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We welcome new colleagues to our growing organisation

This summer, we’ve employed new members of staff to meet the growing demand for our training and services. We’re therefore delighted to bolster our psychology and operations departments with four capable individuals.

Hannah Fairall, Assistant Psychologist (Greenwich)

Before joining us as an assistant psychologist, Hannah completed an MPhil in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge. She feels that her new role has been very interesting and varied so far, which involves tutoring for the Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing (CCET), CCET course development, publishing MEd SEND and National Award for SEN Coordination (NASENCO) delegate assignments, and planning projects for future work in schools.

Abby Grieve, Assistant Psychologist (Greenwich)

Prior to joining our team, Abby worked in a school as a learning support assistant. As an assistant psychologist, she is a CCET tutor, while working to develop the course itself. Abby also works in schools, and assists in publishing the assignments of MEd SEND and NASENCO delegates.

Andrew Heap, Head of Operations (Canterbury)

Previously, Andrew was head of student operations at a language school based in France and Italy. His role is to work with the directors to continue the improvement of operation efficiency, understand the student journey, and enhance our customer services. Andrew will work closely with our marketing team to ensure a consistent approach across the business that drives operations and marketing performance.

Katie Hickmott, Administration Assistant and Receptionist, NASENCO Tutor and Course Developer (Canterbury)

Katie started out as a classroom teacher and for the last six years has been working as a SENCO for schools in special measures. She has an MEd in Educational Research Practice from the University of Cambridge, and jointly led the Good to Outstanding Teaching Programme in her school. She’ll split her role between the administration of NASENCO and the MEd SEND, tutoring NASENCO students, and helping to develop the course content.

A word from one of our directors

Siobhan Mellor emphasised that the need for the recent recruitment drive is in direct response to the growing requirement for more training among teachers:

‘We are keen to support the current growth of the company. We are proud of our reputation for providing great practice-led courses, with flexible learning solutions and high-quality tutoring, leading to positive outcomes for our delegates in their work with children, and young people with SEND. The Real Group team has always focused on providing great support at each stage of the process for delegates, and now that we have 1,617 delegates studying modules with us, we are committed to maintaining our services, to deliver excellent quality in the support and advice we provide.

‘We have expanded all departments within the company, and this will also enable the directors to focus on developing the strategy and approach for Real Group in the next few years, so that we can respond to the new challenges and exciting opportunities that lie ahead in our sector.’

Discussing safeguarding children’s rights with the Children’s Commissioner

We were pleased to have the opportunity to interview Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield OBE on 3 August, for next month’s issue of The SEND Practitioner.

The interview will feature in issue 17 of the free-zine and will give an insight into the progress being made when safeguarding children’s rights and the impact that Anne and her team have had so far.

Anne’s statutory duty is to champion and safeguard the rights of every child in England in line with the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child. The role has been strengthened by the Children and Families Act of 2014 and this has seen the organisation’s duty of care shift to protecting and promoting the rights of children.

A number of pressing questions were asked regarding mental health issues, CAMHS cuts, and SEN school exclusions. Among these vital issues, we also discussed SEN GAG funding, how legal aid has changed, and what the post-Brexit landscape could mean for children and young people’s outcomes.

Issue 17 of The SEND Practitioner will publish in September.

Read previous issues of The SEND Practitioner.

Sign up to The SEND Practitioner.

Should initial teacher training include specialist autism training?

Editor’s note: towards the end of last month, there was quite a bit of chat about whether or not initial teacher training should include specialist autism training. With that in mind, I approached Dr Sue Sheppard, our resident specialist educational psychologist, renowned autism expert and friend and colleague of the late Lorna Wing. With customary clarity, Sue sets out her thoughts on this important question.

A word from Dr Sue Sheppard

The complexity and broadening out of the autism spectrum has significantly increased the number of individuals diagnosed and this brings many challenges within increasingly inclusive education systems. This, coupled with a recognition that there are many females who have previously not been identified, means that the numbers of students that a teacher may encounter has risen in recent years. Many newly qualified teachers find themselves in a situation where they are having to cope with the demands of a student who requires more personalised approaches and adaptations than they expect.

It is for this reason that those completing initial teacher training require a basic level of awareness, which enhances their understanding of the autism spectrum and provides knowledge of some principles relating to appropriate intervention and management techniques. There has to be a balanced approach within initial teacher training as many domains need attention. Within a school there clearly need to be staff with specific responsibility and enhanced skills who can support and advise their colleagues and signpost them to the most suitable ways to manage students on the autism spectrum. However, within the current Code of Practice for SEN there is a strong emphasis on ‘all teachers being responsible for ensuring individual needs are embraced within their daily planning and practice’. This means that teacher training has to ensure that there is adequate preparation to begin this process; one that will evolve once a teaching career begins.

