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Our Delegate’s Projects


With our practice-led learning approach, our delegates have plenty of opportunities to put what they’ve learned into action and see tangible results in their educational settings. Some of our modules, such as the Enquiry-based SEND practice module, taken to complete the Masters of Education in SEND (MEd SEND) or Masters in Leading Inclusive Practice qualifications, specifically require delegates undertake a piece of enquiry-based professional action research, which will help you to examine your own practice and that of others.

We love to celebrate the amazing work that comes out of our delegates studying with us. This work isn’t just of a very high academic standard; it really goes on to make a measurable difference in the classroom and the lives of students.



Priyadarshana Shah MEd SEND - Enquiry-based SEND Practice

Delegate name: Priyadarshana Shah

Course: Enquiry-based SEND Practice

Qualification achieved: MEd in SEND

Project title: An account of an enquiry-based practice on the mathematical resilience of high school students with an individual education plan

About Priyadarshana: Priyadarshana completed her BSc (Hons) Psychology in the UK in 1993 and wanted to become an educational psychologist after that. At the time, individuals had to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and a minimum of 2 years teaching before applying for a Masters in Educational Psychology. Thus, Priya became a teacher and loved it! She has now been teaching since 1997. She started off teaching secondary mathematics in a private British community school in Kenya. She was also the SENCO from nursery to secondary for 7 years. In 2005, Priya joined her current school also in Kenya, as a high school math teacher as well as a learning support teacher. She has also worn the hat of an English as a second language (ESOL) teacher for a year at the school. Currently as a Learning Support Case Manager for grades 11 and 12, Priya was looking to gain a place on the British Psychological Society’s (BPS) Register for Qualified Test Users (RQTU). She found the Real Training CPT3A course online and was subsequently encouraged by her school to achieve the full masters. Priya’s research project has recently been published online by The International Educator newspaper, she also features on our delegate feedback page. If you would like to know more about her learning journey you can see this here.

Project Goals: Priya wanted to investigate how schools could develop resilience in math to tackle the issue of students who were struggling. In her research she asked 4 main questions, these were:

  1. How mathematically resilient are students with SEND?
  2. Does a course on how to learn math effectively support the development of mathematical resistance (MR)?
  3. What are the students’ perceptions of their own MR?
  4. What are the teachers’ perceptions of the MR of students?

Priya focused on high school students with an individualised education programme (IEP) from grades 9 to 12. Her other participants were parents, high school, and high school math teachers. From the students, 32 out of 33 were given permission to take part, the whole Learning Support (LS) team gave their consent to take part, administering the written tasks, questionnaires and intervention. Finally, the math department gave their consent to participate in the research – allowing observation of some of their classes, answering teacher scaling questions and writing reports on students.

Research Findings: You can see Priya’s findings to each of her questions below:

  1. How mathematically resilient are students with SEND?

It was predicted that the scores would be lower than the published research because of two barriers – their SEND and gaps in math skills and knowledge due to their status as ‘third culture kids’ (TCKs). However, this was not the case – in reality, the sample was comparably resilient to the normative sample of the research.

  1. Does the intervention support the development of MR?

 Yes, the sample was somewhat mathematically resilient to start with, albeit, the intervention has generally developed their MR positively.

  1. What are the students’ perceptions of their own MR?

Immediately after the intervention, student perception on a scaling question ranged from 3 to 10. The most frequently occurring score (mode) is 7. This is an indication that students perceived their MR as good.

  1. What are the teachers’ perceptions of the MR of students?

Priya found there to be mixed results. Pre-intervention there was support in acknowledging that students with an IEP need help in math and struggle. However, the maths teachers’ reports on students were varied. Alongside this, there was some indication that grades are not a good measure of MR and tell nothing to students and parents of their MR.

Overall, Priya found that the Stanford University free online course ‘How to Learn Math: For Students’ made a positive impact on the MR of students with an IEP in her setting. As a result of Priya’s research, the school’s action plan will prepare all students to learn math effectively by becoming mathematically resilient.

