We are always eager to collect the thoughts of our delegates. The majority come after they have completed their course. However, given the current circumstances, we felt it would be insightful to reach out to some of our current delegates to get their views on their course experience so far, and how studying during a global pandemic has affected their progress.
An interview with Eugene McFadden – NASENCO, intensive CPT3A
Eugene completed his intensive CPT3A course in 2017, and two and a half years later, joined Real Training again to begin his NASENCO qualification in January 2020, just as the enormity of the global pandemic was beginning to make itself clear. Here is his story so far.
How did you find out about Real Training and the CPT3A course?
“I became an assistant SENCO 3 or 4 years ago maybe, and I needed to do the access arrangements course because no-one else in the school was trained. I was speaking to one of the other SENCOs who said “You’ve got to do the Real Training one – it’s a lot quicker when you do the intensive course.” Because work is very busy and I have kids, I thought I’d rather have one, intensive hit. It was a really, really good course. It just worked really well. It was really professionally done, really well tailored to what was realistic and what we needed to do.
You’re now studying NASENCO with us. Tell us about why you chose Real Training for this qualification.
“I was looking around at other NASENCO courses, which looked mind-numbing, and then I saw Real Training’s course. For one, it was cheaper than local council’s one, and the fact that it’s all online and flexible. Some [school] weeks are 60 hours, so fitting things in is a bit of a nightmare, but with a course like this, I can think “oh, I have an hour to myself, I’m just going to hit it hard and do something”. The access to the big database is really helpful as well. I really like the bar at the top1. It’s actually really, really positive when you’re really busy.”
How has your experience with the online NASENCO course been versus your expectations, and versus your intensive experience with CPT3A?
“The intensive works really well with CCET as you’re learning to do one specific skill in testing, so you really want that intensity. This (NASENCO) is a bigger-picture thing. You need to step back and digest more. I have a two-year old who doesn’t sleep through the night yet, so I’d find myself rocking her to sleep at 2am reading things I’d downloaded. It gives you a chance to just think, make the notes and everything. A lot of the bigger articles I ended up printing out, to put in a folder where I can take it home and read it at my leisure.”
What parts of the NASENCO course have you found particularly interesting so far?
“There’s the wider reading; you’ve got the Lamb report, you can see how one thing informs another, which is actually really important. It’s interesting to have a timeline of when things happened and why. We’re kids of the 80s and things were very different back then. It’s good to have that time to just think and take it apart.”
Have you been able to put anything in particular into practice already?
“Well, ironically, I’ve been interviewing people for HLTA jobs through Google Meets. It’s been interesting to be having discussions with them, and having interviewed successfully, I’ve got someone to train up. I thought about how my training on the NASENCO course has informed me and have been giving them reading to do from that course, which is quite helpful. So yeah, it’s definitely been having an impact. It’s interesting because I’ve been reading about outreach work into primary schools, because we’re quite a big MAT, and we’re going to have some primary schools placed in our secondary school for a few weeks for summer term 2. I want to incorporate that as my primary placement.”
How has the current lockdown situation influenced your studies?
“It’s actually given me more time to do it! It’s difficult, because the first few weeks were just trying to set things up, and I’ve been into school a fair bit as well running things on certain days, especially for some of our higher-needs kids. But the days when I’m home… the first few weeks were difficult, trying to get my head-space around being at home and working while at home with kids running around. Once I got the hang of it, I thought I’d set aside a day here and there, turn the emails off, and crack on with the NASENCO course. There’s always someone knocking on the door with a problem [when you’re in school]. My quality of life has actually improved – I’m not working 60 hours a week and have time to spend with the kids.”
What are your hopes and expectations for the rest of the course?
“Definitely to get it done – that’s the first thing! Definitely start to use what I’m learning to move forward. I’ve already kind of moved forward. I’ve been on a journey with my TAs (I’ve got TAs and HLTAs), and I’ve been on a journey with everyone’s practice board [a reflective practice of how staff are working with SEN pupils], tweaking that practice, fine-tuning it more and more. It’s good, because a lot of the things I’ve come across I already believed or knew or learned about already, so it’s nice to have those things reinforced. My focus has been on wave 1 teaching, and I’ve brought the SEN team so far, and now it’s all about raising all teaching and learning – the best input for an SEN kid is going to be in the classroom, the teacher teaching them right – it’s now given me that confidence to start addressing the bigger picture. It’s like “that’s gone alright, now we need to start doing this…” A rising tide raises all ships!”
¹ Campus Online holds a comprehensive online library containing all of the reading necessary for completing the courses. Additionally, access to EBSCO online journal databases allows for further reading to expand knowledge and understanding of the course material.
Dawn Johnson – SENCO, North West Kent Alternative Provision Service – NASENCO Course
What drew you to study with Real Training
I have heard of Real training as a reliable provider from a number of colleagues. Your company has a good reputation, and my DH/SENCO at the time had already mentioned your course before we had a little reshuffle of roles and I began to transition out of the English classroom and into the SENCO role.
How your experience has been vs your expectations so far
I have completed online training, including a PAPAA one-year course in the past with other providers and am very impressed with Real Training’s approach to online learning. I have found the site incredibly easy to use, the resources are quite varied and the discussion boards are well organised and easy to use. I am still learning how to use EBSCO but am sure, once I am used to they process, it will become faster and easier to access exactly what I want (I have only been enrolled since the end of April, so have not used every element of the site fully yet). The online notebook is very useful as I can make notes as I read or access slideshows. Overall, I would say it is a surprisingly well-presented, flexible course with an intuitive design for users.
What elements have been of particular interest/use to you so far
I have engaged far more with the discussion activities than on any previous course and have found the notebook, library of previous essays and general range of resources very helpful.
How you are managing your time to complete the work
I am stuck at home shielding with my husband who is also working from home. I work on the course more in weeks where I am needed less for school-based work, as I also run whole-school CPD and, during lockdown, we have had to adapt this rather a lot! The flexibility to use the course from half an hour to a whole day at any point has made this possible.
How the current lockdown has affected your studies
I have had a lot of tasks to complete at home for school but have had a lot more time that I had anticipated for the course. I was taking on areas of SENCO work while still preparing all of my classes for GCSEs and only working 3 days a week prior to Covid-19 – in a way, the lockdown has helped a lot with my availability to train! Being able to continue to work and train on something useful and relevant while shielding has definitely helped me to maintain good mental health during this time.
Your hopes/expectations/ambitions for the remainder of the course and beyond
Well, if we are talking hopes and dreams, I dream of a world where nobody has to use Harvard referencing ever again! (I completed my PGCE in 2000, that’s a long time to forget how to do these things…) Ultimately, I hope to be able to furnish myself with the theory and knowledge to succeed on my return to school, when I assume more of the role and responsibilities of the SENCO post. I would like to know I am doing everything I possibly can to support our pupils and this course will help me to ensure this. I have considered possibly using the points from the NASENCO course and my PAPAA to go on and complete a Masters…we’ll see.