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International Stuttering Awareness Day 2021

The 22nd of October 2021 is International Stuttering Awareness Day. In light of this important date, we teamed up with Janet Stevens to bring you an informative article on Stuttering. Janet is an experienced speech and language therapist, independent practitioner and module leader on our Speech, Language and Communication Needs module. 

This article highlights the different terminology you may hear, important facts, risk factors, and much more. If you are interested in any of the information below, please do feel free to leave any questions or feedback for Janet in the comment section at the end of this article.

Raising awareness on International Stuttering Awareness Day

Firstly, it is important to understand the differences in terminology: the speech difficulty known as stuttering in the USA & Australia, is more commonly referred to as stammering in the UK. The charity that supports & provides guidance for families, education & health agencies that have contact with children & adults who stammer in the UK is known as STAMMA. All of these terms can equally be encompassed within the descriptor of dysfluency.

Stammering is a neurophysiological speech disorder that appears to affect neural pathways in the speech-linked areas of the brain; it can be described as being like ‘a glitch in the wiring’.

A current definition of stammering is:

A voluntary disruption to the smooth flow & timing of speech, characterised by prolongation or repetition of sounds, blocking or secondary features.

This is what we know about stammering:

  • It affects 5% of children under 5 years of age
  • It affects 1% of the adult population
  • It usually first manifests between the ages of 2 and 5 years of age
  • It is not linked in any way to intelligence (IQ)
  • It can be intermittent & appear to disappear for periods of time
  • Early identification & referral to a Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) is essential to monitor & assess risk factors

Main Risk factors

  • Family history of stammering: hereditary factors particularly strong with male relatives, although females can stammer
  • Recognised difficulties with early speech/language/communication development OR significantly advanced language skills
  • Time since onset of stammer: the longer the period of time between onset & consultation with SLT, the greater the risk that the stammer will become established
  • Pattern of change over time: if child stammers every day, the risk of more permanent stammering is increased
  • Parental levels of concern: the more anxious & concerned parents are, the greater the potential risk that early mitigating factors will not be effective
  • Child awareness/level of concern: the higher child levels of concern/anxiety, the greater the risk that the stammer will become established

Triggers for Stammering

Multiple factors can interact with these main risks to trigger a stammer at any time; the circumstances will vary for individual children; however, none of these factors will cause stammering by themselves; individual children will already have an underlying deficit or predisposition or a stammer.

The factors to consider are:

  • Language factors
  • Psychological factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Physical factors

There is a Framework for Stammering that is used by the majority of NHS SLT teams & alternative diagnostic agencies, to inform their thinking about the specific factors involved in the stammer of individual children

This is also known as the Multifactorial Model: as the graphic illustrates all 4 factors interlink & overlap. SLTs will use this information to generate a Profile of Risk for each child, which will then inform the focus of intervention & act as the evaluation framework for that intervention.

Features of Stammering

  • Repetition of sounds [usually word initial]: e.g. m.m.m.mummy
  • Prolongation of sounds [usually word initial]: e.g. sssssunshine
  • Blocking of sounds: e.g. trying to speak but no sound comes out
  • Secondary features: e.g. eye blinking, twitching, facial grimaces

This list is a broadly chronological pathway of the typical evolution of childhood stammering. In terms of identification, generally stage 1 is auto-resolvable, whereas once stages 2/3 are reached, the risks multiply & the likelihood of the stammer becoming established is significantly increased.


Of the 5% of affected children:

  • 2 of the 5 will experience transient difficulties with dysfluency between the ages of 3-5, which will resolve with no external intervention
  • 2 of the 5 will experience significant dysfluency as young children, which will be    resolvable via SLT intervention & guidance
  • 1 of the 5 will become a chronic stammerer, through childhood into adulthood

Intervention Options

  1. Indirect Intervention: this could include guidance/advice for the family & ‘watchful waiting’ by the SLT, who would over review appointments if the family requested them
  2. Direct Intervention: the care pathways on offer across different NHS trusts in the UK will vary. In my own Trust, SLTs are trained to offer Parent Child Interaction sessions, Lidcombe Therapy sessions, Swindon Group Therapy sessions and referral to specialist intervention at The Michael Palin Centre in London. An individual child (& their family) will be guided onto one of these options initially, with the possibility of moving onto other options at a later date. This is not a sequential pathway, as each individual child & family are unique, so therapy packages will be uniquely designed around their needs.

Parent-Child Interaction

This intervention is based within the Hanen Approach: essentially it comprises short video clips of interactions involving a parent/significant adult & the child, which are then watched by the adult with discussions guided by the SLT to help identify areas of interaction ‘practice’, which could be ameliorated or changed, by the adult to minimise the child’s stammering behaviour [referring to the Profile of Risk].

