of evidence online that tells of the benefits for both staff and children.

Having a school dog @camberwellpark is not a new idea either Рit is something we have talked about on and off for a number of years. I am grateful however to @cherrylkd who having acquired her fabulous trainee therapy dog Doodles, spurred me into action once more  and was very supportive in linking me up with the breeder from where Doodles was born and I was able to get our little superstar puppy Dora.

As it is national pet month, and Dora has been in school for 3 weeks now,  it seems a perfect time to introduce her to a wider audience.

Dora is a miniature labradoodle, and as with Doodles, she has been particularly chosen as a breed as she is hypoallergenic and an intelligent, calm and friendly dog breed. Perfect for being with our children. At the time of writing this blog she is 13 weeks old.

Dora lives with me and travels into school with me each day. She has a crate in my office so that she has a quiet and safe place when she needs it, particularly whilst being a puppy.

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She has a big job ahead of her in school and we have shared information about her role and responsibilities on our website. She is a fully fledged member of staff and even has her own signing in and out to be done ūüėČ

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In order to support the children learn about her we are developing a range of social stories. We will extend these out to a trip to the vets, going to puppy school and other things that Dora gets up to.

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We have photos of her dad , mum and one of her sisters so we can do ‘about her family’ for the children.

Dad 2                                  MumDora and her sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

She even has her own schedule in the office so that it can support the children to understand about routines and using their own schedules!

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We also have¬† a Dora object of reference as well as symbols to go on the children’s schedule when they are going to work with her.

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We are obviously managing Dora’s introduction to school very carefully for her sake and for that of the children in order for it to be successful. She is only a puppy yet so has lots to learn. She has started puppy training classes with me now and is doing really well. Once she has completed her basic training the trainer is going to work with me on particular skills as a therapy dog e.g. sitting still in her bed whilst being a reading dog for the children.

She has already proved her value however, she has a pet – gate at my office door and has a regular stream of children looking out for her and saying hello as they pass as well as asking loads of questions, wanting to draw / colour pictures and bring them to her. We have had more than one occasion when our pupils who have multiple learning difficulties have either stopped crying when they have held her, stilled and raised their heads and on another occasion one little girl whose hands are always clasped tight, immediately unfurled her hand , turned her eyes towards Dora and started blinking. On another occasion a year 6 pupil in crisis was able to de-escalate his anger very quickly by coming and telling Dora what had made him angry and then returning to class to continue his learning. Staff too are loving having her around and she is a therapy for them too. Dora doesn’t like anyone being sad and ran and comforted a member of staff who was upset about something from home when sat in my office. Dora cuddles were just what was needed at the time.

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She has visited lots of classes already and has been to assembly and is already the stimulus for lots of classroom work. Sadly, ¬† due to pupil confidentiality I cannot share photos which show the children’s faces however ¬†here is some of the fabulous writing one class has produced this week

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So Dora Camberwell – it is early days but you have already proved your worth.

School council are meeting next week to discuss and set out¬† ‘Dora rules’ – be gentle etc and write a list of things she needs so that classes can research and buy things for her.

She is very much part of the school

Thank you for taking the time to read about her

Mary Isherwood

Measure what you value not value what you measure – our case studies

Some time ago I blogged on the issue of Measure what you value not value what you measure as it is increasingly a topic of discussion with regards to our pupils with SEND – how do we evidence progress in some of the areas we are so proud of for our learners and celebrate their achievement?

This blog focuses on one of the ways which we are doing this which is through Case Studies. I am blogging now as in recent discussions a few colleagues have asked me for information about how we put together what we are describing as a ‘gold standard’ case study – one which is rigorous and clear in evidencing progress. In the spirit of sharing – here is what we do!

At Camberwell Park School we are keen to evidence holistic pupil progress and have discussed and agreed 9 areas we feel are essential areas of learning for our pupils

i.e.

