Janet Goring: supporting SEND pupils

The second lockdown enabled us to apply what we learnt collectively as a team from Lockdown 1, although we didn’t get the same notice period to get appropriate resources to pupils to take home to facilitate their learning. 

Personalising the Approach to learning

“Pupils and parents have responded positively to the lessons and parents listening in have been able to work on key areas with the children.”

LNSS Teacher

Like all SEND practitioners, our teaching starts with the pupil, assessing their needs and working with them to find the best approach to maximise learning. Remote learning magnified the need for personalising the approach as not only is each student different in terms of the learning, but there were a number of other considerations to factor in such as the policies and delivery preferences of each school, access to different platforms and devices and availability of adults, whether at school or at home to facilitate or support. 

Our approaches varied from school to school and pupil to pupil in order to find the best way of reaching each and every one of our pupils. Where we haven’t been able to teach pupils through live online lessons, we found the best way of reaching our pupils through other means, whether by uploading to the school’s platform, prerecording video sessions or sending work by email or physical packs. In many cases a blended approach was possible and feedback suggests this was usually the most effective medium. 

New Opportunities for working

In some schools we have supported pupils beyond the usual caseload by providing access to online resources. The ability to train online enables us to reach more staff. We have provided a series of free training sessions for schools on delivering remote learning for pupils with SEND in five separate sessions to different audiences, alongside our usual training offer of supporting pupils with Literacy and/or Maths difficulties. We have also been able to provide more bespoke training for support staff, such as a pilot project on delivering precision teaching.

Evaluating the Positives

Whilst there have been challenges, we have seen a number of positives which we are building on back in schools.

It was great to have TA in lesson in order to model strategies that (she) could use outside our one-to-one session.

LNSS Teacher
  • Increased communication with school staff and parents using online platforms.
  • More effective ways of sharing follow up work for pupils
  • Increased uptake of follow-up work between sessions due to messages on online platforms
  • Greater access to online resources, particularly for follow-up work
  • A wider range of resources which meet the specific needs and interests of our pupils

Feedback from a survey of 35 Wandsworth SENCos mirrors national findings on the positives of remote learning for SEND students

I prefer remote learning because:

It’s more interesting
I get to do it at home
There is always someone to me at home
When I finish I can other things I want to do

Wandsworth SEND pupil
  • Pupils may be able to work at a time to suit them and at their own pace
  • Lessons can be completely differentiated 
  • Pupils can revisit a session again
  • They may have one to one support at home 
  • They may be using different learning methods that suit them better
  • Technology may enhance the experience

Applying lessons learned

Going forward it is important that we don’t lose the momentum of the positives gained from new ways of working. We will continue to deliver teaching sessions using the methods that engages and benefits each individual pupil most effectively with a focused approach on using more online resources, particularly during follow-up work. We also hope to sustain the stronger working relationships with support staff and parents developed over the recent months. We will also be moving to a blended approach to some of our training sessions, with fewer face-to-face sessions and increasing our menu of webinars whether live or on demand. However, we recognise the importance of bringing teachers and support staff together outside their settings for certain training.

A time to increase the use of Assistive technology

We hope that schools will similarly reflect on the lessons learned in supporting SEND pupils and a final plea: – How can the increased number of devices in schools be deployed to support SEND pupils? Schools are reporting that they have up to 3 or 4 times the number of devices that they had a year ago and are now making decisions about the best use of those going forwards. Assistive technology plays a key role in supporting pupils to be more independent and maximise their potential is used effectively. Some initial thoughts about how the devices might be used.

  • Alternative recording on a regular basis for all pupils
  • Text to speech technology (e.g. Dictate)
  • Graphic organisers for planning
  • Access to online reading resources
  • Immersive reader to access texts beyond reading ability
  • Online manipulatives for recording work in Maths

If you would be interested in a working party on supporting SEND students using your school’s devices or for any aspect of our Service please book a Head to Head meeting.

Book your
Head to Head

If we have piqued your interest in Smart School Services, why not meet with our head team to see how we can work together. To arrange your Head to Head, or for any other enquiry, simply fill in the contact form and we’ll be in touch shortly.

Wanda Gajewski: why teach philosophy to children

Learning Resources Service

We’re passionate about providing schools with innovative classroom themes and topics, supported by cost-effective borrowing and access to a huge array of resources, including artefacts, posters, costumes and classroom guides.  Wanda Gajewski, Senior Librarian, from Learning Resource Service writes about the importance of philosophy for children and asks, ‘what are philosophical questions?’ and ‘how can you use them in the classroom?’.

Article Synopsis

Why teach children philosophy? Since philosophy is all about asking question, children are by nature ‘’philosophers’’. Philosophy can teach your pupils to think more clearly and to be confident in debates and discussions. Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers, pretended that he knew nothing and then he showed people that their ideas were wrong. Transform your classroom into an ancient Greek agora to re-enact a debate on a philosophical enquiry to show your children that all answers and ideas are correct. 

This article exemplifies how philosophical enquiries and the use of picture books can be incorporated into sessions for all ages and across curriculum bringing something important to the life and learning of children. During the intensive discussion children will have the opportunity to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills and making sense of arguments and counterarguments.  

Wanda Gajewski
Learning Resource Service

“Cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.”

Rene Descartes

Philosophy began thousands of years ago. The earliest philosophers on record lived in ancient Greece in around 600 BC. Philosophy means ‘love of wisdom’. We all use this method to understand ourselves, and our world, by asking a lot of questions. However, when we are introduced to the idea of philosophy with children, we may be dismissive. The first point to make therefore, is that this is practical philosophy – the process of exploring philosophical questions through Socratic questioning.

