Holistic learning support
Every teacher is a teacher of SEND
Putting this learning support mantra into practice is the best way to meet an increasing range of post-covid needs, according to Krystle Flack, Head of Learning Support at Cranleigh School.
Expanding LS in the mainstream
Learning Support is a central department at Cranleigh, situated in the heart of the school’s academic centre and connected to every department. For some years we have been moving away from the traditional model of support being given in isolation, away from the classroom, by support specialists, towards greater support being given in mainstream classrooms with subject specialists taking the lead. Everyone, in other words is a Learning Support teacher.
Of course, we still have a core team of experts in academic mentoring and learning support, helping individual students in areas such as literacy, numeracy, study skills and, importantly, building their confidence to improve their outcomes. Some students have more complex needs than others and need greater levels of support. But, post-Covid, schools face a learning environment of increased need and vulnerability and as such, a greater spread of support is required. Putting aside the debate between learning need and learning gap, what remains is a student body that lacks confidence after the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Providing more holistic learning support is clearly the way the wind is blowing. In the UK, guidelines set out, amongst other things, a ‘clear expectation that most pupils with SEND will be taught in mainstream classrooms’, and the belief that ‘every teacher is a teacher of SEND’. All teachers are both responsible and accountable for the progress and development of all pupils in their class, including those pupils who access support from teaching assistants or specialist staff. Where support staff work with pupils with SEN, it is still the teacher that has overall responsibility for those pupils and must ensure that they make appropriate progress.
Our approach is, therefore, two-fold:
- specialist learning support teachers continue to work with those students who need the greatest levels of support. These would usually be 1:1 or very small group support lessons.
- other teachers have support lessons allocated onto their timetable in which they offer support/advice to those students who need lower levels of support, which would frequently happen in a small group setting.
Some of the ways in which teachers support students with SEN in the classroom are an extension of good practice in the classroom, whilst other, more specific strategies may be particularly useful in supporting particular needs.
What does this look like in a lesson?
There is no ‘typical’ support lesson! Sometimes students will bring academic work they are struggling with and ask for some strategies to help them understand it and make progress. Sometimes a particular student may be concentrating on something more specific, such as an area of numeracy, or analysing texts for content, language, purpose.
A ‘feed forward’ model
Whatever the need of the student that day, what remains is a ‘feed forward’ model. Commentary remains positive, and we constantly look at next steps to ensure progress is maintained and continues an upward trajectory. Each support intervention is encouraging; small wins are always celebrated, and we look for opportunities to build confidence. Every lesson remains an opportunity for a student to make mistakes in a risk-free environment, but benefitting from support that is close at hand to break tasks down into manageable and easy to follow steps.
Training and CPD
It would not be fair to task mainstream colleagues to act as support teachers in a mainstream lesson without supporting themin turn. The success of our approach is underpinned by specialist training provided at the start of each academic year and bolstered termly.
Each training session is run by Learning Support specialists and provides valuable coaching on how to support all SEN students in the mainstream classroom and how differentiated support should be used.
This CPD addresses what it can mean to be neurodiverse in the classroom, provides deeper strategies for effective differentiation and behaviour management – all skills that teachers can then apply in their own lessons. Every session counts towards ongoing CPD and aims to develop the classroom teacher, whilst enhancing the outcomes of all students.
In other words, as we move forward we are learning to provide Learning Support to our students as a whole staff..
Every teacher is a teacher of SEND
For us, this is more than a mantra. Like every student learning something new, students with SEND need encouragement, care, attention, and patience. They need a teacher’s time more than anything else, and to feel they are not alone in their academic journey. The more we all provide the same kind of support, the more they feel supported.and inspired. Learning support is, therefore, hands-on and as teachers we can expect to ‘learn’ with the student. Discussion is crucial in these situations and our students are encouraged by two-way communication and a united approach to seeking out answers.
The school’s culture moves on as a result. This approach enhances wider teaching, encourages greater compassion and understanding and, above all, promotes greater collaboration between teachers and students. At a time when demand is at its highest, why would we not draw on the skills of our teaching body and offer a rewarding model with positive outcomes for all?
Krystle Flack Head of Learning Support, Cranleigh School, Surrey.
Krystle joined Cranleigh School in April 2013 and became Head of Learning Support in September 2021.
With thanks to Krystle for the training session photograph