Lidcombe Programme

This is a behavioural treatment mainly for children under 6 who stammer; there is no pressure within the treatment sessions on the child to consciously attempt to change any stammering behaviours. Parents are ‘trained’ to identify the number/severity of every stammered utterance [called ‘offering verbal contingencies’]; they do this in daily ‘treatment’ sessions AND in some ‘natural’ conversations. [https://www..lidcombeprogram.org]

Swindon Group Programmes

The SLT team in Swindon have devised, operated & trained other SLTs in a series of 3 different group therapy programmes. They combine intensive speech therapy in a group of peers with similar impairments with outdoor activities. These can be used sequentially & generally cover the ages from 6 up:

  1. The Smoothies Pack (6-9 years)
  2. The Blockbuster Pack (9-12 years)
  3. The Teens Challenge Pack (13-17 years)

The Michael Palin Centre

As a centre of excellence in London, the team of highly skilled SLTs deliver intensive 2-week programmes for the families of the stammering child, as well as the child themselves. Group discussion, parent support and techniques to reduce stammering behaviour, combine in a challenging yet supportive environment to resolve often deep-seated family & personal issues, of which the stammer is frequently a manifestation.  These courses require referral & local GP/NHS funding, so it can require years of effort to secure a place.

Advice for Parents and Supporting Adults (e.g. teachers)

  • Remain open to communication about the STAMMER
  • Do not react to the STAMMER in a negative way
  • Wait for the child to finish talking, don’t interrupt or finish their sentences for them
  • Don’t ask the child to stop & start talking again
  • Praise the child for things they are good at/do well, using specific praise
  • Praise the child when they talk ‘fluently’ or ‘smoothly’
  • Maintain eye contact when communicating with the child whenever they stammer
  • Slow down your own rate of speech
  • Use pauses to give the child time to think & process information
  • Don’t ask too many questions; use comments instead

In conclusion, if, as a professional educator, parent or relative, you become aware of a child stammering, please refer or encourage parents to refer the child immediately. The closer to onset a child can be seen by an SLT, the better the long-term outcome will be.

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

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

As we are sure you are aware by now, the Department for Education has announced new quality criteria for Senior Mental Health Leadership courses, and these criteria help define this important senior role in schools across England. Additionally, the announcement contained information on grant funding to all state-funded schools and colleges in England. In the current financial year (up to March 2022), this is expected to cover one-third of eligible schools, with further funds to be released after this.

Applications are now open to apply for this funding, and in this article, we guide you through the steps to complete the process. 

Step 1 – Read the guidance for grant funding to ensure eligibility

The DfE has published a comprehensive guide to applying for grant funding. Initially, we recommend you visit this page, which offers a useful overview of topics such as what the grant must be used for, eligibility criteria when to complete the submission and so on. It will also provide information regarding creating a ‘DfE Sign-in account’ which is necessary in order to access the form. Please note, it can take up to 10 days to create a DfE Sign-in account!

You can also visit this page which will offer more information on the conditions of the grant and application guidance. We highly recommend you read all of this information to avoid submission errors that could delay or invalidate your application unnecessarily.

Step 2 – Decide on the course you wish to apply for grant funding

At Real Training, we offer two DfE quality-assured Senior Mental Health Leadership courses. Click the links below to visit our course pages and learn more:

Senior Mental Health Leadership Certificate (SMHLC) – aimed at those who are new to a Senior Mental Health Leadership role or are aspiring to become a leader in this area.

Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award (SMHLAA) – aimed at those who have some experience in the role, and have some existing training in mental health leadership.

If you are unsure which of these is best for you, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experienced course advisors who will be happy to help, either by email info@realgroup.co.uk or by phone on +44 (0)1273 35 80 80.

If you booked one of our courses on or before the application system went live on 11 October 2021, please apply now. You have until 25 October to claim one of the grants the DfE guaranteed to reserve for eligible schools and colleges booking a course early.

If you are yet to book on a course, but are eligible and intend to book a course soon, you can also apply for a grant. Now that the guarantee to reserve a grant for those booking a course early has ended, we encourage you to apply for a grant BEFORE you book a course.

Step 3 – Collate information for your setting in preparation for application

It is important to ensure you have the relevant information to hand in and that certain conditions are met before commencing the application process. This includes, but is in no way limited to:

  • Having a commitment from your setting’s senior leadership team to develop a whole school, college or centre approach to mental health and wellbeing
  • Details of your senior mental health lead, who will receive the training in 2021 to 2022 financial year, to oversee your setting’s whole school, college or centre approach
  • Authority to submit a claim for this training grant on behalf of your educational setting

Having this information readily available will enormously reduce the time it takes to apply and helps ensure correct information is provided first time.

Step 4 – Access the application form

Once you have all of the necessary information required, you can access the form hereAt this point, you will need to log into your DfE account. You may be asked to specify the individual campus you would like to complete the form for if your account has more than one eligible campus. The next page will display the details of the organisation the DfE holds, related to your login. It is important to check these details, and complete this form if any of them are incorrect. You will be guided through the form, step-by-step.

Once complete, you will be asked to agree to the declarations as set out in the grant terms and conditions. You will then receive an email of confirmation, containing your claim reference.

