Teach students with SEND? Make sure you have all the information

The most important thing when teaching students with SEND is to know what their needs are. I was staggered when attending an ASE CPD event at the weekend that the majority of teachers have students in their class with SEND but have received no information about them.

The special educational needs can be divided into four main groups (important to know for teaching and for access arrangements)

  1. Communication and interaction
  2. Cognition and learning
  3. Social, mental and emotional health
  4. Sensory and/or physical

Students don’t all have the same level of need and the less severe will be identified within the school and appropriate support and interventions put into place.   Those with a higher level of need will have an EHCP (these replaced statements of special needs a few years ago).  The EHCP is a very useful document which has background information about the student and specific details about their needs and strategies that should be employed to meet their needs.  EHC plans aim to be “forward-looking” and aim to raise aspirations, and outline the provision required to meet individual needs.

Some schools will summarise the key information into an education plan (an EHCP might have numerous actions, a SENCO might identify the most important to act on first).   If you haven’t got access to an IEP or an EHCP you might want to approach your SENCO for more information as you could be missing a key piece of information that will help you in your teaching.

Schoolsweek reports that students with EHCPs are being pushed out of mainstream schools. A lack of information and understanding of their needs can only make this situation worse.

Resource author profile – fiendishlyclever

This is the first in a series of articles talking to authors who write or share science teaching resources. Some of these authors have chosen not to reveal their identities and some are happy to be identified.

An interview with myself – Rob Butler

Tell me about your background – subject, phase, experience I’m a secondary science teacher by training. I’ve taught in a secondary age special school for 20 years teaching up to GCSE level
Where in the country do you teach?  Academy (MAT?) or LA school? I teach in a special school academy in Mansfield in the East Midlands. We are part of a small MAT
What sort of resources do you share? I’ve uploaded many of my earlier resource to the TES and my own site. These are resources I’ve made in the course of my own teaching. The resources are a mix of powerpoints, word files and non-editable PDF files.
Where do you share them? TES, own site, other paid site, within school, subject association? I used the resources to drive traffic to my own site but then the TES offered a bulk upload for me and so now offer my resources on there too. Hopefully, I’ll have lots more resources to share after Christmas as I will have more time to sort through what I have and share any which are 100% my own creation.
Do you get paid for creating your resources? Do you sell or charge for your resources? I’ve made a very small amount of money from Google Adsense which covers the hosting but not enough to think of it as a revenue stream. I’m considering offering paid resources through the TES after Christmas.
How lucrative has sharing/selling your resources been? At the peak (when everyone was doing BTEC Science to boost their performance scores) I could make £20 a month from advertising on my website. I’m lucky to make a quarter of that these days!
Do you know how many downloads or how widely shared your resources have been? I’ve no idea how many times the resources have been downloaded from my site but I’ve passed over half a million downloads from the TES. I’ve been at meetings before where people have recognised me from my resources/website.
Why do you share your resources? To save other teachers having to reinvent the wheel and to share (what I hope is) good practice
What advice would you give to other would be resource authors out there?
  • Keep resources simple
  • Think of the presentation – some look a bit naff
  • Use images approved for reuse
  • Think of what teachers need to know – link to schemes of work and specifications etc.
Anything other comments I’d like to hear from teachers as I start the next chapter in my life what resources are missing from their collection? What resources would they pay for? How much are teachers willing to pay for resources?


Vocal recall – an easy app to give verbal feedback to students

Feedback is a key driver for improvement. Students know what they have done well and what they need to improve upon,  however, feedback can be time-consuming when given individually.

That’s where this app comes into play. The teacher installs the app on their smart device (link here).  The first step is to order a set of QR codes which can be delivered by email or bought through Amazon. Within seconds I’d got two sheets of QR codes delivered by email and was ready to try the software out.

The interface is basic but effective – you start off by recording your verbal feedback on your phone.  You can play back your feedback – it does get easier recording verbal feedback once you get used to it and start to feel less self-conscious.

Once your feedback is recorded you hit the upload button and you are asked to scan a QR code and name your recording (you can hit ok and save it with a filename of the date and time of recording for simplicity).

That’s it – the student would scan the QR code which launches a URL with an audio player which will play the clip on a suitable device.  The quality of the audio is a little tinny but it’s perfectly acceptable and easy to make out the speech.


If you want to save the hassle/expense of printing onto stickers you could simply get the students to stick the QR codes in their books at the start/end of a lesson so they are ready for you to use to record feedback.  This method also has the advantage that students can listen to their feedback over and over.

Vocal Recall has tried to address any privacy concerns in their privacy policy but I’d avoid giving personal details in the message as a simple precaution, and remember that your feedback can be recorded and shared to a wider audience so be careful what you say!

The biggest barrier to adoption would be students having an appropriate smart device to use to scan the QR code and they need a QR reader installed.  Don’t take my word for it – give it a go (I have no connection to Vocal Recall – I just happened to come across it when surfing)

Time for a new beginning – why I resigned my post

I wrote recently about the workload problems faced by teachers and school leaders in small schools.  I also said that I had some soul-searching to do and some decisions to make.

As part of that process I spoke to ASCL (my union), I spoke to teachers (teaching and those who had left the classroom), I spoke to education consultants, and I spoke to my family and friends.  The outcome of my discussions was the realisation that something had to give, the realisation that no matter how much as I love my job that my health and wellbeing come first.  I also concluded that I was ready for a change, to take my career in a new (and yet undecided) direction.

Following the half-term break, I met my head and when it became clear that neither of us had a solution to the workload problem I handed in my notice to leave at the end of December.  I’ve been at my current school a long time, through ups and downs, through every grade on the current Ofsted framework and I leave knowing that I’ve done my very best for the learners I’ve worked with, but now is the time to look for new opportunities.

My current plan is to stop at Christmas and take stock, to reflect on what I want to do next and to start networking for the next opportunity. I’ve always thought of myself as a science teacher at heart and ultimately that is where my heart lies, but my experience as a school leader in a special school means I have wealth of knowledge and skills to share in the right setting or with the right audience.

I will continue to be a voice for the over-worked, for the teacher at the chalk-face (or should that be whiteboard face now?), an advocate for a better work-life balance as I find my niche in the current education system.

In the meantime I’ll be presenting at a number of ASE conferences, sharing some of my knowledge and strategies for working with SEN students so why not book a place and join me.



The problem with workload in a small school

When I started my first teaching placement the leadership team was tiny, a teaching head and three (teaching) deputies. No extended leadership team and very few support staff. The exams officer was a teacher, the cover manager was a teacher, the pastoral team was made of teachers and the office was minimally staffed and yet the school functioned well.

Fast forward twenty years and the size of leadership teams has expanded well beyond this. A typical secondary school might have a head (possibly working with the CEO of a MAT), deputy heads, assistant heads, associate assistant heads and other leaders (with a variety of titles and job descriptions to match).

Unfortunately working in a small school means that there are fewer people with whom to split the workload. You can’t promote the whole teaching staff to SLT but there aren’t enough people to spread the workload between. I sat down this weekend and tried to recreate my working week using my school calendar, my emails (400 in one week), my printing log, my timecard and other systems we have at school.

What this told me is that my role as deputy head is very wide.  This week has seen me doing everything from teaching through to writing an emergency recovery plan should disaster strike.  My NPQH was extremely poor preparation for the breadth of the role in a small school but time for effective CPD is limited by time and finances.

My role includes

  • Teaching science 2.5 days per week (including 3 new KS4 courses in two years which I’ve had to write and resource from scratch) and no science technician
  • Designated safeguarding lead for the academy
  • Exams officer for JCQ centres (fortunately I don’t do the bulk entries)
  • BTEC Quality nominee
  • BTEC Internal verifier
  • Aim Awards lead – overseeing qualifications, doing entries, tracking progress
  • Aim Awards approved internal verifier (we have direct claims status as a result of my experience in this role)
  • NCFE administrator and internal moderator
  • Managing day to day staffing (including dealing with supply agencies) and reporting absences to HR
  • Responsibility for assessment across academy – assessment system, targets, tracking data, reporting to governors and regular meetings with data lead for MAT
  • Stonewall school champion (we are now a silver school)
  • Designated person for looked after children (attending and minuting PEPs, writing provision maps, overseeing LAC pupil premium)
  • Fire marshall (we had a fire drill this week, I had to do staff, student and visitor headcount when we evacuated)
  • Showing prospective parents around the school
  • Attending governor meetings – full governors and portfolio groups
  • Updating school website with statutory requirements – policies, logos, updates, governor minutes
  • Public relations – updating school website and writing press releases
  • PSCHE lead for the school (write scheme of work overview and assemblies rota, British Values)
  • School SIMS expert – I’m the only one who has a functional knowledge of Nova T6 and cover manager, InTouch etc.
  • Other SLT roles – learning walks, link meetings, school improvement overview, speaking to parents etc

Writing this list makes me appreciate what a broad and extensive skillset I must have to be successful in my role.  Unfortunately, the number of roles that I am expected to cover means that I can’t dedicate much time as I would like to each one and I become a jack of all trades and a master of none.  After six years in this position, the time has come for me to make some important decisions about my future, in a job that I love but can’t do justice to.  What makes it even worse is that I’m not the only one in this position and there must be thousands of teachers and leaders in small schools grappling with the same decision.


Photo © Sarah https://flic.kr/p/cFmBrE