  • Core Subjects
  • Foundation Subjects
  • Mobility
  • Life skills
  • Personal and Social Development ( PSD)
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual and cultural education ( SMSC)
  • Communication
  • Behaviour
  • Characteristics of Learning

In order to demonstrate progress in these areas we have developed a set of case studies which includes a range of evidence sources.

To ensure the same rigour and high expectations are applied to our case studies as are with all other aspects of assessment, we have discussed and agreed what for us is a ‚ÄėGOLD STANDARD‚Äô for putting together a case study:

 

  1. Overview of pupil info: Start by giving a very brief overview of the pupil (e.g. age, ethnicity, pupil premium) and their needs (e.g. SLD, Downs syndrome).
  2. Telling the story : The case study must tell the story from start to finish ‚Äď clarity on the starting point ‚Äď how was the child presenting? Needs / goals? How did we meet the needs and what were the outcomes?
  3. Easy to read format: The case study should be clear in presentation ‚Äď use of headers, imagines, bullet points, bold and italicized writing to ensure all information is accessible and clear to the reader. The school logo should be included at the start and the key area of focus from the 9 areas above should be identified. ¬†Arial font, size 12 should be used.
  4. Include real data: The case study should include real data ‚Äď quantitative and qualitative. Quotes from others e.g parents / carers / members of the multi-agency team and where ever possible the pupils themselves.
  5. Links to evidence documents: Links to evidence documents e.g. end of year reports, EHCplans, video clips should be used. Word documents can be embedded.
  6. Summary A conclusion to draw the case study to a close ‚Äď what was the overall impact?

 

I am sadly not able to share any completed case studies due to pupil confidentiality  . What I can tell you is that they now form part of a comprehensive both quantitative and qualitative assessment system in school and they have been successful both in terms of process as well as product Рthe professional dialogue of colleagues working together to write them has been invaluable as well as the amazing product of the completed case studies which very clearly demonstrate progress in all of the areas detailed above.

Hope this information is useful to colleagues

Thanks for reading

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

‘Preparation for the next stage of education’ Supporting pupils with SEND in their transition to high school

Whilst we all accept change is a part of life and change can be a good thing, never the less change can be hard. We all find comfort in things which are familiar and have ways that we prepare ourselves for changes ahead of us.

In the context of school life, transition from primary to secondary school is one of the biggest changes and whilst opening up lots of new  and exciting opportunities, can also provoke anxiety for all pupils. For pupils with SEND, this is particularly the case. It is often in our experience a really difficult time for families too as they worry about their little ones making this next big step.

In this blog I write from our own experience @camberwellpark  school in supporting our pupils and their families through the experience in order to make it as positive and successful as possible.

Whilst this blog is focussed on the change from primary to secondary school, managing change is something we support our pupils with throughout their time in school from day to day changes of time – table  / rooms / activities through to changing to new classes at the end of the year. This can include use of visual schedules, now and next cards, social stories, circle time activities – what ever is relevant, appropriate and useful for individual pupils as like us, all of our pupils respond differently and need different levels and methods of support.

With regards to transition to high school, our positive and collaborative  relationship with @NorthRidgeSch  where most of our pupils move on to is integral to making our pupil’s transition successful. The headteacher or other senior colleague from the school attends the annual reviews for all of our year 5 pupils to start to get to know them and to share information about the school with their parents. She also  welcomes families of year 5 pupils to visit the school. We find families value the opportunities to talk to us about their child’s move to high school as over the years we build a relationship of trust and support, as well as talking to staff from the high school so that they can feel reassured and have any questions they have answered directly.

Whilst the transition plan follows a general format of a programme of visits  for the pupils in year 6 to their high school during the summer term, it is important for us to consider the individual needs of the pupils and where needed offer additional visits / support or indeed recognise for some pupils the programme of visits may be unhelpful in terms of them managing the change. It is our knowledge of the pupils that enables us to work with them in a way which is most helpful to them. We ensure we staff the visits with staff from our school who know the pupils well and who are best placed to share relevant info with high school staff as well as support the pupils on their visits. The visits are gradually increased in length from a short visit with a drink in the community cafe, extended over a period of weeks to include lunch and eventually full days. This is accompanied by relevant work back at own own school in relation to the change – work on feelings as well as practical aspects of the move to the new school.

Pupil voice is very important to us and whilst through our observations of the pupils and informal conversations with them we felt our transition programme was positive and effective, we wanted to investigate this further so we set about doing a pupil questionnaire – completed during year 6 before the move  to high school and repeated during year 7 after the move.

Here is a case study of one of our pupils

Transfer to High School  :  Case study  

M was a Y6 pupil in Summer 2016 who was transferring to Northridge High School in September 2016.

He had been on 7 visits to his new class/school, starting with a one hour visit/tour of the school and finishing with a full day visit. 

M had been asked during the start of his transition visits,  ( Easter 2016 onward) a few simple questions.  Familiar symbols were used to support M understanding the questions. His answers are in bold below written as they were said.

¬∑         How was your first visit to your new school? ‚ÄėI liked it and was excited.‚Äô

¬∑         What did you like? ‚ÄėI like the radio room they had a real microphone and I like the cafe‚Äô

¬∑         What did you not like? ‚Äė I liked everything‚Äô

¬∑         Are you worried about anything?  Why? ‚Äė I am a little bit nervous it will be hard to know where to get the fruit and milk from‚Äô

The answers that M gave were then discussed with him, and strategies put into place to further support his anxieties/transition process.

M was then asked some questions in November 2016 once his move to high school was complete.

¬∑         Have you settled into your new school? ‚ÄėYes‚Äô

¬∑         What do you really like about your new school? ‚ÄėThe ‚Äúcafe, mugger and the football‚ÄĚ‚Äô

¬∑         Did you have enough visits to Northridge when you were at Camberwell? ‚ÄėYes‚Äô

¬∑         Would you have liked some visits to last longer? ‚ÄėNo ok‚Äô

¬∑         Could Camberwell Park have done anything else to help you move to your new school? ‚Äė ‚ÄúA nufer day‚ÄĚ

The responses from M and the other year 6 pupils have been used for us to continue to shape and develop our transition processes for all of the pupils moving on to high school so that we can confidently feel they are effectively prepared for the next stage of education.

We are discussing how we support our pupils to manage changes of all different sorts on @SENexchange at 8 – 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 14th June 2017. It would be great if you could join us and share your good practice too

 

 

Rochford Review Pop – up conference at Swiss Cottage School #scspopup

The Rochford Review and its implications for our learners with SEND is such a significant landmark for those of us who work in the sector so when news of the conference held at Swiss cottage School came up with the opportunity to listen to Diane Rochford, Barry Carpenter, Richard Aird and others came along – it was too good an opportunity to miss. This blog is a brief summary of key points from the day.

Before I start detail some of the points raised I feel it is important to say my over-riding feeling about the day was one of positivity in the sense that all speakers have a genuine desire  to get this right for the full range of our learners with SEND and are striving to do this in their ongoing work as a group and listening to practitioners such as  those present at the conference yesterday.

Diane Rochford

Diane gave an overview of the work and outcomes of the review panel making it clear that their work and any ¬†assessment process which result ¬†encompasses all sectors of the population. They were also clear that they wanted to focus on ‘stage’ rather than’age’ related expectations meaning that the framework should incorporate and celebrate the achievement ¬†of our learners who do not reach age – related expectations. A framework which acknowledges and measures the uniqueness of learners. She also spoke about the assessment framework being a vehicle to bring together different aspects of SEND strategy including EHCP and Code of Practice .

Diane was clear that there is still work to be done including the thorny issue of accountability – a principle which underpins the work we all do as we are all responsible for the outcomes of our learners, but how exactly this will be done is yet to be developed. Diane also encouraged us all to respond to the DfE consultation on the review and it’s outcomes which is scheduled in the Spring term to help shape what is finally implemented. A question about Ofsted was raised by an attendee and Diane reassured the panel that there was an ongoing dialogue with Ofsted and Mary Rayner HMI is part of the review panel.

Richard Aird OBE

Richard was also part of the Rochford Review group and spoke equally passionately about wanting the best outcomes for our full range of learners. He talked about us being ‘pioneers’ of a new way of working with learners with SEND and acknowledged the heated debates that took part during the work of the panel on different aspects of the review but always with the learner and their outcomes at the heart.

The point of the recommendations for him is all about minimising barriers to learning and achievement. He spoke about changing the culture of teaching , learning and assessment to re-discover the ‘magic of teaching’ with a workforce that is fully turned on and tuned in – CPD for staff at the heart of this so we can share our insight and understanding of our pupils and make assessment come alive. The relationships between the adults in the classroom and the pupils at the core of enabling an engagement and real learning to take place

The ‘labelling’ of children e.g. SLD / PMLD and how this can be unhelpful was discussed for as we know two children with the same label, despite any clinical diagnosis might be v different in terms of teaching and learning.¬†Without engagement he stated, learning won’t happen. Motivators, concepts and skills, practical application and generalisation – ‘no point teaching stuff if you can’t use it!’

In terms of accountability, he spoke of the need for schools to be really clear on their own systems and a belief that peer review is the best way of demonstrating accountability ensuring that ‘no school is an island’

He too encouraged practitioners like us to make our voice heard in the consultation – it is too important to let this opportunity pass us by

Barry Carpenter OBE, CBE

Barry spoke about his desire for an assessment process which acknowledges a child as an active learner rather than sitting on the periphery of the system. Barry spoke about how our school population has changed and will continue to change in terms of complexity of needs and for needing an assessment process which is responsive to the changing needs of our learners. He also spoke about the importance of consideration of the mental health needs  of our learners and how this can have a significant impact on their overall learning outcomes.

The Rochford Review have used and incorporated aspects of the DfE funded Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project within the review recommendations, in particular the Engagement Profile . He also spoke highly of how the Rochford review has built on previous initiatives relating to SEND such as the Green Paper on SEND.

Barry encouraged us to further consider the concept of personalisation and engagement as fundamentals for learning. He talked about how differentiation is not enough…he introduced the ‘meet and greet’ principle in which differentiation allows the learner to ‘meet’ the curriculum but it is personalisation which enables the ‘greet’ the engagement in which learning is most successful- engagement is the glue that ties the student to their targets and that as adults we need to adjust our lens of the 7 areas of engagement ¬†(responsiveness, curiosity, discovery, anticipation, persistence and imagination) ¬†to respond to the child

Workshops

In the afternoon, the 3 workshops for which we were able to attend 2 enabled us to explore some of the issues around the Engagement in more detail

Workshop one Рgave a more detailed case study based overview of using the Engagement Profile and scale with our learners who have profound and multiple learning difficulties

Workshop two – allowed us as a group to explore and discuss some of the issues of monitoring and evaluating teaching and learning in the context of the review recommendations

Workshop 3 – focussed on some of the issues of Initial Teacher training in the light of Rochford review recommendations

Finally – Panel interview

The day ended with a panel interview of 4 school leaders ( of which I was pleased to be one) who were asked questions about implications of the review recommendations for their own schools and how they were responding

 

As you would expect, the day raised a number of questions as well as giving more clarity on some aspects of our way forward, however, I share in the belief that this is our opportunity to make a real difference for our learners with SEND and I will certainly be contributing to the consultation. It was an interesting, thought provoking and useful day Рthank you to Swiss Cottage School for hosting and for everyone who  presented and  attended for their enthusiasm and engagement.

Let the Music Play…..

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Music is and has always been a big feature in my life.

Each morning when I get up I put music on in the house, I put music on in the car  when on my way to work and I put music on through the sound system when I arrive at school so my staff team will tell you they get  musical welcome to work each day!

I am lucky to have come from a musical family with both my grandad and my mum playing the piano. I also learned to play the piano and guitar. In my first¬†teaching post ¬†I was also subject leader for music and taught music throughout school. As a deputy I covered PPA in all classes and taught music. I love live music of many¬†different types – I usually have at least 1 gig booked in – ‘Madness’ at the Manchester arena just before Xmas is my next one!

When I put the music on in school yesterday morning as I routinely do, I was thinking about how important music is in school and how much we use it for a range of reasons Рperhaps even more in a special school than a mainstream setting. So my blog is an account of the different ways we use music and the positive impact it has with our pupils.

Before I begin – there is a caution with music of course and I can almost hear some of you screaming it ¬†at me already – it should never become ‘wallpaper’, on all the time and used so ¬†indiscriminately in school that its value is lost. Now I have got that out of the way – here we go………

Music curriculum

It is really important that as part of a broad, balanced, relevant and meaningful curriculum that music has it’s place and that our pupils get access to knowledge and skills about music. Developing musical skills alongside the appreciation of all different types of music is important to me and the school.

School choir

We have a school choir which is part of a bank of choices for our pupils for ¬†‘Friday Fun Clubs’ i.e. activities including cheer leading, choir, sports, IT, local walk….that our pupils can choose to join on a Friday afternoon. Our choir is a singing and signing choir and we have been proud to have performed at a range of events including in the Exhibition hall at the 2015 SSAT national conference and singing as part of ‘The Tale of Mr Tumble‘ in last year’s Manchester International Festival. Being part of Young Voices each year at Manchester Arena has given our choir a chance to perform along side many other school choirs and be part of a truly memorable experience

Sing and Sign

We have a weekly whole school ‘sing and sign’ session for which we are joined each week by a group of pupils from one of our local primary schools. We have ¬†‘old favourite’ songs we like to sing but enjoy learning new songs too. The choir have an important role in leading the singing from the front! Time to come together each week as a whole school in this way is very special.

Music an auditory ‘cue’

Many of our pupils benefit from the use of ‘Objects of reference / Object cues’ to support their understanding of the timetable, support their transitions and access to learning i.e. a set of objects which ¬†are consistently used to relate to activities on the timetable such as a book for English lessons, a cup for snack times etc. We have an auditory cue we use for assemblies – the piece of music ‘A whole New World’ is played in the hall as our pupils arrive which signifies to them it is assembly time.

Music to support timetables / transitions 

Building on from auditory cues a number of songs are used regularly with our pupils to support their access to learning e.g. hello songs, days of the week songs, now it’s dinner time song…… This is in addition to number songs, alphabet songs…….

Song boards / song choices and our school CD

Many of our pupils have favourite songs they like to sing and sign and most classes have song ‘choice boards’ where during a singing session the children can either verbally or by choosing a symbol choose the song of their choice. We have song bags of props for a whole range of favourite songs. Following a request from a parent about knowing the words and signs for the songs their child was singing so they could sing them at home, we produced a school CD and accompanying song book which includes the words and signs to the songs. The cover of the CD is the image at the top of this blog.

Music as a  motivator / reward / to calm and relax

Many of our pupils find music as a motivator and will work towards having headphones and music for example as a ‘golden time’ type reward for doing their work. The right piece of music in the right environment can be very effectively used to de-escalate a situation when a child is in crisis.

Steel drums

We have  set of steel drums in school and a range of other drums. We use our music grant to buy in tuition for a group of pupils in KS2 to have access to learning to play the drums. They sound fab!

Music  to enhance and support learning across the curriculum

Without it becoming ‘musical wallpaper’ , music can be really effective in enhancing learning across all different areas of the curriculum. Dance / PE is an obvious one, however, so many other lessons can benefit when used well. A favourite of mine is seeing the children engaged in ‘Write dance’ where the tables are covered with lining paper and the mood of the music which accompanies encourages different mark – making on the paper

Musical performances

Christmas concerts, ¬†part of assemblies – our pupils are superstars when it comes to musical performances. We love to celebrate the work of our pupils and the school and musical performances are a great way of sharing our joy with parents / carers, families and friends of the school. “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo. Bravo, Bravo, very well done!”¬†

Our school song

We our proud to be a Unicef Right’s respecting school and as part of this work we established a school song which we sing during sing and sign sessions and have sung at some performances:

Respect each other that’s the rule,
here at Camberwell Park School
Be kind and listen to each other
Treat everyone as if they’re your brother
Listen to what the teachers say
Help the children learn each day
 
Respect each other that’s the rule
here in Camberwell Park School
Always try to do your best
Treat everyone else with respect
Be the best that you can be
Have fun learning and be happy
Let the music play……………………..
Mary Isherwood
November 2016

 

 

 

 

To P or not to P? That is the question : My response to the Rochford Review final report

So after a long time waiting the Rochford Review final report has been published bringing with it a series of 10 recommendations to be considered for implementation by the DfE (summary on page 7 of the report).

The report and it’s recommendations has been a big topic of conversation ¬†with practitioners on SLD forum¬†and some colleagues have blogged on the report already such as this helpful review¬†from @cherrylkd. I am sure it will be something we will want to chat about on¬†@SENexchange¬†too!

It would be hard to disagree with the underlying ¬†/ guiding principles outlined on page 11 of the report – principles which underpin the work we are so passionate about with our learners with SEND. I appreciate however how they are spelled out for us, reminding us of their importance. It is hard to pick out ‘favourites’ from the list of 11 ¬†guiding principles however, the ones I highlighted reading through were that ‘every child should be able to demonstrate his / her attainment and progress’, ‘Parents/ carers should receive meaningful information about the achievement/ progress of their child and should be involved appropriately in assessment procedures’, ‘ Curriculum should drive assessment and not the other way round’, ‘It should be possible to assess the application of knowledge, understanding and skills in a range of different contexts’ and ‘The language used to describe the achievements and progress of these pupils should always be positive, inclusive and should be jargon free’.

The central focus of the report and the one we have all been waiting for is the recommendation regarding the future of P levels. We have been grappling with trying to use P levels for summative assessment of our pupil’s progress and this has become increasingly challenging with their mismatch with the revised National Curriculum. The majority of respondents to the review consultation agreed that P levels are no longer fit for purpose and it has been music to my ears to hear recommendations that any future system should acknowledge lateral as well as linear progress made by our pupils. Removing the statutory requirement to assess using P levels (recommendation 1, Pg 13 – 14) is welcomed. ¬†In addition, Recommendation 3 ( Pg 16 – 17) ¬†which ¬†acknowledges the value of achievements in all 4 areas of need. At Camberwell Park School whilst continuing to use P levels as the statutory measure for core subjects, we have invested in developing our enhanced ¬†curriculum¬†( how aspects such as being a Unicef Rights respecting school add value to our school) and our¬†personalised curriculum ( giving teachers autonomy to be more flexible ¬†in their timetables to respond to individual and small group pupil needs). This is particularly important to my mind when ensuring that we work towards the outcomes outlined in the child’s EHCP – something we are proud to say is embedded into our every day practice as identified in the peer review ¬†we commissioned¬†on this aspect of our work last year.¬†Our holistic assessment therefore includes what for us is a ‘Gold standard case study’ which demonstrates progress in 9 areas: Core subjects, Foundation Subjects, mobility, Life skills, PSD, SMSC, Communication, Behaviour and Characteristics of learning. Our job now is to align these to the 7 area of engagement outlined in recommendation 4 (page 18 – 19 of the report).

I whole Р heartedly agree with the review with the review group members that where ever possible pupils should be included in the mainstream statutory assessment arrangements and as a school we had already adopted the recommendations from the interim review  including using Pre-key stage expectations for pupils working above P8. I also feel lucky that we have a good network with both mainstream and special schools in Manchester and with special schools across Greater Manchester where practitioners from our school moderate assessments / judgements made about pupil progress and attainment.  Recommendations 7 and 8 ( pages 24 / 25) reinforce the need for sharing good practice and quality assurance processes to be rigorous as we move forward in order for our judgements to have any credibility. I would urge mainstream and special schools to forge and strengthen these challenge and support relationships Рthere is so much we can learn from each other.

