Just Visiting – SEND

The Matrix

Special-Needs-EducationI’ve prepared well for a Skype meeting on Monday: brushed my teeth, scanned my notes and trimmed my nasal hair. Too much detail? I throw on a shirt, just too look a little more professional. Video conferencing frightens me a little bit to be honest; no idea why. However, it all goes well and I am delighted with what is agreed.

Square eyes…I should have listened to my dad; he said this would happen.

I spend so much time on Twitter over the rest of Monday that my eyes start to go square! I should have listened to my dad; he said this would happen. I am saved from further mutation by the people of Twitter who tell me that I can’t follow anyone else (for a whole day) because I am guilty of ‘aggressive following’. It’s not at all what it sounds like and I am relieved to learn that I have just followed too many people too quickly.

I turn my attention to my Master’s Degree work and, just to surprise my tutor, I hand in my assignment a day early. It’s a leadership plan designed to close the reading gap for disadvantaged children in rural areas. I’m really pleased with it and I print a copy for my consultancy files. It will be something worth sharing when I am ‘just visiting’ schools in the future.

In the evening I write a post about facilitating effective professional learning communities drawing on the excellent work of Wiliam & Leahy (2014) into teacher learning communities. I decide that this will need to be a 3 part blog and publish it immediately. It’s available in the CPD section of this blog site.

On Thursday morning I am asked by a Head Teacher to review their SEND provision in his school. He wants me to start that Friday!

I update the SEF for a school that I have been working with. It takes me into the early hours of Thursday morning and I drink too much coffee. I’m like that sometimes with a job: occasionally it just has to be finished in one sitting.

I’m pleased with what I have written and I hope that the school will be too. This school is using the new version of Derventio’s school improvement software (SchooliP) to record its SEF and it takes me a little time to adjust to the layout of Version 8. Once I’ve mastered it, I am pleasantly surprised by the extra level of detail that I can add and its ease of use.

Thursday morning I am asked by a Head Teacher to review their SEND provision in his school. He wants me to start on Friday! We discuss the purpose of the report and he commits to five days of my time. I spend the rest of Thursday preparing and updating my quality assurance ‘matrix’ for SEND and then get distracted looking for quotes from the Matrix film. Just for the record, here’s my favourite.

Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?

Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.

Friday morning comes around surprisingly quickly and I am up early in anticipation of an hour commute. After a brief pit stop at the ‘golden arches’ for coffee, I arrive on time at my destination. It’s a school that I’ve worked at before and it’s really nice to see a few familiar faces.

The SENCo is prepared for my visit and very positive about working with me again. We meet for an hour and she describes some of the challenges that she has faced and how she has tackled them. I listen, ask probing questions and take some notes. We look at the matrix and I commit her to a provisional self-evaluation of the department.

After our meeting, I plan my schedule. I will be observing the quality of teaching, interviewing learning support assistants(LSAs), interviewing pupils with SEND, meeting teachers with their LSA’s to discuss how they adapt planning, analysing the available SEND data, evaluating resources, observing 1-2-1 interventions, appraising action plans; scrutinising the allocation of support, examining the curriculum provision and writing my report. It will be a hectic five days.

We really get into challenging some of the misconceptions around who is responsible for the progress of children on the SEND register.

I catch one of the HLTA’s in the afternoon and we get into a great conversation about the way that she works together with a science teacher to plan for one of the children that she supports. He joins us in the meeting and we really get into challenging some of the misconceptions around who is responsible for the progress of children on the SEND register. I offer a couple of ideas which challenge their thinking further.

I read lots of tweets and blogs about exam stress and can’t make my mind up at all. I learn from a medical research paper that exam stress can reduce nasal symptoms of allergy sufferers! If that’s true, I’m booking myself in to retake GCSE Geography next Summer.

This week I have learned: not to fear video conferencing, coffee keeps you up too late, aggressive following is not a crime, and we have a lot of work to do to challenge some teachers’ thinking about children with special education needs and disabilities.

I look forward to the weekend and ‘just visiting’ some more schools next week.

Hopefully, I’ll be invited to come and visit yours. #justvisiting


About blakeeducation

Assistant Head in Hampshire. Advocate for social mobilty through effective parental engagement, quality T&L, literacy, social capital, curriculum and culture.
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3 Responses to Just Visiting – SEND

  1. Gilly Walker says:

    Really enjoyed reading this and would be very interested in hearing about any mainstream provisions that manage to meet the needs of the students vs meeting the needs of the school in relation to data. I don’t ‘tweet’ but I will watch this space with anticipation!


    • blakeeducation says:

      Thanks Gill – I’ve seen some interesting curriculum provision that certainly meets the needs of the students and evidence of that translating into desirable school performance data for pupils with SEND.


  2. Gilly Walker says:

    Would be good to catch up and discuss


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