Monthly Archives: Jul 2015

The human body

This term we have focussed on the human body, with an aim to beginning to produce coursework for the new OCR National ‘Science in the Workplace’ that I have been told to deliver, due to it being mostly coursework and, therefore, in theory, easier for our students to access. In practice, they are still struggling, so I’ve advised we stick with Entry Level! Anyway, content. Skeleton Joints and Muscles Circulatory System Respiratory System. I used a lot of the SIEMENS resources (Human Body) which, although they are aimed at KS2, are at the right level for my class. We particularly enjoyed the interactive body and the ‘make a model arm’ activity to see that muscles work in pairs and how that makes an arm move. There’s also been lots of work with Fred (our resident skeleton) and George (our model torso) We watched this video about the circulatory system – the underlying music is irritating, but the students were able to access the content. We used peak flow meters and measured lung capacity. Although students were aware we have a mouth and lungs, we had to spend quite a lot of time wondering how the two were connected. We drew a giant human body with all of our learning on.

image image

And to finish, we’ll have a look at a heart and lungs from the butcher, so we know what they really look like!


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#sendteachmeet – my presentation

I’ve just realised I never actually blogged my #SENDTeachMeet presentation. How lax of me!

Although I based my talk on Science, as that is my subject, the content holds true for any subject – if students don’t have the vocabulary to explain concepts they are not going to be able to access the full curriculum and make progress.

This is something that I see in another part of my role – testing for exam arrangements. Part of one the tests (the WRIT, for those who are interested) requires students to explain what words mean. Words such as swim, car, dinosaur. None of my students can fully explain, for instance, that swim means ‘to move through water by moving body parts’. They can act it out, but they can’t say it. And I sense their frustration right there. How do they manage a whole day with our curriculum?

I spend a lot of time making sure students can say key words, repeat them back, and tell me what they mean. My whole class can now say ‘protect’, tell me that the rib cage protects our heat and lungs…but not all of them can say that protect means (at our level) ‘to keep safe’.  We use communicate in print symbols to help students learn words – I figure if it hasn’t made it onto the CiP list then it’s too hard. Also, lots of encouragement of talking. I can teach whole lessons without resorting to a pen – my students aren’t going to read their notes back anyway.

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#nurture1415 update

It’s the middle of the year, so I thought it about time I updated this…

Five things I would like to do in the coming year
1) Find a job that makes me happy – and makes me feel like I belong.

Well, I quit my job at half term, having decided that enough was enough – I wasn’t making a difference because I wasn’t allowed to, so time for a change. Fate, as ever, intervened at the 11th hour and I am returning to my previous school for a term to cover a space they have. My interview felt like going home. I have another interview for a longer term position next week, so we shall see.

2) Get to the final few ice rinks at both Elite and EPL level. 

This is for the end of the year, when the season restarts. I’ll get to the Scottish rinks, at least

3)I am looking forward to the SEN #teachmeet in Oxford in February. Hopefully I’ll feel I have something useful to contribute.

Here are the general notes. It appears I didn’t blog my own! watch this space

4) Travel. This feels like a bit of a cop out as it’s always there, but I aim to go further afield this year, to get some more countries coloured in on my map.

I’m going back to India this summer, but to different parts, and on to Poland in October. Will have to see what the finances look like in the summer and maybe grab a couple of days somewhere sunny…

5) And finally, I think, at the moment, to keep active. Be that swimming, ice hockey, walking, baking, sewing or reading – I will not let work consume my every waking hour. Just because I don’t have that someone special to share my life with, does not mean I don’t deserve a proper life-work balance.

I’m doing this well. Lots going on to keep me busy. Still noone really to share my life with, but I’ll find him somewhere. I hope.