At this stage the review findings are recommendations Рwe await consultation and agreement from the DfE which I understand will be  in early 2017 with a view to implementation in summer 2018. There is clearly lots more work to be done Рnot least to decide as a school / school sector how we will apply the principles of assessing the 7 indicators of cognition and learning ( page 22) and assess these for pupils not engaging in subject specific learning ( a danger  if we are not careful of replacing one inappropriate linear assessment system with another!) Рhowever Рmy vote is definitely Рnot to P! The Rochford review is a step in the right direction so come on DfE Рgive us the go ahead so we can get on with our work!

 

 

‘Measure what you value not value what you measure’ . A special school context

 

The context

In my last blog I shared the presentation delivered by Mary Rayner HMI  when she spoke at a recent Greater Manchester leadership conference about the implementation of the Common Inspection Framework in the special school context.

One of the key messages we all took away with us was that in our schools there are many things in addition to Core and Foundation subjects which we value and want to celebrate, however, the onus is on us to ensure we are able to provide evidence of impact. It is not enough for us just to say how outstanding we are at for example personal and social development Рhow do we know? Importantly too if we are making a judgement of outstanding Рwhat is that in relation to? How would it compare to other similar pupils in other similar settings?

Following the presentation, as a leadership team and then as a group of teachers, we have begun work on ensuring we have clarity on this in our own school.

The key questions for us were:

  • what areas ( in addition to Core and Foundation subjects) were we agreeing were the key areas we want to focus on / celebrate in terms of pupil achievement?
  • What are our existing sources of evidence for progress in these areas?
  • In what format do we want to present our evidence and who to? ( parents / governors / website)
  • On what basis are we making our judgements?
  • How do our judgements / evidence compare to that in other schools?

Where are we up to and what are our next steps?

The staff and governors have now agreed 9 key areas of achievement for our school. They are:

  • Core subjects
  • Foundation Subjects
  • Mobility
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual, Cultural (SMSC)
  • Behaviour
  • Communication
  • Characteristics of learning
  • Personal and social development (PSD)
  • Life Skills

We talked about how many of these overlap but can also identify key distinctions in our definitions of each one.

We then went onto deciding on and listing existing evidence sources for each area as we do not want to get into creating additional checklists for the sake of it! Many evidence sources are generic for each area e.g. formative assessment records, classroom observations, displays, end of year reports…however there are some evidence sources which are bespoke to individual areas e.g. for PSD / SMSC / Characteristics of learning – school council minutes have been included on the list of evidence sources.

We are now in the process of compiling case studies for each of the areas to which evidence sources which exemplify the progress made by some of our pupils will be attached. When complete, the table indicating our 9 areas of pupil progress with their evidence sources and anonymised case studies will be included on our website on the curriculum / assessment page.

Rather than relying solely on our own judgement however, in order to benchmark against other schools,¬†we are working with special school leaders across Greater Manchester (in the established network ¬† working group we have already which includes cross moderation of assessments), we are agreeing as a group what a ‘Gold standard’ case study should look like and then during 16 – 17 are planning to cross moderate each other’s case studies – a professional dialogue which will be really¬†valuable.

On 13th July, we are going to discuss this topic between 8 – 8.30 p.m. on @SENexchange – a chat which I @Mishwood1, co-host with @cherrylkd and we would really love to hear from other schools about how you are tackling this issue? Let’s share good practice and ensure together we can make sure we achieve the best possible holistic outcomes for our children and young people with SEND.

Whilst this has been a conversation in this blog about learners with SEND, I am sure mainstream colleagues would agree that there are so many achievements other than core and foundation curriculum in all of our schools for all of our pupils so I would welcome views from all settings.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you

Mary