Amendments and waiting lists

It isn’t possible to make amendments to the application form once submitted. However, if errors have been made or circumstances change, you can submit another application, the details of which will be used, and previous applications disregarded.

Since there is a limited amount of funding available for this financial year, you will be offered the chance to join a waiting list, in the event that a successful applicant withdraws.

The DfE has committed to offering senior mental health leadership training to all state schools and colleges by 2025, and further funding is expected to be announced in the spring of 2022.

Step 5 – Book your course!

Once you have received confirmation of your grant, you can visit our booking form to book your place on one of our Senior Mental Health Leadership courses.

Useful facts about the Real Training Senior Mental Health Leadership Advanced Award

  • Although the cost of our Advanced Award (£1,300 + VAT) is more than that of the grant being offered (£1,200), you can still apply for the funding to cover the majority of the cost of this course, with the difference being covered by the school. This course provides additional benefits beyond the goals of the course content:
    • High-quality, masters level qualification written and delivered by experienced educational psychologists
    • We aim for this course to be validated by Middlesex University as part of our SEND Programme, so will be worth 30 masters-level credits
    • Flexible delivery that suits your circumstances and fits your other responsibilities.

In a non-state-funded or international setting?

This course is just as relevant to those working in non-state or international settings. Please visit this page to learn more.

How to effectively discuss SEN with parents

with Dorthe Kronborg Allen, SEN Consultant

discuss SEN with parents

Earlier this year, Dorthe provided us with her top tips to discuss SEN with parents. Dorthe has completed a variety of courses with us at Real Training and you can read more about her time studying with us here. This article provides a really useful overview of effectively discussing SEN with parents. 

Teachers, parents and learners are a team. Together we cover all the essential contexts and bases for support that lead to a learner’s progress. We are all working toward the same goal, albeit with differences in our respective motivations and methods. Sometimes, the introduction of the ‘SEN variable’ into this team equation can be the cause of tension and stress, especially when an initial meeting is scheduled with parents to discuss observations that point toward the need for intervention. In fact, parents of children with special needs often report feeling overwhelmed by such meetings – even if it is not the first time they are attending one – and thus we need to proceed with care and professionalism.

To assist with the planning of meetings to discuss SEN with parents I created the following acronym, quite early in my career, to remind me of the five areas to be mindful of before, during and after the meeting:






Honesty. It is important to be direct and to tell parents the pertinent information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses – from both the academic and pastoral perspective – and to explain what this has meant for the child thus far in their learning journey. Sugarcoating the situation in the hope that parents will accept the information more readily only causes confusion and makes it sound as if the school doesn’t have a solid intervention plan for the child. For children who do not have a formal diagnosis, it is really important that you do not make any suggestion (or an informal diagnosis) about the particular special need category you suspect, and you should always avoid referring to a specific SEN condition even if you are certain you know what the diagnosis would be. I have often had parents offer their own ‘diagnosis’, asking me to confirm their suspicions about their child and this is the golden moment to indicate that an external assessment by a qualified professional would be useful. 

Empathy. Taking the time to explain the situation in detail to make sure parents understand the various needs of their child is vital for both cooperation and progress. It also means that you listen and give parents the opportunity to offer their own insights and reflections about their child’s behaviour at home and in other contexts. These ‘other contexts’ outside of the school environment present the part of the puzzle that we teachers don’t get to see and can provide useful insight to inform our intervention planning. Keep in mind also that the wonderful progress that we see our learners make on a daily basis is usually only communicated to parents at termly parent-teacher evenings, in hurried ten-minute slots consulting with a broad range of teachers, more often than not with a focus on the observed weaknesses in a certain subject, followed by simple instructions that “more needs to be done at home”.

Language. Avoid using language that is too technical, such as our daily SEN department jargon, as this might make parents feel alienated and even more confounded. This is not the time to showcase your own knowledge on the subject, it is not a job interview after all. Your objective is to work together with the people seated opposite you to make sure that their child is happy, motivated by their education and successful, and that everyone is on the same page about how to best achieve this outcome. Direct and honest language is the best policy, as mentioned earlier, but you also need to make sure you are not too clinical or harsh in your explanations. 

Prepare. You need to bring solid examples to show parents that demonstrate the need for the kind of support to be provided. Classroom or tutor teacher observations are really useful here as parents tend to trust their child’s main teacher. Make sure the observations are chronological so that they show the growth as well as the gaps in learning. If you have used any screeners and have the results then you need to bring those as well, making sure that you can actually interpret and explain them in clear language. Other documents such as observation questionnaires completed by TAs, and samples of work that demonstrate a gap or need should be brought along as well. You don’t need to show parents all of these examples, and indeed you shouldn’t aim to power through them all, but during the course of the meeting, you will be able to gauge which of these will be most relevant.