Who am I kidding? I’d like nothing more than to find someone to share my life with. I’ve been on my own for such a long time, and then, for a short while, there was someone special. And now he’s gone, I’m lonely. I’ve never felt this way before, maybe it’s a sign of getting older, I don’t know. I’ve reached the point where I want someone to share things with. Don’t get my wrong, I’ve got an amazing circle of friends, but it’s not the same. I want someone to come home to. To have dinner with and talk about how the day has been. Someone I can rely on to be there for me – and to let me be there for them. Where do I start looking? (and if you suggest on line dating I will hit you!)

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SENCO Assignment (3) – Developing fine motor skills

Another assignment I have been asked to share. This was originally a powerpoint presentation with notes.


As a special school, there are very few interventions that we do not already carry out. In order to ensure that progress could potentially be shown, it was important to choose an intervention that was easy to manage and that was not being carried out elsewhere, as that could have affected the results.

Analysis of need

There are a number of students in the school for whom fine motor skills developments appear to be a problem. Referring to the Occupational Therapist results in a link to a website and parents are expected to carry out their own interventions. Although only one student was chosen to be worked with for this intervention, her class teacher quickly picked these up and now the whole class spend ten minutes a day on fine motor skills practice, with some positive results already.

  • Student S was identified by teacher as having significant difficulties with handwriting
  • As you can see, letter formation in the name is poor and number formation, although consistent, is equally awkward.
  • It was felt that some dedicated time practicing fine motor skills on a daily basis was required


Identification of targets

Fine motor skills are more important than just handwriting, as it leads to students being able to carry out a much wider range of self help skills and tasks. There was not much in the way of research available on the effects of developing fine motor skills.

  • From the previous slide, it is clear to see that the target should be to improve handwriting.
  • However, from reading that I have done on this subject, it is more important to develop the wider fine motor skills of the student, and then an improvement in handwriting should follow
  • Thus, the target is ‘to show improvement in a range of activities designed to develop fine motor skills’

Planned intervention

Each intervention was carried out three times in the six week period. Each is stored in its own box, similar to a takeaway box, which itself provides a further challenging in removing and replacing the lid during the session. It was important to swap hands halfway through the session, in order to ensure both hands were exercised and improved

  • The planned intervention is to follow some of the activities in the ‘Clever Hands’ leaflets provided in discussion with the Occupational Therapist linked to the school
  • The activities include:
    Rolling playdough Building lego towers
    Stacking and turning over coins Jigsaws
    Colouring in and cutting out shapes Threading screws
    Putting pegs onto the lid of the box Putting paperclips onto card
    Doing up shirt buttons Threading beads
  • It is important to encourage the use of both hands


I was coincidentally reading Jordan while preparing for this task, having been recommended it by our Educational Psychologist in order to better support some students with behavioural difficulties and it had some good suggestions about working with students with ASD/SLD that I had not really thought about previously.

Both websites, as previously mentioned, provide a range of activities that can be done to develop fine motor skills. The OT that I spoke to about this felt that a range of activities was best, rather than the same one every day for six weeks, as that would make sure you worked as much of the hands as possible.

As you can see, the journal articles that were available are based on developing fine motor skills in younger students. Memisevic and Hadzic noted that ‘Fine motor skills are prerequisite for many everyday activities and they are a good predictor of a child’s later academic outcome… Furthermore, the results indicated that there are possible sensitive periods at preschool age in which the development of fine motor skills is accelerated. Early intervention specialists should make a thorough evaluations of fine motor skills in preschool children and make motor (re)habilitation programs for children at risk of fine motor delays’

Huffman and Fortenberry report on the importance of young children participating in a variety of developmentally appropriate activities intentionally designed to promote fine motor control. It states fine motor skills depend on muscular control, patience, judgement and brain coordination.

Recording the intervention

I could not find an academic measuring tool for fine motor skills, apart from highly specialised ones that are not available for me to use.

Instead, I took a baseline at the start of handwriting, and then took note of how hard each task was each time we did it. The majority of the tasks seemed to get easier as time progressed.

Measuring the effectiveness of the intervention

As you can see, the cutting has significantly improved. The colouring still needs to be done with verbal prompts to stay within the lines. I found that by giving the shapes to cut as the only shape on the piece of paper made the cutting much neater.

I kept comments on the progress seen each day, and structured the sessions as suggested by Jordan, not assuming that S (who has ASD as well as a severe learning disability) knew what was expected but giving full verbal prompts in every session. Particularly when completing the jigsaw puzzle it was noted that asking where pieces with matching colours were meant that she was more easily able to complete the task – although fitting the pieces together was still a challenge.



Commentary on intervention, critical reflection and learning points

  • Although this was short time of intervention, it can be seen that the formation of numbers has improved
  • It was noted that S was using the opposite hand to write with that the initial assessment, so was asked to write again using the other hand
  • This has been fed back to class staff to ensure consistency when improving writing


  • I felt that the intervention worked well, and with sustained practice would be shown to make more of a positive impact on both writing and everyday self help skills.
  • The most interesting thing I learned was not to assume the student knew what was meant from them in the task, but to use lots of verbal prompts, keeping them on track to complete the task, and also reminding and encouraging them to use the non dominant hand as well
  • I will be looking to set up this programme for more than just one class to help our students to develop their skills.

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SENCO Assignment (2) – use of additional adults

As requested on Twitter, posted as is. Hope it’s of use to someone!

Things moved on since I wrote this, and I wasn’t able to implement the changes that I had hoped.


A critical analysis, evaluation and comparison of the strategy, policy and practice for an aspect of inclusive education within two diverse schools


I am going to consider the research I have done around the area of need that has identified in school, how another, very different, school handles this, and what we hope to do to move things forwards in school.

Summary of the focus area of the SEND development project

Currently, our learning support assistants are used in class as directed by the teacher and also for some small group intervention work around protective behaviours, precision teaching and emotional/social issues. The school also has two pastoral managers who support children and families in need.

The aim of the project is to look at how another school uses their learning support assistants to support families and students with additional needs – and to see if there are things that we can do to improve the levels of support that we give.

Currently, it is felt that we support our parents/carers well when they ask for help, but we don’t always know when that is. I would like to investigate ways of offering support to all of our parents/carers.

A successful project will give ideas of ways to re-distribute learning support assistant time to be able to support more of our families and so ensure better success rates for all of our students. The outcome hopefully will be that parents/carers feel better supported with any problems that their child is having and that by putting the support in earlier that problems will not escalate to crisis point as they sometimes currently do.

Summary of placement visit

The school I visited has approximately 700 pupils on roll and is a mainstream secondary school in a deprived area of the city.

They call their learning support assistants ‘Associate Teachers’ – a term that could be seen to be giving more status to those carrying it than is strictly necessary, as it implies a level of qualification that may not be present – and these staff act as a combination of teaching assistant, learning mentor and cover supervisors. They work with students and their families around issues related to attendance, behaviour and/or progress. They have a responsibility to monitor the attendance of those students that they are identified as being the key worker for on a daily basis. In theory, the service and support is available to all students and families, but in reality they work with a select, needy few. They look into behaviour issues with students, working across the whole school. They do more intervention work than just whole class support. They are given students to work with one a one to one basis and also run weekly small group sessions, dependant on the work that is being undertaken in class and the identified need of the students.

They have several facilities to enable their students with additional learning needs to succeed. There is  an on site, PRU like facility which is small and isolated from rest of school. It is attended part time by KS3 pupils, while KS4 pupils are there two days a week and educated off site on the other three days. It is predominately for those students who struggle with their behaviour, and is managed by an Associate Teacher while teachers from main school come down to deliver lessons. There are no more than ten students accessing the facility at any one time. They also have a Foundation Learning area, which is a suite of rooms for Y7 -Y12 students who need additional support in lessons and were not able enough to cope in the main school. They are educated in one room by one teacher for their day, moving up through foundation learning with class group. There is some scope for moving in and out of the system but this seems rare. Even though they have small class groups and Associate Teacher support, students are still expected to do the appropriate qualifications.