When teaching undergraduates who were following initial teacher training, I have always found high levels of motivation when I have presented lectures and workshops relating to autism. The main feedback has tended to focus on the fact they would like more training and opportunities to learn. They especially enjoy hearing the insider view and are interested in the sensory difficulties experienced and the high levels of anxiety which may present in school settings. Many teachers in training have been educated in inclusive schools and learnt alongside students with autism. Others have personal experience of family members with a diagnosis. This tends to mean that they bring their own insights, which can be shared as part of the learning process.

Maybe there is the scope to ensure that all teachers in training have a basic level of autism training, while recognising that others may be more strongly motivated to become autism ‘champions’ and ‘specialists’ and wish for something additional within their training. Perhaps, in recognition of this natural variation, a range of optional modules could be created that meets the teachers in training at the particular level that they need to enhance their career.

About Dr Sue Sheppard

Sue is a senior specialist educational psychologist who is a consultant to the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism (part of the National Autistic Society). She has been a specialist ASD advisor/EP for a number of London boroughs for over 20 years and has also worked as a specialist teacher. Sue has been instrumental in setting up provision for children and young people with ASD across early years, primary and secondary, and has an eclectic career portfolio covering lecturing, training, consultancy and diagnosis and assessment. She is a specialist speaker in autism for EPs in training at University College London and has worked in collaboration with other universities – her doctoral research focused on autism outreach services.

Sue has significant experience of supporting learners online and has been a module leader on a number of ‘special needs’ programmes for various universities. Sue works with Real Psychology to provide extensive specialist EP services across London. She is also the module leader for Real Training’s Autism Spectrum Conditions: Skills & Knowledge (S&K) and Application & Reflection (A&R) modules, which are part of Real Training’s MEd SEND Programme.

Find out more about our modules on Autism Spectrum Conditions.

Useful websites

The DfE updates its SEN statistics

Just a few days ago, the DfE updated its statistics for pupils with SEN. According to the data, those pupils who receive SEN support are falling. We will look at these stats in more detail and will publish a blog piece in September.

Find out more.

We’ve recently launched a brand new one-day update on assessment and access arrangements

We’re delighted to have launched our one-day Assessment and Access Arrangements Update (3AU). This face-to-face refresher will enable delegates to ensure that they meet the latest Joint Council for Qualifications’ (JCQ) regulations. It will also help them to fine tune and refresh their skills in assessment and access arrangements.

The inaugural course will be held in London on 28 September, closely followed by one in Manchester on 5 October.

Find out more.

Our delegates graduate at Middlesex University

Our talented delegates graduated at Middlesex University today. It was great to meet them and to hear their stories.

We were really pleased to speak with National Award for SEN Coordination (NASENCO) graduate Lynsey Rooker and her parents. Lynsey is the SENCO at Chesterton Community College and has been inspired to enhance her continuing professional development. She is determined to complete her PGDip and will count the 60 Masters-level (M-level) credits gained from NASENCO towards the 120 M-level credits required.

The importance of developing flexible programmes of support for learners in schools

Dr Sue Sheppard, our resident specialist educational psychologist, discusses the key notes of her forthcoming talk at the Autism Show

[Hear Sue speak about this and much more at the Autism Show on Friday 17 June 2016 at The Hub: Theatre 1 – from 10.25–10.55.]

I’m looking forward to speaking at the Autism Show about the importance of developing flexible personalised programmes for students on the autism spectrum. This area is explored in-depth on Real Training’s two Autism modules, where the following areas are prioritised:

  • Profiling – creating school-based pro formas.
  • Developing holistic personalised programmes that integrate the findings of the profiles.
  • Autism audits – whole school/staff skills.
  • Case studies – creating a narrative around ‘personal journeys’ to help with solutions.
  • Measuring the impact of interventions on ‘real’ students in ‘real’ schools.
  • Comparative work on interventions.
  • Developing school-based action/research plans.

During the talk, I will highlight pertinent examples of good practice by teachers and support staff, some of whom have overcome great challenges – perhaps due to gaps in their school-based provision, the complexity of their student groups, or a lack of external support services. Such good practice is even more admirable when one considers the fact that delegates on the Real Training programmes are based in diverse settings and include international delegates.