Support. This is the final and broadest term, and the one that is also the most thrilling, time-consuming, and tiring at the same time. Parents need your expert advice on how to work effectively with the school and they may also need some emotional support during the meeting with you. You must ensure that you explain clearly the types of intervention the school is able to offer, how that will pan out in the school environment and, should an IEP be planned, now would be a good time to introduce this document and speak with parents about the goals you would like to set for their child at school. Support at home should be discussed as well, with time spent explaining how the parents can help with everything from the right environment for study, to strategies that support their child cognitively and emotionally. You will no doubt also be asked to give advice on how to get them to clean their room and remember to bring all their books to school each day, which is a topic for another, much longer article!  

Take the time to listen well, speak candidly and advise with clarity. If you are an NQT or a less experienced teacher and are worried about the meeting then you can always call on your SENCo to attend with you for support. When parents leave an SEN meeting with the relieved feeling that the school listens and is aligned with them to ensure their child is successful then you have done an excellent job and you can confidently pat yourself on the back as you make a nice cup of tea, type up the mandatory meeting notes and send them to all those concerned.

If you have any questions for Dorthe on tips on how to effectively discuss SEN with parents please feel free to comment at the bottom of the article.

Find us at The TES SEN SHOW 2021


TES SEN SHOW 2021We are delighted to be attending The TES SEN Show 2021 in person next month. You can find us at Stand 135 from 8-9 October at the Business Design Centre London. 

Our team will be on hand to help, whether you would like to know more about our popular MEd SEND Programme or maybe it’s one of our brand new Senior Mental Health Lead Courses that caught your eye. You can read more about these below:

Not only will you find Real Training at the show, our sister company, Dyslexia Action Training, will also be attending. They will be located on Stand 163 accompanied by the Dyslexia Action Shop and The Dyslexia Guild. 

Dyslexia Action: A leading provider of accredited training specialising in Dyslexia and SpLD

The Dyslexia Action Shop: Online shop providing educational assessments and learning aids. Visit them at TES to receive your exclusive £10 off voucher!

The Dyslexia Guild: A network of professionals maintaining the support of those with Dyslexia and other literacy needs

Whether you’re currently studying with us, have in the past or just want to have a chat, it would be great to see you there. You can collect a free goody bag from both stands and there will be some insightful seminars taking place throughout the event, check out the TES schedule here.


Top Tips from 4 Educational Professionals







During the summer holiday, we often like to take the time to reflect and catch up with some of our past delegates – educational professionals from a wide range of settings and locations worldwide. Throughout August, on our Real Training social media platforms, we shared some of their top tips around best practices for special educational needs (SEN) and inclusion in schools.  

We think their tips provide other educators with invaluable advice and insight into how best to support all children and young people in educational settings. In case you missed those posts, you can find all of the top tips together below and on our Twitter and Facebook pages. If you have any tips you would add, please add some comments on the posts.

Working with children with SEN – Beverley Williams 

  1. Don’t stereotype people on the autistic spectrum
  2. Avoid sensory overload but always tailor strategies to the individual’s needs
  3. Look out for those who don’t feel they fit into any specific group
  4. Understand, they may find it difficult to learn about things that are not of interest to them
  5. Provide opportunities for individuals to restore and refresh using whatever strategies work for them – and never assume what these may be

Ensuring inclusivity within your school – Taneisha Pascoe-Matthews

  1. Create strong communication and collaboration between families, schools and other stakeholders
  2. Implement up-to-date policies and leadership adhering to both the Children and Families Act (2014) as well as the SEN Code of Practice (2015)
  3. Ensure staff have the necessary training and attitude toward inclusivity
  4. Encourage peer support and a sense of belonging this will improve well-being and ensure a sense of inclusion
  5. Implement a pupil-centred approach focusing on individual needs

Discussing SEN with parents – Dorthe Allen

  1. Be open and honest when you explain your observations and how the school can provide support
  2. Show parents that you are there to support their child both academically and pastorally
  3. Communicate clearly and meaningfully, avoiding jargon and technical terminology
  4. Be well prepared and show parents any reports, screener results and teacher observation documents that help to demonstrate the student’s need(s)
  5. Discuss strategies for school and home that will support and nourish the student

Working with children with EAL – Nicholas Wilding

  1. Develop relationships by meeting students and parents at the point of admissions and begin to build a student profile from a wide range of data
  2. Adopt the ‘All Teachers are English Teachers’ approach, providing staff with training and skills to develop the resources needed to support language needs
  3. Implement ongoing assessment and effective use of data to track progress
  4. Upon graduation, clear assessment and graduation expectations should be shared with all stakeholders
  5. Post-graduation, students and staff are supported through resources and in-class support with families informed of their child’s successes and targets

If you have any questions relating to any of the top tips in this article, please get in touch via social media, our website or email us.

DfE grant funded Senior Mental Health Leadership courses by Real Training

DfE grant for senior mental health lead coursesThe DfE created new quality criteria for Senior Mental Health Leadership courses and these criteria help define this important senior role in schools.

With Real Training your school has a choice of an introductory Certificate course and an Advanced Award in Senior Mental Health Leadership which have both been successfully quality assured through a robust DfE process.  These courses can be fully or partially funded for schools and colleagues in England by a DfE grant.

The past 18 months have been particularly taxing on some children and young people and it has never been more essential to develop a school culture that promotes well being and a mental health provision that supports a healthy transition back to what is approaching ‘normal’ school life. While many schools and colleges already have a mental health lead, the knowledge and skills they have vary, and with mental health and wellbeing being a top priority for all educational settings, the goal is to provide senior leads with the latest thinking and access to a network of peers and experts they need to lead change and develop or introduce a whole-school approach to wellbeing and mental health.

At Real Training, our Educational Psychologists have a long history of providing training (in-person and online) for education staff development. With extensive experience in the field of mental health and wellbeing, you will be guided by HCPC registered and qualified Educational Psychologists. Our courses are also supported by an executive headteacher with a specialism in wellbeing, as well as mental health professionals such as an Art Therapist.

The courses

We will be offering two Senior Mental Health Leadership courses. Click the links below to visit our course pages and learn more:

Senior Mental Health Leadership Certificate (SMHLC) – aimed at those who are new to a Senior Mental Health Leadership role or are aspiring to become a leader in this area.

Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award (SMHLAA) – aimed at those who have some experience in the role, and have some existing training in mental health leadership.

Who are the courses aimed at?

Your setting can decide who it is that gets the training as individual circumstances may vary. Delegates must be empowered to develop and oversee your setting’s whole school or college approach. This might include:

  • Headteachers
  • Deputy/assistant headteachers
  • Member of the senior leadership team
  • Existing mental health leads with authority, capacity and support to influence and lead strategic change within the setting

Our first Advanced Award cohort begins on 15 January 2022. You can book via our website. Further cohorts will be in MayJuly and September. The Certificate course will also begin in January and we are planning for courses to run throughout the year and across England. Book a place for the January course via our website or contact us to register your interest for later events or a course near you.

The Certificate course is a comprehensive introductory course and the Advanced Award is for more experienced Senior Mental Health leads.

How your setting will benefit from the DfE grant-funded Senior Mental Health Lead Training

The benefits to your educational setting include:

  • A positive values-based approach, including staff looking after their wellbeing.
  • Development of a range of tools and strategies, collated for staff to be able to use to meet their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Improved wellbeing for all students, including those with identified needs.
  • Understanding and application of leadership skills to enact change in the whole school ethos
  • Improved stakeholder engagement, including with parents, and external services
  • Development of a coherent working package of effective policies
  • Constant monitoring of change and use data effectively and confidently

Funding opportunities from the DfE grant

The Certificate course costs £995 plus VAT and the Advanced Award £1,300 plus VAT. Schools can reclaim the VAT paid. The DfE Grant funded Senior Mental Health Lead Training funding may be available if you work in a school or college in England. At the time of writing, the total grant funding amount available has not been confirmed by the DfE. The latest DfE information will be available on the DfE SMHL webpage. We understand that the DfE wishes schools to book directly with the training provider to secure their place and then reclaim the funding.

If you require further information on any of our Senior Mental Health Lead courses, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email or by phone at +44 (0)1273 35 80 80. Alternatively, you can book an appointment to chat with one of our expert course advisers by clicking here.

Free 2021/2022 Access Arrangements Update (AAU) course confirmed

2021/22 Access Arrangements Update

The course is similar to last year’s in that there are two sections. The first section is an overview of the changes led by Nick Lait, Head of Examination Services at the JCQ. In the second section, there are further teaching exercises, videos of test reviews and MCQs which, if completed, give three hours of SASC accredited CPD*.

We are very happy to announce that our free 2021/2022 Access Arrangements Update (AAU) course has been confirmed, and is now available through Campus Online.

If you have already registered for previous years you will be able to access the new course via your Campus Online portal when it is released. If you have forgotten your log-in details, these can be reset automatically.

Whereas in the past the eligibility criteria for access to this update was a level 7 QTS-approved access arrangements qualification, this year, the free update is open to anyone in an educational setting with a professional interest in exam access arrangements, and this applies to both parts of the update. If you have any colleagues who you feel might be interested in this course, please feel free to share this email with them so they too can take advantage of this update.

Please note, this course is in no way a standalone qualification and does not in itself confer the right or ability to carry out access arrangements. If you wish to become qualified as an Access Arrangements Assessor, please follow the link for details of the Real Training CPT3A course.

*Please note, all activities in the second section will need to be completed to give you a certificate confirming 3 hours CPD and the SASC-accredited CPD hours for those that would find them relevant and useful.  

If you haven’t yet registered, you can gain free access by clicking the button below. Signing up takes a matter of seconds, with no lengthy booking forms involved. You can do this at any time.

Benefits of the free 2021/2022 Access Arrangements Update

Those registering for the free access arrangements update will:

  • Gain 3 SASC-accredited CPD hours upon completion*
  • Be fully up to date with the new JCQ guidelines and requirements for the academic year
  • Have access to a popular forum to ask questions of both peers and tutors about specific challenges
  • Be able to work through the course in their own time, as it is fully online
  • Have access to a certificate of completion

* Only applicable for those who hold a relevant QTS-approved level 7 Access Arrangements qualification

Book your place now in order to be completely up-to-date with the current guidelines for the coming academic year. Sign-up takes seconds.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us at info@realgroup.co.uk, or call us on +44 (0)1273 35 80 80 and we’d be happy to help

Book on our upcoming June Cognitive Abilities Profile (CAP) course

 June Cognitive Abilities ProfileSince October 2020, we have been delivering our ever-popular Cognitive Abilities Profile (CAP) course as a series of weekly webinars, as meeting in person has not been possible. These webinars have had an amazing response from delegates, and we’re very pleased to be running another CAP course in June 2021.

The course webinar dates are as follows (dates and times are BST (GMT+1)):

  • 3 June l 10 am-12:30 pm 
  • 10 June l 10  am-12:30 pm
  • 17 June l 10 am – 12:30 pm 
  • 24 June l 10 am – 12:30 pm 

How you and  your setting will benefit by attending this June Cognitive Abilities Profile course 

The Cognitive Abilities Profile is a consultation framework to be used with teachers, parents, therapists, and the learner him/herself, to identify patterns of cognitive strengths and difficulties and then jointly plan, intervene and systematically monitor progress.

The course is open to anyone who works in the learning and development of children, adolescents, and adults, and is particularly relevant for psychologists, therapists, teachers, and SENCOs.

What material will be covered

  • The principles, key questions, and concepts of dynamic assessment and how they apply to CAP.
  • The different models of cognitive processes and the seven functional domains of cognitive abilities.
  • The contents of the CAP toolkit and how to use this to develop informed and effective interventions.

People undertaking the forthcoming CAP online course will be able to:

  • Join from anywhere in the world, without encountering the costs 
  • Take the course at a more measured pace, with a blend of pre-recorded videos that can be viewed and reviewed at times convenient to you.
  • Each pre-recorded video will be followed by a live session, giving you time to reflect, digest, and prepare your questions ahead of the next live session.
  • Even more flexibility. Missed a live session? You can go over it yourself. Want to watch a case study again?  All live sessions will be recorded and made available for participants to view and review for a limited period of time following the course.  
  • Network more effectively with other participants, to share experiences and ideas without the worry of catching the train at the end of the day.
  • Benefit from one-to-one Q&A time with Dr Ruth Deutsch who developed CAP in 2009 and will deliver the course.

Hear what our past delegates have said about our CAP course 

It was a superb course providing amazing opportunities for deep reflection as well as excellent practical information and resources.” – Julie Chase, Educational Psychologist

[CAP] is the most successful program I have ever used – bar none. I have used it for 6 sets of parents and teachers – success, success, success at every level.  At the moment, I can’t put a foot wrong when I use it – so I am absolutely delighted. It is my weapon of choice! THANK YOU!” – Helen M, Specialist Support Teacher/SENCO

The course has enabled me to administer a detailed cognitive assessment in a significantly shorter amount of time than I perhaps could with traditional and regular DA tests. Being able to compare the profile of parents and teachers is also very helpful, as it tells me firstly whether they are seeing the same things and secondly, if not, then it enables me to generate some hypotheses about why this may be the case.” – Dr. Yahuda Marshall, Clinical Psychologist

“The CAP course has really helped to develop my understanding of the thinking process and the cognitive demands of tasks. CAP provides a structure through which a profile can be generated so that interventions can be targeted specifically and progress can be evidence-based.” Deborah Smith, Specialist Teacher

Book our June Cognitive Abilities Profile course 

Book now to attend our June 2021 course. If you are unable to attend this time but would be interested in arranging a bespoke course for you and your colleagues, please contact Dana Kennedy via email – dana.kennedy@realgroup.co.uk.

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 those with Aspergers who may be looking for some advice. 

Discussing Beverley’s early life, there was a common challenge that she faced almost every day – being able to build meaningful friendships and understanding how to behave in certain social situations. During her time at primary and secondary school, Beverley found herself feeling exhausted by social politics. Something she also experienced in some of her job roles in later life. She acknowledges her personal daily struggle with this and now understands this to be part of her Aspergers. Explaining how she felt after her diagnosis regarding those social challenges, Beverley said “it has been really releasing on a personal level… I don’t feel I need to explain things to other people but it explains to me why I find situations hard”. Since her diagnosis, Beverley has felt a lot more confident in building relationships, explaining that now she knows what she is going to find tricky, she can prepare herself and put certain strategies in place to help her deal with different situations. 

I wanted to understand a little more about how Beverley thinks her experiences in early life influenced her approach whilst working with SEN children. She explained that she has always resisted stereotyping young people and children by their diagnosis. She explains that not everybody with the same diagnosis has the same limitations, behaviours and challenges. Her focus remains on the individual and she is highly conscious of the social isolation of SEN children, constantly working to combat this. Through her work, Beverley has noticed her ability to acknowledge each individual, recognising those who are on the edge of the social group and understanding that they may be happy there. Highlighting that this approach is strongly influenced by her experiences.

Following her own diagnosis, I wanted to know if Beverley felt her approach was influenced or changed in any way. Beverley explained the biggest alteration was a new awareness of females, acknowledging the likelihood of masking – not just Aspergers but all kinds of challenges. She feels this made her look more deeply into triggers and behaviours and spending more time getting to know each individual. 

Beverley’s learning journey with Real Training has seen her complete CCET and NASENCO. She is also currently working on the Autism Spectrum Conditions module. After gaining knowledge through her lived experiences with Autism and her varying professional pathway, Beverley continues to expand her knowledge. When asked about her time studying with us Beverley said My NASENCO tutor was fantastic. I explained about my Aspergers and she was really supportive. That gave me quite a lot of confidence to go onto the next course. I acknowledge that her support helped me to keep going and gave me the encouragement I needed. I never felt that she was making allowances nor do I think she was, but I did feel my tutor had an understanding of how I work best.”

I asked Beverley to provide us with some of her top tips, not only for other delegates working with SEN children but also for young people with Autism, highlighting the kinds of things she wishes she knew in her younger years. Although Beverley had not yet been diagnosed while she herself was at school she now understands, through her diagnosis, why she found school hard. You can see her top tips below.

Beverley’s Top Tips for working with SEN children

  1. Don’t stereotype people on the Autistic Spectrum, they are as individual as everyone else.
  2. Provide a range of strategies to mirror the range of people.
  3. Give students the opportunity to work in a calm area, avoiding sensory overload. Always tailor these strategies to their individual needs and preferences.
  4. Look for those on the edge of the group who don’t feel they fit into any specific group.
  5. Focus on an individual’s interests and strengths and then build these into your learning strategies for them. In my experience, people on the Autistic Spectrum are more likely to be engaged in their learning if you encourage them to go deeper with specific interests instead of broadening their general knowledge.
  6. Understand, if you can, that what is important to you may be totally irrelevant to someone on the Autism Spectrum and they, therefore, may not see the point in learning about some things, which may seem trivial and pointless to them.
  7. It is often exhausting for children on the Autism Spectrum to comply with expectations. If they comply at home, they might not have the energy to comply at school and vice versa. Provide opportunities for the individual to restore and refresh using whatever strategies work for them- don’t make assumptions about what these are.

Beverley’s Top Tips for young people in education with Autism

  1. It’s ok to be different, everyone is!
  2. You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. It’s exhausting.
  3. Find a teacher or other member of staff you can talk to.
  4. Ask for a quiet area you can go to if you need to take a break from the noise or light, etc. If you feel embarrassed to ask for this perhaps you could find a ‘job’ you need to do.
  5. Don’t let people ‘pigeon-hole’ you or put you ‘in-a-box’ to fit their expectations.
  6. It’s ok to make a mistake because it’s all part of learning. Getting something wrong isn’t a failure, it simply means you have learned something new.

How TAs can best support pupils’ SEMH needs

The implementation of evidence-based SEMH interventions by teaching assistants

In a recent webinar for the Federation of British Schools in Asia (FOBISIA), Real Training Educational Psychologist Dr. Hannah Fairall discussed the implementation of evidence-based Social, Emotional & Mental Health (SEMH) interventions by Teaching Assistants (TAs). The topics covered included how the rise of teaching assistants can be leveraged to deliver crucial support to pupils with SEMH needs, how universal targeted and specialist evidence-based approaches can be used to deliver targeted interventions in the classroom on a 1:1 or small group basis, and the importance of effective implementation.

With the current pandemic, SEMH needs amongst school-aged children have become a central concern, addressing issues such as anxiety, depression, isolation, and grief management. Even prior to this, 1 in 10 pupils aged 5-16 suffer from a clinically significant mental health illness, and 1 in 7 have less severe problems that nonetheless interfere with their development and learning.

The rise of Teaching Assistants, and how to maximise their impact

The rise of Teaching Assistants in classrooms has been meteoric since 2000, with 35% of staff in primary schools and 15% of staff in secondary schools being TAs in 2015. This rise, coupled with the governmental efforts to raise educational standards and reduce teacher workloads, leads naturally to the question of how to effectively leverage this workforce, particularly in the field of SEN. Blatchford et al (2015) found lower levels of progress amongst pupils receiving most support from TAs. The proposed explanation was that TA resource was not being effectively utilised, possibly because TAs were used as an alternative to ‘teacher time’, and that those with greatest need were often taught by the least qualified to do so.

Interventions for supporting SEMH and the three-tiered structure

According to Carroll & Hurry (2018), there are three ‘tiers’ of approach when it comes to SEMH support within schools:

Carroll & Hurry, (2018)

  1. Universal – whole-school initiatives which foster an environment of emotional wellbeing; for all students
  2. Targeted – small group or one-to-one support inside or outside of the classroom; for some students
  3. Specialist – intensive one-to-one which can involve contact with professionals from different agencies; for few students

Universal Interventions

Universal initiatives are those such as the PACE model, developed by Dr Daniel Hughes. This aims to enable staff to engage with children who have experienced neglect, abuse and trauma. Although there is little research of its use in isolation, there is considerable practice-based evidence from parents, staff and professionals of its use as part of a wider intervention.

The PACE model contains four elements:

The PACE Model (Dr. Daniel Hughes)

Another possible universal-level intervention is mindfulness. The aim of this is to learn to be aware of thoughts and bodily sensations in order to be able to better cope with daily emotions and challenges. This has shown promising impacts on wellbeing, aspects of cognition, physical health, and academic grades.

Targeted Interventions

Targeted, one-on-one or small group interventions, delivered by TAs, have the potential to deliver tangible positive effects on the mental health of children in the classroom. Six evidence-based interventions are discussed:

Emotional Literacy Support Assistant Training (ELSA) – This training enables TAs to deliver 1:1 or small group interventions in several areas of need, including managing emotions, social skills, and bereavement. This covers all age groups.

The Homunculi Approach – this flexible cognitive behavioural therapy is a 10-week programme and seeks to identify emotions and social situations to build social and emotional resilience. This can be especially appropriate for children who have high-functioning ASD.

LEGO-based Therapy – here, children work collaboratively to create models. This approach works well with ASD or other social communication difficulties at primary and secondary levels.

Nurture Groups – supported by two members of staff, groups of between 6 and 12 spend part of the school day in a nurture group setting. This has been seen to have a positive impact on emotional, behaviour, and learning.

Circle of friends – a support network developed around individuals in the school community that helps with social skills and friendships. There is evidence this approach has positive benefits, which are likely impacted by teacher attitudes, classroom climate and school ethos.

CBT Programme approaches – Books such as ‘Starving the Anger’, ‘Gremlin’ and ‘Think Good Feel Good’ are widely available, and help children to understand emotions and physical responses. The efficacy of CBT is supported by a strong evidence base.

The importance of implementation

Dr Fairall points out that understanding the implementation of these approaches is key. Implementation is the process by which an intervention is put into practice, and concerns what an intervention consists of when delivered and thus the enactment by school staff. This highlights the importance of proper training for educational staff involved in this implementation. Implementation is linked strongly to the intervention’s outcomes, thus the chances of success.

SEMH needs

Educational Endowment Foundation (2019)

The process is four-fold. It begins with identifying the priority and exploring the available practices to best address this within the school setting. After this adoption decision, a clear, logical plan is outlined and the readiness of the school to deliver is considered and staff and infrastructure prepared. Once delivery has begun, implementation data is used to drive adoption and adaptation, reinforcing initial training with follow-on support to solve problems that might arise. Finally, the stable use of the intervention is established, scaling up begins, and good implementation practices are rewarded.


Finding the optimal conditions through which to deliver effective implementation is key. School staff must be aware and committed to the intervention. Those delivering the intervention must be properly supported through the process. Additionally, the wider ethos and climate of the setting must be conducive to the intervention being implemented effectively.

Furthermore, research from Humphrey (2013) suggests three elements that influence outcomes of SEMH interventions:

  • Participant reach is crucial for equality of access to interventions. Educational settings should consider how students are referred, and that the correct interventions are available to all those who could benefit from them.
  • Fidelity is the extent to which critical components of a programme are present. This may manifest itself in such ways as schools adapting interventions to suit their setting, which can lead to positive outcomes for students.
  • The number of sessions, much like a medicinal dosage, should be sufficient to encourage the intended positive outcomes. Those schools that deliver the required number of sessions achieve better outcomes than those who do not.

Implementation of Emotional Literacy Support Assistant Training (ELSA) (Fairall, 2020)

Finally, Dr. Fairall presented her own doctoral project on the implementation of the ELSA programme. It was found that schools can implement the programme in different ways, and there was a range of factors at different stages of implementation which supported effective implementation. 

An implementation resource has been created for schools, which draws on the findings of the present research in conjunction with implementation literature. This resource is aimed at Senior Leadership/SENCOs, and may also be discussed in conjunction with the ELSA. The resource aims to provide guidance and support specific to the stage of implementation the school are in. This resource can be adapted in light of further research into this area.


In summary, with the correct training, implementation, and support in the teaching space, TAs can be more than capable of delivering evidence-based SEMH-related interventions that have tangible positive effects on the pupils who take part. In line with the Educational Endowment Foundation guidance, TAs can be effectively used to deliver 1:1 targeted interventions, and are a largely untapped educational resource that can be better utilised for the betterment of the educational setting at large. It is possible to support student’s SEMH needs through the tiered approach, and TAs are a key part of the successful delivery of these interventions. In order to achieve the best results, it is important to school staff understand and are fully behind the interventions, and understand the practice behind effective implementation.

Find out more

You can find out more about this topic through our Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs SEND Programme module. Alternatively, our sister company Dyslexia Action has a short level 5 CPD course The Emotionally Connected Classroom. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@realgroup.co.uk or on +44 (0)1273 35 80 80 if you have any questions.

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