One of the best ways to deliver CPD about specific needs is to have expert speakers come to visit your school. They will be able to provide insights that you would not otherwise have access to.
However, providing this type of CPD – both sourcing and funding it – with consistency and regularity can be difficult. And with current restrictions in place, it may be even less accessible than it was before.
Delivering powerful CPD around SEND
Nevertheless, ensuring that SEND and inclusion are still high on the CPD agenda keeps it at the forefront of people’s minds, improves staff knowledge, skills and confidence, and raises the profile of SEND within your school. So what can you do to ensure that what you are delivering is regular and impactful?
1. Speak about individual students
Setting time aside throughout the year to talk about individual students can be a powerful way of promoting positive relationships and developing understanding of the students whom teachers are finding it most difficult to engage with.
You can start by asking the student what they wish staff knew about them and their needs, and speaking to parents about what they find works well for their child. Then share this information with teachers. Talk about the student’s needs and potential strategies, yes, but also talk about their skills, interests and aspirations, as this can help teachers to see them as more than just the challenges they present, as well as giving them a starting point for positive conversations.
This may seem like a big time investment for only one or a few students, but, in reality, this is exactly what equity is and the benefits radiate far further than those individual children as teachers develop skills and confidence and the classrooms become calmer and more purposeful for everyone involved.
2. Capture the experience already within your school
It can be frustrating for any teacher when you are struggling with a particular student or class and they seem to be fine for someone else. Ask teachers who have had success and made progress with a particular student or class to speak about their experience. It may be that they, too, were struggling and made some changes that worked and would now benefit that student in other lessons or that the same strategies could be used to support other students, too. It could also just be an opportunity to spread a little positivity and good practice.
3. Talk about your vision
As a Sendco or senior leader, it is likely that you have a clear vision for inclusion at your school and that you have a good idea of what the national picture for SEND education and outcomes are for your SEND learners, but how is this shared with the wider staff team? They may know the “who” and even the “how” of SEND provision, but do they know the “why”? Sharing your vision and a little more information about SEND statistics, both within education and (with careful parallels) beyond, can be a powerful tool in helping teachers to understand why some children need additional and different approaches and just that little bit more support from the adults around them.
The most important thing is that all of these CPD suggestions help to bring SEND and inclusion out of the domain of the Sendco and their team and into the main offer of the school, and into the hands of the classroom teachers themselves. Maybe there is no substitute for bringing in an expert speaker on SEND, but remember that these are your students and it is your school; there is no substitute for the knowledge, expertise and motivation that this brings either.
Nicole Dempsey is assistant principal at Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford