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Maths Difficulties: Understanding Where the Problem Lies

Maths difficulties are still poorly understood and often have many causal factors. While specific early interventions can and do work well for learners – is it time to consider whether our overall approach to maths teaching is contributing to the problem in the first place?

An image showing a boy struggling with maths

Many children (and adults) in the UK struggle with maths. Exactly what label is applied to this is currently under some debate. The prevalence of Dyscalculia, a specific learning difficulty, has been estimated at 3-7% although academics are divided on causal mechanisms, definition and diagnosis. Many think of it as one end of a continuum that includes broader maths difficulties and even maths anxiety.

The drive to recognise some of the innate and very specific biological reasons behind maths difficulties is worthy and indeed essential. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the significant impact that other factors such as teacher-pupil relationships, socio-economic factors and unconscious bias have to play. 

And there is, of course, another dimension, which is the method of teaching maths itself. In the UK we often still teach maths in a way that places heavy emphasis on rote learning, including drilling sequences, rules, processes and formulae, from early years right the way through to GCSE. Sometimes we overlook other, deeper routes to understanding that don’t place such a high demand on working memory which puts some learners at a disadvantage.

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Improving the Wellbeing of Autistic Girls at School

Originally published in Teaching Times 07.05.2024

By Dr Sue Sheppard, Educational Psychologist and Module Leader for Real Training’s postgraduate courses in autism

An autistic girl at school

If you could model a learning environment that was intended to be an assault on the senses it might very much look like a typical school.

To a neurotypical person this might be difficult to comprehend – yet for a young autistic person, our schools can be the epitome of chaos. Hundreds of children shouting noisily, teachers raising their voices to be heard, bells going off, the constant echo of footsteps in corridors, people talking all at once in lessons, dense slides, bright lights, itchy uniforms, a bombardment of smells in the dining room.
It can take a lot of energy just to be there.
For autistic girls, however, this exhaustion is often multiplied due to their need for perfectionism and the pressures of masking as they strive to meet social expectations. The more we learn about their routines, including ruminating, the clearer it becomes that this can be at the detriment to positive wellbeing. Autistic girls have even been described as ‘little psychologists’ by some in the field, due to their tendency to over-analyse events and experiences.

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14 Tactics For Senior Mental Health Leads

A senior mental health lead considering multiple tactics to improve wellbeing

A considerable body of research points to mental health provision being most effective in schools when it is conducted as part of a whole-school approach (Weare and Nind, 2011). This means focusing not just on isolated projects delivered by external experts, but galvanising the entire school community and making mental health an ongoing priority, embedded into the ethos, activities and curriculum of your setting.
To support this, senior mental health leads need to have a good understanding of both change management principles, particularly those endorsed by the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation), and the latest mental health best practice.

Below, we’ve illustrated some of the tactics a senior mental health lead might be focusing on and how they fit into the eight principles of the whole school approach as defined by Public Health England. Although tactical interventions are only relevant when considered in the context of an action plan developed for each setting, there may well be ideas that are helpful for you.

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Living with Aspergers – an interview with SEN professional Beverley Williams

Beverley Williams

Beverley Williams is one of our delegates here at Real Training. She has had an expansive career, influencing the lives of many young people with SEN. Not only has Beverley completed multiple courses with Real Training and gained a vast amount of professional knowledge through SEN and safeguarding roles, but she was also diagnosed with Aspergers at around 50 years old.

We thought it would be useful to share Beverley’s story, not only for those delegates looking to have an impact but also for anyone on the autistic spectrum who may be looking for some advice. 

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Senior Mental Health Lead: 8 Top Tips for Success

By Andrew Chadwick is a former Headteacher and SMHL, and is currently Safeguarding, Ambition and Inclusion Lead at Focus-Trust. In this article he gives some essential advice for anyone new to the senior mental health lead role.

Article originally published in Headteacher Update Magazine 11.03.2024 – accessible here

A senior mental health lead in school sitting at her desk

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An exciting update to our online Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing course

As part of our commitment to the continuous improvement of our courses and to ensure the most effective learning experience for our delegates, we regularly review our programmes. Our goal is to equip our delegates with the necessary skills and knowledge to make maximum impact in their settings.

We are delighted to announce that we have just released an update to our popular Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing online course. The updates include:

  • New multimedia content, in the form of videos and animations of key concepts, make the content more accessible and interactive. See an example below from the section on the scaling and standardisation of psychometric tests

DfE grant funding announcement

Senior Mental Health Lead Training – how to apply for grant funding                                                        

senior mental health lead grant

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced an additional year of grant funding for senior mental health leads, for all state-funded schools and colleges in England. They will also be offering second grants for eligible settings who have used their funding but whose Senior Mental Health Lead has left.

‘Second grants can be claimed by eligible schools and colleges if the senior mental health lead they previously trained left their setting before embedding a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing.’

Eligible settings can apply for a senior mental health lead training grant to commence training by 31 July 2024, but must complete the application by 31 March 2024.

This article provides information on how to apply for grant funding for the Real Training Senior Mental Health Leadership courses.

We are pleased to share that further funding available for senior mental health lead training, means that up to two thirds of eligible settings will have the opportunity to benefit from the training by the end of the 2023-2024 financial year! Applications are now open, and in this article, we guide you through the steps to complete the process. 

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Children’s Mental Health Week 2024: Free Resource for Strengthening Pupil Voice

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week run by leading charity, Place2Be. The theme this year is
My Voice Matters and in order to help, we’ve pulled together an infographic with our top tips for strengthening pupil voice in school wellbeing initiatives.

According to the latest NHS data, between the ages of 8-25, an estimated 1 in 5 young people (that’s roughly five in every class) now suffer with mental health difficulties. Listening to children’s voices is central to making school-based wellbeing initiatives more effective and impactful. 

Download the infographic for primary schools       Download the infographic for secondary schools

Interested in reading some real-world examples and mini case studies?
Read more in our blog: Every Voice Matters: Strengthening Pupil Voice in Wellbeing Initiatives


6 Things to Know About SEN Teaching in International Schools

Six things to know about SEN teaching in schools - a blog front cover image

Matthew Lee, Real Training tutor and former Deputy Headteacher responsible for Inclusion at ICS Amman, explores what SEN professionals should know before making the move to international schools.

First published in the January/February issue SEN magazine, accessible here.

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