There will be some exploration of the tensions that can emerge as schools strive to measure outcomes and track data using evidence-based practice, while also trying to personalise and support students on a day-to-day basis. The limitations of research into ‘what works’ will be examined to promote the idea that an intervention is only effective if it works for a specific student in a specific setting. I will discuss important dimensions such as resilience, motivation, personal insight and rigidity as being significant factors that can both aid and limit the impact of interventions. The high incidence of secondary mental health issues among young people with autism spectrum conditions means that there is a real need to carefully balance high expectations with young people’s actual capacity to engage and sustain a programme, while maintaining emotional well-being.

I will also draw on my direct experience of working in a range of schools, where my current interests include:

  • Exploring and recognising the impact of learning styles and uneven cognitive profiles on student progress in schools.
  • Dimensional frameworks for understanding and assessing those with autism spectrum conditions.
  • Working with students who ‘school refuse’ (or are at risk of refusing to attend school) in order to analyse the underlying reasons for this pattern of behaviour and identify solutions to move forward.
  • Listening to pupils and, where necessary, using structured and unstructured frameworks to support students in reflecting on and prioritising their goals to help them increase motivation.
  • Addressing anxiety across their day-to-day and assessing levels of personal insight.
  • Working collaboratively with parents to create solutions.
  • Adapting interventions to support the girls in schools who are now increasingly recognised as being on the autism spectrum.

Finally, I will be encouraging those who develop support programmes to build on the available good practice and valuable research around interventions, while remaining focused on the ‘individual’ and dynamic interaction within the learning environment and the broader social context.

About Dr Sue Sheppard

Sue is a senior specialist educational psychologist who is a consultant to the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism (part of the National Autistic Society). She has been a specialist ASD advisor/EP for a number of London boroughs for over 20 years and has also worked as a specialist teacher. Sue has been instrumental in setting up provision for children and young people with ASD across early years, primary and secondary, and has an eclectic career portfolio covering lecturing, training, consultancy and diagnosis and assessment. She is a specialist speaker in autism for EPs in training at University College London and has worked in collaboration with other universities – her doctoral research focused on autism outreach services.

Sue has significant experience of supporting learners online and has been a module leader on a number of ‘special needs’ programmes for various universities. Sue works with Real Psychology to provide extensive specialist EP services across London. She is also the module leader for Real Training’s Autism Spectrum Conditions: Skills & Knowledge (S&K) and Application & Reflection (A&R) modules, which are part of Real Training’s MEd SEND Programme.

Find out more about our modules on Autism Spectrum Conditions.

Useful websites

We’re in Krakow for EU-funded project: Q-Tales

Sarah Norris and Jonathan Bond have worked with a host of European partners to help build Q-Tales.

This project aims to increase children’s engagement with the written word. At its heart is a demographic approach to curation that is needs-focussed and develops specific literacy skills. Q-Tales aspires to become the largest vertical approach in the European e-book and app industry by producing a complex quality book-based app that will make children’s books a more attractive play for publishers.

In their work, Sarah (senior educational psychologist) and Jonathan (senior learning designer) helped to devise the curation strategy objectives that lie at the very heart of the project.

‘The objectives are to:

  • Provide a way of rating the pedagogical quality of a product to ensure that it is appropriate for a given reader and that it helps to improve the literacy of that reader.
  • Develop tools that will not only evaluate a product, but will also provide data metrics that users can access, understand and contribute – creating a virtuous circle.
  • Evolve a curation network to facilitate the above, to support the launch of Q-Tales and inform its ongoing development.’

It’s been a fascinating pan-European project and promises to have a great impact on children’s literacy across Europe.

Editor’s note: Sarah is meeting with our EU partners in Krakow today (27 June 2016). While the recent EU referendum vote will have an impact on our involvement in this project, we are pleased to report that we will continue to support the project until such time as we are unable to do so.

In the wake of the EU referendum result

A word from one of our directors

‘While we’re still trying to work out the implications of the Brexit vote, we’re secure in the knowledge that our two main courses are a firm favourite with schools. In times of uncertainty, people tend to upskill to ensure that they are future-proofed. So, with all of this in mind and with many unknowns ahead of us, we will continue to carry on what we are doing well while the dust settles.

‘Clearly, the result will have an impact on the EU projects that we are working on. We will keep you posted, but please be aware that these projects are a small part of our operations and will not have a negative impact.’

Dr Mark Turner

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