Free training on writing and public speaking

Have you ever thought about publishing an article or speaking publicly? Maybe you want to build your network?

The London Leadership Strategy (LLS), host of Whole School SEND, have come up with a wonderful opportunity to increase the exposure of SEND professionals and families. Responding to feedback, the team decided that a free training programme should be offered to encourage advocates to write or speak about their experiences and expertise. You may have thought about blogging before but wondered who would want to hear from you? Perhaps you feel nervous about your strategies being made public? It’s likely you’re incredibly busy and sharing your skills is the last thing on your mind…

I would encourage you to sign up for SEND Advocates. There is wonderful work happening in SEND but due to the modest nature of many teachers and carers, these experiences are not shared. Collaboration and communication is vital and in a time where mainstream exclusions for students with SEND are on the increase it is more important than ever to hear from those living it and for experts who see successes in their school to share them. We need a supportive and informed community of advocates shouting from the rooftops that SEND provision can be effective, can be high quality and can be so rewarding, so that teachers to see SEND as a career choice.

I am supporting SEND Advocates and think it is a brilliant idea from the LLS team who are committed to inclusion and listening to as many professionals and families as possible. Well done to them for hearing the voices of those in SEND and offering such an opportunity. Please sign up. Learning how to write or speak publicly are great skills and I hope you may begin to feel confident enough to have your experiences heard in a wider arena.

SEND Advocates is a year’s programme and comprises four conferences across the country. These will offer professional development and opportunities to network. It is free but teachers will need permission from their school to attend. Whole School SEND also welcome applications from parents and other family members.

The first conference is on 9th October in London with the wonderful TES, features editor, Jon Severs.

Three others are planned across the country between December and March on building networks, policy and public speaking. I’m speaking at the ‘Communities of Practice’ event, which will be about building your network; to include my nightmares as well as my positive experiences. Simon Knight, Director and Anita Kerwin-Nye, Chair of Whole School SEND will also be contributors.

It you’re interested, you can email natasha@londonleadershipstrategy.com or fill in the EOI form  by 15th September.

Hope to see you on the course!
http://www.wholeschoolsend.com/content/developing-send-advocates

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Spelling technique #1

Logical phonetic, visual sequencing, rules, auditory, motor?

The analysis of spelling errors.

I can’t claim any of these ideas I’m giving you as my own, but I don’t know exactly whose they are.  I’ve picked up many pieces of paper during my time in teaching and have a mishmash of spelling advice.  The three spelling names I can tell you though, are: Cynthia Klein, Violet Brand and Joan Walton – all of whom I use an awful lot.  So, forgive me if I am using an idea which is not appropriately cited – if you feel I’ve plagiarised please let me know. 

I asked you to collect some spelling errors from one of your students to write them in a column with the correct spelling next to them. Now I’d like you to have five more columns numbered 1-5 (sheet given in Driver Youth Trust training).

1.  Logical Phonetic alternatives ‘hart’ for ‘heart’
2.  Visual sequencing error ‘dose’ for ‘does’, ‘flim’ for ‘film’
3.  Rule orientated errors ‘jock’ for ‘joke’
4.  Auditory perceptual errors ‘sramble’ for ‘scramble’
5.  Motor integration/syllable problems ‘rember’ for ‘remember’

Look through your student’s spelling errors and tick which column you think each mistake should fit into.  Is there a pattern emerging? Are there more of one than the other? 

Below are misspellings from a 10 year old with relatively good phonic knowledge (too good possibly) but likely to have poor visual memory. 

Under the UK’s current criteria for dyslexia she does not qualify, were it still the ‘discrepancy model’ she probably would have.   

Let’s look at some of the errors:
Stretches        streches         1

Really              relly                1 (if you use e as ee) 3 (as rule) – I’d probably say 3

Gym                jim                   1

Suit                 sute                 1

Spoken           spocken          3 (as with relly, o can be the long vowel (1) but student should know ck rule)

Saturday         satterday         1

Pool                 pole                 3

This student has a mixture of 1, easy to remediate and probably quite usual for her age and 3 is a lack of phonic rules.  I’d ensure her phonic knowledge of certain rules was more secure for 3.  With 1, I am less concerned, word exposure, lots of reading and development should sort this out. 

Please remember this is less of a science and more of an instinct.  I don’t have the answers but by analysing spelling and looking for patterns, it makes support more precise in helping a student to improve spellings by using the correct strategy.

All schools are equal but some are more equal than others

I recently attended the Festival of Education at Wellington College and heard Amanda Spielman give a keynote.

I wrote this for The Driver Youth Trust.

Amanda Spielman, OFSTED’s new leader gave a rousing talk at the Festival of Education last week. She listed ways in which schools were gaming the system:  allowing students with EAL to take a GCSE in their first language rather than French, putting learners through the computer driving course to bump up league tables and teaching exam content five years before year 11 GCSEs. What she said made sense; let’s think of the students more and fixing the data less. Let’s give children a broad and balanced curriculum, rich in knowledge rather than one narrowly focussing on skills required to pass exams. Teachers across the country will be cheering her along every step of the way.

Amanda Spielman set out her stall and I was on the whole nodding in agreement.  Until she delved into the realm of SEND, that is. She said,

‘If you are putting more resources into providing exam scribes than in teaching your strugglers to read and write…you are probably doing your child a disservice’.

This was an attack on SEND teachers across the country showing a lack of knowledge in how schools run. Firstly, literacy teaching and scribes go hand in hand. A child who is struggling to read and write will have many interventions thrown at them through their school life but also, if they haven’t reached a standardised score of 85 by the time they are taking exams, then arrangements must be provided. This is stated in law under the Equality Act (2010).

By resources, I assume Spielman means training and TAs.  TAs are deployed to scribe for learners when they cannot show their knowledge to the best of their ability, not at the same time as teaching them to read and write but in tandem. By year 11, scribes are used for GCSEs and TAs are given a memory aid and brief training to ensure they are familiar with the rules.

Examples of students who require scribes (names have been changed):

Timothy has cerebral palsy. While he can read and spell in the above average range Timothy does not have the stamina or speed to write for lengthy periods. Timothy is doing A’Levels.  During his GCSEs he became frustrated with his scribes as they couldn’t write fast enough for him. The school provided and trained him in speech recognition software so he could scribe for himself. It was a perfect fit for Timothy and he got the grades required for university where he will continue to scribe using Dragon Naturally Speaking (if Timothy was doing his GCSEs he would now lose spelling marks for using a scribe despite the fact he can spell perfectly well).

Sandra is from a large family, all of whom have a range of special educational needs. Sandra says ‘I’m the lucky one, I just have dyslexia.’ It is severe however, and despite many interventions and specialist 1:1 instruction, Sandra’s literacy has improved but in no way reflects her attainment levels. Her spelling and decoding scores are within the lowest 10% of the population.  Sandra is predicted Cs and Bs in her GCSEs however and uses a reader and a scribe. She will lose spelling marks in her GCSEs for having a scribe.

Lee is a looked after child. His literacy scores are low enough to require both a reader and a scribe. He came to the school following a very troubled background and remembers more swings in back gardens than he does schools. Moved from local authority to local authority, care home to care home, the gaps in his schooling are huge. There is no diagnosis of dyslexia, lack of education is thought the cause. The school put in literacy 1:1 sessions for him but the lack of time from when he began this school to his GCSEs still mean that while he has made massive progress, he is eligible for a reader and a scribe. Lee will lose SPAG marks in his GCSEs.

To blame the school system for what is a legal requirement for learners with SEND is irritating. There are so many, more pressing injustices to highlight. Earlier in the day, I listened to Vic Goddard giving a talk on ‘The Inclusive School’. He told us the school down the road has an unofficial, ‘no SEND policy’ and encourages parents of children with SEND to go to Vic’s school instead where they ‘can better meet your child’s needs’. Let’s guess which school got the ‘outstanding’ grade shall we?

I heard NASEN’s CEO, Dr Adam Boddison, tell of a school who got an ‘outstanding’ judgement despite not having a SENCO (a legal requirement).  OFSTED knew this. He showed us damning figures on permanent exclusions of learners with SEND; home education for students with SEND is on the rise. The alarming picture shows that students with learning difficulties are not managing in the mainstream and schools such as Passmore’s get no acknowledgement for embracing these children.