Children ask questions and want to understand everything better and see it more clearly. Not all children’s questions are philosophical. So, what are philosophical questions and how can you use them in the primary classroom? Philosophical questions are thought-provoking. They open enquiry, rather than closing it down with a single answer. Pupils will learn that each answer to their previous question raises the next question.

To begin the philosophical enquiry, pupils make statements such as, ‘I don’t know how old God is’. You can explain to the children that all their statements can be turned into questions. In this way, children learn to ask questions on their own. Your pupils develop the fundamental skill for philosophising which will inspire independent, critical thinking. Philosophical enquiry ignites curiosity about the world and other people, empowering children in the learning process. 

The programme of philosophical enquiry for children was developed in the 1970s in the USA by Philosophy Professor Matthew Lipman. The aim of the approach was to develop mental and communicative competence in children, including justifying their own judgment; explaining concepts; interpreting and listening to others.

Central to P4C (philosophy for children) is the use of the stimulus. All kinds of stimuli can be used but perhaps the richest opportunities lie in the use of stories. In the early 1990s Dr Karin Murris, a Dutch philosopher working in Britain, wrote about the potential of picture books for eliciting interesting philosophical questions from children. Now, picture books provide a rich stimulus for P4C. The format of the picture book is one already very familiar to young children, and they have both the text and illustrations on which to base their questions. There is are a wealth of good quality picture books which are suitable for philosophical enquiry that will enrich your lessons.

Tusk Tusk
by David McKee

Once upon a time all elephants were black and white; they hated each other. The whites lived on one side of the jungle, the blacks on the other. One day they decided to kill each other. Peace-loving elephants from both sides escaped to the darkest jungle and were never seen again. One day the grandchildren of the peace-loving animals appeared, and they were grey!  Since then the elephants have lived in peace.

This story is simple, but the book’s colour and layout powerfully emphasise ‘difference’ and provokes a strong and emotional response from readers.

First, let your children immerse into listening to the story and then go on to exploring the picture book by asking questions. What is this story is about? Is it right to hurt other people or animals? You will keep your class hooked on the story as the young children usually welcome opportunities to discuss moral issues in a structured manner.

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Max is wearing his wolf suit and making mischief, his mother calls him ‘’wild thing’’ and he retorts, ‘’I will eat you up’.  She sends him to bed without his supper. In his room a forest starts to grow, and the walls become ‘’the world all around’’. Max steps into a boat and sails off to a place where Wild Things are.  He tames them and they make him the king. After a while, Max feels lonely and wants to be where someone loves him best of all. He sails home and finds his supper waiting for him in his room.

Read the story with your children and look at the illustrations. Tell the children that you are interested in their ideas and responses. Then, by asking a question, for instance ‘’What is a dream?’’, you begin the discussion with your pupils. This story will raise ideas around anger, love and dreaming as some of the intriguing angles for a philosophical enquiry.

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish by Michael Foreman

A factory owner orders his workers to build him a rocket. The trees are cut down, coal dug and anything that needs to be burnt is burnt. The launch of the rocket is from the top of a waste heap. The factory owner lands on the moon, but there is nothing to see or admire. There are no trees, flowers, or grass.  He is disappointed and chooses to travel to Earth. In the meantime, on Earth, the heat caused by piles of rubbish disturbs the sleeping dinosaurs. They are shocked by the mess and the smell and decide to have a good clear out. Flowers, grass and trees start to grow again. When the man lands on Earth he doesn’t recognise the planet and exclaims that the has found his paradise. This time the Earth belongs to everyone. The dinosaurs emphasize that no parts belong to any one person, but that everything needs to be looked after by everyone.

This picture book focuses on obvious environmental issues and animal rights and conveys a message that we are all responsible for looking after our planet Earth. Let the children work in pairs and invite them to write a few questions, for example ‘’What is a paradise?’’. Then the pupils explore and discuss some of the philosophical concepts.

by Anthony Browne

Zoo tells the story of a family of four visiting a zoo. The eldest of two sons, who is the narrator, tells us about the traffic jam on the way up. He thought that the traffic jam and the animals are all boring, but are the animals bored too? The family appears to be more interested in themselves rather than the animals. The highlight of the day for our narrator was the lunch of burger and chips, his brother liked the monkey hats best, while his dad liked going home best. That night the boy dreams of being in a cage and the story ends with his question: ‘’Do you think animals have dreams?’’.

The thought-provoking images, combined with the influential text, evoke strong emotions, and also give a platform to many ethical questions: animal rights and freedom, for instance.

Let your pupils formulate questions and ideas. Ask the children what is their answer to the boy’s question at the end of the story, ‘’Do you think animals have dreams?’’. Children’s questions and observations will form a base for future sessions and debates.

by Tony Bradman

Michael is a boy who does not fit in at school. He persistently refuses to conform, while pursuing his own interests in flying and spacecraft. He is often in trouble and his teachers give up on him. At the end of the story he flies off in a rocket he has constructed, after independent research, from recycled parts. The teachers then claim that they knew he would go ‘far’.

Michael is an amusing and powerful story. This book touches on all the major themes in philosophy; for example, freedom, the needs of the individual, good and bad. Let the pupils think about their own school experiences and ask them to generate some questions related to the school, curriculum and favourite subject. Your pupils will welcome the opportunities for discussing school rules, classroom behaviour and what it means to be free.

Facilitate a discussion

When teaching P4C (philosophy for children) you might also like to use Storywise: thinking through stories by Karin Murris and Joanna Hayes

Another useful resource when teaching P4C (philosophy for children) is But Why? Developing philosophical thinking in the classroom by Sara Stanley  

Book your
Head to Head

If we have piqued your interest in Smart School Services, why not meet with our head team to see how we can work together. To arrange your Head to Head, or for any other enquiry, simply fill in the contact form and we’ll be in touch shortly.