Starting your first job as a teacher is exciting but it can also be intimidating, especially where special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are concerned. But it is important to remember, as it says in the SEND Code of Practice, that every teacher is a teacher of special needs. That means it is you who is responsible for the children with SEND in your class: not the special educational needs coordinator (Sendco), not the teaching assistant; you.
Teaching children with SEND is a great responsibility – and often a great joy – and part of the work will include interventions. These are shorter lessons, mostly delivered by teaching assistants, most commonly in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
Interventions can make a huge difference – and they can also be a complete waste of time – so it’s important to think carefully about them. Here are some simple dos and don’ts to make sure your interventions are worthwhile.
Do take some time to get to know your pupils before sending them out of class with someone else. In some schools, the Sendco will coordinate interventions, in others it will be the class teacher. Either way, time spent getting to know the children will help you to decide who needs intervention and who doesn’t.
Don’t rely only on second-hand information. Talk to the TAs and previous teachers to get a sense of what a student’s difficulties might be, but don’t forget to bring their views and school tracking data together with what you know – and that is best done through teaching them yourself.
Do use intervention materials that have a good evidence base for success. You can find evidence-based materials for literacy interventions at bit.ly/DyslexiaWhatWorks and, more generally, at bit.ly/SENDtoolkit.
Don’t feel that you have to reorganise intervention provision in your school. This is a job for Sendcos and senior leaders. Your job is to make use of what you have in school in the interests of your students.
Do utilise the expertise of teaching assistants. If you find yourself with an experienced TA, this is great news. They can help you with all manner of things related and unrelated to intervention (they will know where everything is kept and who everyone is).
Don’t leave students with SEND to the TA. Check in every once in a while, just to see how your children are getting on. This will not only help them to feel that they are part of the class but will also allow you to monitor progress and behaviour. You might even want to teach the intervention group yourself every so often, just to keep them on their toes, while you let the TA look after the class.
Do keep records of who is doing what, with whom, when and where.
Don’t let an intervention run on regardless. If a child has been in an intervention for any length of time, keep a watchful eye on their progress. If they aren’t making any, or not enough, then you need to analyse what is going wrong and think about referring them to the Sendco for further help. Remember, interventions are part of the “graduated approach” (bit.ly/Graduated Approach) to SEND provision.
Nancy Gedge is a consultant teacher for the Driver Youth Trust and is the Tes SEND specialist