At that school education is the key priority, with Associate Teachers being given the task of skilling students to be able to learn.  This might involve one to one catch up sessions for a student who has been absent, extra reading for a student who is struggling or some work around how to behave appropriately and get ready for learning. They also spend a lot of time teaching parents/carers to be parents, often working with them for a year before suggesting they undertake ‘triple p’ positive parenting courses (P, 2014). All of the Associate Teachers are contracted to work an hour after the end of the school day in order to be able to manage the pastoral side of their work.

The school also has access to an Occupational Therapist one day a week, with an Associate Teacher working alongside her to be able to help the students to develop their skills during the rest of the week.

Critical analysis of the reading/literature on this area.

Although there has been a lot of research around the use of additional adults to support students in the classroom, there doesn’t seem to have been a lot around the impact of the use of adults to support them and their families outside of the classroom.

Peter Blatchford et al (Blatchford, Webser, & Russell, 2011) carried out extensive research in how teaching assistants were being used. Key points from the report included

  • The students who received most support from teaching assistants (TAs) made the least academic progress
  • All staff need to be aware of the wider pedagogical role model – TA preparedness, deployment, practice
  • Teachers need to share planning with TAs and direct them well for maximum effectiveness
  • TAs should be working more with more able students while teachers are with less able
  • It is not always helpful to have TAs staying to work in the classroom with small groups
  • TAs should be encouraged to talk to students at appropriate times – sometimes it is appropriate not to talk and they don’t always know when this is
  • Teachers don’t always have enough time to plan/share with TAs or for feedback and this is really important for all involved
  • TAs have positive impact on pupil attainment when they are specifically trained and prepared for curricular interventions
  • The majority of TAs only have GCSE (or lower) education. Does the perceived poor pay structure stop better educated people applying for the job?
  • TAs need to become accountable for pupil outcomes as well as teachers. They also need to remember that they are there to help promote independence, not do the work for the students.

It should be noted that there were no designated Special Schools included in this study.

The second piece of literature supported some of those claims (Maggie Balshaw, 2002). There were concerns regarding the lack of appropriate training for TAs, a discussion about the name – should it be Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant? A name is important in how people view the role. It also noted that TAs are mostly female and with very few qualifications.

Another article, again focussing on mainstream schools, was published in 2009 (Alison Alborz, 2009). It appears to be more positive about the role that TAs can have in the classroom, suggesting that sensitive TAs can facilitate engagement in learning and social activities although they are not so good at supporting students with behavioural and emotional problems. It identifies that the use of TAs allows teachers to engage with smaller groups and individuals but that too much reliance on TAs can hinder student interaction. It also acknowledges that TAs need to be well trained and supported to be most effective and that they are best used when supporting discrete, well defined areas of work on particular aspects of learning and are most effective when part of the staff team.

Summary of policy analysis including how the practice in my school and my placement school links to the policy on SEN in each setting.

The most obvious difference between the policies is that the other school goes into detail regarding the different levels of need as identified in the previous Code of Practice, and how students are identified as having an SEND, whereas since we only accepts students with a statement the levels and identification are somewhat unnecessary.

Both schools aim to work with the five points of the Every Child Matters agenda which is reflected in the policy documents. Both also list the multitude of agencies that they are in contact with to support students in times of need.

We have a whole school SEND ethos communicated throughout the document, whereas the other school makes and identifies specific arrangements for the majority of its students with SEND in the policy. The other school identifies the role of the SENCO, whereas for us the expectation is that all members of the Senior Leadership Team take some responsibility for the progress of the students at their school. It also gives more information about the types of CPD that are available to staff.

From an earlier word cloud analysis, it is clear that both schools have children at the heart of the policy, along with support and learning. There is a greater focus on ‘needs’ in our policy, but as a special school this is to be expected – all of the students who attend the school have a statement of special educational need and a diagnosis of at least a moderate learning disability, including autistic spectrum disorders.  Provision and intervention feature strongly in the other cloud, while curriculum and parents/carers are more important in our cloud which suggests that we are more focussed on working with parents/carers to improve the chances of their youngsters, while the their policy is concerned with outlining the various provisions available for their pupils with SEND.

Practice in my school

As a special school, the majority of our Learning Support Assistants (LSA) are deployed full time in the classroom, working alongside the class teacher and supporting small groups of students with their learning.  Our LSAs are on a wide range on contracts, some of them only work school hours, some of them start half an hour before school in order to ensure the students are safe between being dropped off by parents/carers and minibuses and the school day starting, and others continue work for ninety minutes beyond the end of the school day, mostly doing admin tasks for teachers. This leads to a disparity in quality as some attending training sessions and others don’t. We also have a number of Higher Level Learning Support Assistants (HLLSA) who deliver some lessons and support students through interventions such as precision teaching (to improve their literacy skills) and protective behaviours (to teach students ways of ensuring their personal safety).  Additionally, three of the HLLSAs have a pastoral support role, being the first point of contact for issues such as attendance, behaviour, referrals to outside agencies and monitoring Looked After Children. In this respect, they work well alongside the SENCo, complementing the work that is being done around whole school inclusion issues, but often having the time to get to know the families of students better.

Practice in my placement school

As mentioned earlier, the placement school has a range of in school provision for students who have been identified as having special educational needs, including provision for students with challenging behaviour and for those who find learning more difficult.

All of the Associate Teachers are key workers for identified families and so they all have very similar roles in supporting those families and students. Those that have slightly different roles are those in charge of the pru type unit – who have to co-ordinate the provision and those who work in the Foundation Learning provision who have a more classroom based role supporting students who find learning difficult. They are also all employed for ninety minutes after the end of the school day, in order to let them continue to make contact with families and to have some administration time which does not take them away from working with students during the school day.

An overview of future plans

In order to increase the amount of pastoral support available to students and their families, it is important initially to identify the LSAs who work longer hours and have the capacity to take on more of a pastoral role. A conversation with those LSAs would be needed about a potential change of role, and those who are interested would be encouraged to write a letter of application explaining what skills they have that would make them suitable for the role.

Once staff have been appointed to the role, it would be necessary to identify any training needs, such as protective behaviours, mentoring or a course from Citizen’s Advice Bureau.  The students and families who might need more pastoral support for example around improving attendance or support for dealing with challenging behaviour would also need to be identified.

Once students and their families have been allocated to LSAs, the staff key worker would need to be given time to talk to other staff involved in the pastoral care of these students, to take on the caseload and to develop links with the families.

In order to monitor the effectiveness of the provision, it will be necessary to track the attendance and behaviour of students in the target group and see how they change over time.  Behaviour at home will also need to be monitored to see if any outside agencies who have been involved have also been effective.

After two terms, the whole process will need to be reviewed to see if it has had a positive impact and if so, to identify further staff who would be able to get involved in the project.



Blatchford, P., Webser, R., & Russell, A. (2011). Challenging the Role and Deployment of Teaching Assistants in Mainstream Schools: The impact on schools. London, UK: Institute of Education. Retrieved from

Brunner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, Mass: Belkapp Press.

Education, D. f. (2013, Jnauary). Special Educational Needs in England. Retrieved from

Education, D. f., & Health, D. (2014, July). Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. London, UK.

Gage, N. A., Goran, L. G., & Lierheimer, K. S. (2012, December). Characteristics of Students with High-Incidence Disabilities Broadly Defined. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 23(3), 168-178.

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Lamb. (2009). Lamb Inquiry: Special educational needs and parental confidence.

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Wedell, K. (2008, Sept). Confusion about inclusion: patching up or system change? British Journal of Special Education, 35(3), 127-135.

Williams, T., Lamb, B., Norwich, B., & Petersen, L. (2009, November). Special Educational Needs has outlived its usefulness: a debate. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 9(3), 199-217.


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