So, You’re the SENCO!

Part 6

It was five minutes into the lesson, that Mrs Nest discovered the classroom PC was not loading and had no intention of even crawling out of its ethereal slumber to cooperate. She resorted to another paper register and quickly replanned the computer based elements of her lessons in her head. Sending a message for help to IT first thing on a Monday morning was not likely to result in any action. They were a team of stereotypical IT-bods. They had a routine and dealing with this was not on their list for 9:00 AM Monday morning. She knew she had a greater chance if she sent for help just before morning break, when a stroll out of their windowless refrigerator towards her room would be combined with a quick off site trip for a smoke and a much more genial encounter with the austere individual who would likely blame the user not the equipment. Mrs Nest suspected the burning smell from the rear might vindicate her on this occasion but all too often she was the victim of the IT PICNIC mentality. [PICNIC – problem in chair, not in computer.]

Lesson one was a year seven group who were using Ruth Miskin Fresh Start to reinforce phonics and comprehension. These students accessed this instead of English lessons meaning it was called English on their timetable and if they made sufficient progress then they could move to another group as all English lessons for year seven were at the same time. It also meant not having to withdraw them from a broad and balanced curriculum to which they were entitled. Although not a fan of wholesale setting, this worked for the school. With four forms in each year group there were six English classes. The students who needed the most support in the class of no more than 14 with a modified approach and the next group of no more than 20 with a curriculum offer that slightly deviated from English, (they used the Hackney LIT project,) and then four mixed ability English groups. To make it work Mrs Nest delivered each Ruth Miskin unit over 2 weeks and some of the English curriculum skills that would otherwise not be encountered were embedded. The Hackney LIT teacher did something similar.

Maths wasn’t quite as straight forward, so they had a lower set of 14 students not always the same as English, four mixed ability classes, and then a top set of 30 fast trackers. The nice thing was that you could be in the heavily structured English class and the top set for maths.

Science could only accommodate five groups, so they had mixed ability across the board with just one group that had twenty students and was deliberately scheduled with the head of science and some deliberate allocation of certain students took place.

Like most schools, Mrs Nest’s had a deficit of staffing in the support team, so quality classroom teaching was absolutely essential. The needs of as many students as possible needed to be met through their universal provision. This meant skilling up the teaching staff, a never-ending task, and the bane of the CPD lead, who also wanted to include development of other things not SEN. Mrs Nest, not too secretly, disagreed, believing that if the staff were taught in training and then through CPD how to meet the needs of all students than the notions of flipped classrooms, cold calling, scaffolding, retrieval practise would all be part of that expected delivery. It wasn’t about making staff work harder and do something different, but about working smarter and using the strategies that benefit the majority. By 9:30 Mrs Nest was using wild arm gestures to express phonic sounds when her classroom door flew open. But it was still a normal Monday morning.

The story continues…

Come back on the 1st or 15th each month for the next part!