The system is failing many learners with SEND in mainstream schools and there is no accountability. When Amanda Spielman spoke so eloquently of gaming in schools but ignored our SEND students, other than to take away their reasonable adjustments which are there by law, I can’t help feeling this neglected sector of society, those with the least resources available to them, are again hidden from policy maker’s eyes (highlighted in DYT’s  ‘Through the Looking Glass’ report). Something which gets in the way of ‘standards’ and platitudes. It is much easier for the narrative to be ‘teach the SEND out of them and cure them with literacy lessons’. SEND students are not going anywhere, we need to stop ignoring them and give them the tools to succeed. OFSTED must give schools incentives to value all learners and reward those who do inclusion well, not punish them or criticise them for giving children scribes.

If teachers feel embattled, as Hugh Dennis acknowledged when opening the Festival, then mainstream SEND ones are lying half dead in the bunkers. Told SEND doesn’t exist, expected to show impossible progress or accused of ‘dysteachia’ (the term coined by a few private tutors to explain why some students can’t read and write); it is always the teachers’ fault.

Let’s give ALL children a broad and balanced curriculum, rich in knowledge rather than one narrowly focussed on skills required to pass exams. But let’s not forget that OFSTED played a part in creating this culture. Like Benjamin in Animal Farm, I am sceptical. Will these shiny new promises amount to a significant shift in values for schools? Or will teachers just be beaten with a different stick? This new positive OFSTED would no longer be judging teachers on ‘how’ they teach, granted, but would they instead be inspecting ‘what’ they teach?

It seems at present that ‘Schools are all equal, but some are more equal than others’.

Behaviour management using traits 

Emergency Services have a systematic approach when searching for missing people linked to behaviour studies. It struck me that there are parallels in how a school system could work when analysing behaviour. 

The Search and Rescue initial assessment of a missing person is vital. What follows is consistent with patterns of similar traits in a particular category of people. A ‘misper’ with Alzheimers for instance, means the search party will go in a straight line from the last point that person was seen. The behaviour traits of this type of disappearance means that a person with Alzheimer’s is likely to follow a path and once presented with a gate or hedge will go no further and just stop. It’s especially important in this instance to find out where they were last seen. This is in direct contrast to a person reported missing who is suicidal; here the search team will go to the nearest risk points; infamous cliff points of previous incidents, bridges and so on. A teenager who has not come home is most likely to be on a friend’s sofa so contact with close friends and family will be the first port of call. 

In the classroom, awareness of the traits students who have a learning difference or a social and emotional mental health issue may be planned for to minimise incidents. Teachers might argue that their job is to teach, that they are not social workers. I agree, but it stands to reason, a scientific approach to behaviour management and learning for students with SEND or SEMH would be useful.

Attachment issues has recently caused some controversy on Twitter and teachers questioned why they should know about such a seemingly complex mental health problem. I have sympathy with this view but think an awareness of traits with minimal training is useful. Actually for students with attachment difficulties, teachers may be relieved to hear that a firm and consistent approach is recommended. There are traits to be aware of however such as the possibility they may sabotage a seemingly positive relationship or can be prone to manipulating situations and not telling the truth. This is quite different to a student with ASD who tends to be more rule bound despite displaying similar characteristics in other areas of behaviour. Teachers don’t need to judge these students nor necessarily tolerate unwanted actions but an awareness of common behaviour patterns may help deal with a classroom issue.

An over generalisation of the individual based on diagnosis can be problematic and ‘treating the need not the label’ is advisable. We can however, using common patterns in a similar way to a Search and Rescue system, inform behaviour management.

Furthermore, an ability to recognise traits may also help schools to analyse progress and behaviour data. Is there is a rise in LAC students receiving behaviour points for example and would whole school attachment training be useful? Does the behaviour of a student with ASD get worse with cover teachers? This is quite common, but with such knowledge, the school can make reasonable adjustments, perhaps even have a policy for students with ASD and supply teachers to pre-empt any incidents.

Naturally, treating children as individuals is important and there is a danger of treating ‘all’ children with a difference in the same way but this issue is similar to missing people for the emergency services. Knowledge of common behaviour traits in certain groups is a useful tool if used as a starting point.

3.5 Educational arguments which irritate me.

1. The phonic check, we’re told, ensures we spot the 20% of society who are functionally illiterate.

Yet one of the arguments against it says children who can already read make the nonsense words into real ones. Or, like Lucy Powell MP’s daughter, who can read really well, still failed the check. I’m told these children (despite any research I’ve read showing if children can read at 5 their literacy and academic achievement is likely to be excellent) have hidden phonic difficulties and will need to know the alphabetic code because there might be a really, really, really long word they can’t decode one day. Knowing the phonemes in the year 1 phonic check will stop this problem that isn’t actually a problem. If it is a problem, these students who can read but fail the phonics check are definitely not going to be in the 20% this check is designed to identify. Indeed they’ll be the students who can read and spell whatever method is used.

2. Those who criticise most vociferously OFSTED and its grading system because it criticises how teachers teach, seem to be the most critical of how teachers teach if it isn’t the way they want teachers to teach.

3. The ‘every second counts’ clan spend much energy telling us how students must be on task all the time and we can’t waste a second making puppets or posters; we will let the children down and they will be doomed for all eternity. Teachers who do group work are wasting children’s time which is precious, precious, precious. 

Mention private schools however and they’re all – marvellous, marvellous, marvellous. But private schools have longer holidays and sporting trips and drama activities which take time out of the curriculum. It’s not a problem to miss an afternoon’s school for a rugby match but I’m not allowed to make a puppet in a state school English lesson.

3.5 Similarly this ‘every second counts’ doesn’t seem to include the children who are excluded – they can be off as long as they like because they’re ruining the education for others. It’s also likely this cohort fall into the 20% functionally illiterate category but let’s not worry about that; someone else should be sorting that out.

Advice on botch jobs for DFE

I’m not a wise old owl but I am old and have some experiences. I’ve done lots of jobs and I’ve been a parent, I’ve moved around the UK and lived abroad a number of times. That does not make me an expert, I realise that. Over the years however, there are a few things I’ve learned, so I think I can offer some tips to the DFE which might help them refocus.

Tip 1 – Patience is a virtue
This is difficult for people who are naturally impulsive; they want to do everything and they want to do it straight away. They think of something during breakfast and announce it by lunch.
While occasionally making a quick decision is vital, particularly in a school, on a structural level taking time to think things through, ask for opinions, tweak things before finally launching an idea is good practice. The less you plan the more likely something which you hadn’t thought of but which seems glaringly obvious once it’s been pointed out to you will be pointed out to you, by the person you didn’t ask because you couldn’t wait. 
Fill in the DFE impatience initiative here…………………………………………………………………………………………
Tip 2 – Check details published online should be published
In a large institution, it should not be possible to publish anything online without it being agreed by various levels of authority. Red tape is annoying but it’s there for a reason.  
Fill in DFE error here………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Tip 3 – When lots of people are against an idea don’t become even more determined to implement it
OK, sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made. It may be due to money, due to a safeguarding issue, even a disciplinary one. But, when you force an idea on lots of people when it has obvious flaws and is even unpopular with your allies it might be best to back track a little or change. Stubbornly insisting an idea should go through backed up by dodgy reasoning does not make you look stronger, it makes you look like an idiot.
Fill in DFE unpopular and flawed idea here:……………………………………………………………………………………..
Tip 4 – Research is finite
Research can show varying results: it might show this, or it could mean this however other research says this. Weighing up all research is good. Using research to suit your own argument is bad. We all do it to a certain extent but when you have to make massive decisions, it is probably good to speak to people who disagree with you too and find a workable solution.
Fill in DFE research which has been cherry picked to suit ideology here………………………

Tip 5 – Take your staff with you. 
You can be a strategic genius but if you don’t bring your staff with you, you will fail. They have to carry out your brilliance; they have to make your innovative creations come to fruition. If you annoy them, don’t respect them and make constant changes they will eventually tell you to shove it and leave.  
Fill in DFE changes here:………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
And their poor treatment of staff here:……………………………………………………………………………………………

This post was originally posted fir @LabourTeachers