Jo Johnson MEd SEND - Enquiry-based SEND Practice

Delegate name: Jo Johnson

Course: Enquiry-based SEND Practice module

Qualification achieved: MEd in SEND

Project title: An evaluation of STLS collaborative teacher coaching on school capacity for meeting the needs of learners with SEN

About Jo: Jo started her career as a speech and language therapist and worked in both mainstream and special schools. After qualifying as a teacher in an SLCN Specialist Resource Provision, worked as an outreach teacher in mainstream schools and as a SENCO. Following that she took up a role in the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service (STLS) with Kent County Council as a specialist teacher for cognition and learning and continues to support pupils in local mainstream primary and secondary schools. Jo is also the author of ‘Sounds into Words’, a Language For Learning resource designed to support differentiation of the Letters & Sounds Literacy programme for pupils with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. The Enquiry based SEND practice module gave Jo the opportunity to explore how mainstream teachers can best be supported by specialists such as STLS to adopt a wider range of whole-class inclusive teaching strategies. This allowed her to develop an innovative approach to working with schools using the principles of Lesson Study and peer coaching. She has been invited to present her project at the Inclusive and Supportive Education Conference (ISEC) ‘Closing the Research to Practice Gap’ in 2021. 

Project goals: The project research aimed to explore the extent to which collaborative teacher coaching builds capacity in schools to meet the needs of learners with SEN. In a collaborative classroom, teachers combine their strengths to work together, coach one another and provide the best possible environment for their students.

Joanna considered four main research questions during her project;

  1. How does collaborative teacher coaching develop Senco confidence and effectiveness as a contributor to the development of Quality First Teaching (QFT) for SEN?
  2. Which aspects of collaborative teacher coaching are most useful to teachers?
  3. To what extent does collaborative teacher coaching improve pupil learning?
  4. To what extent is collaborative teacher coaching an effective and manageable way for STLS to deliver training to develop QFT for SEN in schools?

Across three primary schools in Key Stage 2, six focus pupils with SEN were identified along with a ‘team around the class’ which consisted of the class teacher, a second teacher from the same school and the SENCO.

Research findings: Jo organised her findings under three questions;

  • How does collaborative teacher coaching develop SENCO confidence and effectiveness as a contributor to the development of Quality First Teaching for SEN? 

Jo found that the project provided the framework, time and opportunity for SENCOs to re-engage with the classroom and share their expertise more effectively with teachers. SENCOs unanimously agreed that they had found the Project’s focus on pupil learning rather than teacher practice extremely helpful.

  • Which aspects of the collaborative teacher coaching process were most useful to teachers?

Prior to the project teachers expressed feelings of vulnerability about the slow progress and lack of engagement of their SEN pupils and described their learning as unpredictable and difficult to assess. Teachers were unanimously positive about the shift of the evaluative gaze away from them and onto the learning of their focus pupils.  “Having that focus on the teaching strategies is the one thing, one of the many things, but the one thing that is having an impact on their learning even now”.

  • To what extent does teacher coaching improve the learning of pupils with SEN in the classroom?

Data from lesson observations and work sampling showed improvement to pupil learning when appraised against the lesson objective and success criteria, as shown in Fig. 6:In one of the most powerful moments of the project, a class teacher remarked that it was the first time his focus pupil had been asked to write and not cried. 

  • To what extent is collaborative teacher coaching an effective and manageable way for STLS to deliver training to develop QFT for SEN in schools?

All the research data indicated that collaborative teacher coaching is an effective way for STLS to work and although initially appearing more time consuming, the time invested was comparable with a typical cycle of school visits over a year for one pupil – approximately 9 hours. From the STLS perspective therefore this model appears to offer a manageable alternative to individual casework while also building capacity in schools to teach inclusively.

Overall, this project had a positive impact on the learning of the focus pupils, increased the perceived effectiveness and confidence of the participants and offered a and manageable alternative model for STLS engagement with schools.

Bronwyne Van Zyl - MEd SEND - Enquiry-based SEND Practice

Delegate name: Bronwyne van Zyl

Course: Enquiry-based SEND Practice module

Qualification achieved: MEd in SEND 

Project title: Picture This! Spelling

About Bronwyne

Bronwyne van Zyl is an experienced Specialist Dyslexia Teacher with 17 years of international experience. She specialises in the fields of specific learning differences and academic assessment and has focused on empowering children with learning differences and building their confidence. She is the author of Picture This! Spelling, a pencil-free approach to effectively teach irregular word spelling using visualisations and mnemonics.  Fun, creative and effective, it has been proven to deliver results, increase self-esteem and academic progress.

She studied with Real Training in order to attain her Master’s degree in SEND, having started her learning journey with us by completing the CPT3A course, qualifying as a Test User and Access Arrangements Assessor. As part of her MEd SEND, she conducted research on tailored spelling intervention.

Project goals

The goals of Bronwyne’s project covered three research questions about the efficacy of spelling interventions across a variety of specific needs. The hypothesis was if spelling error trends are analysed and investigated and multisensory interventions are implemented targeting those errors, then hopefully we would begin to see an increase in spelling scores as well as an increase in confidence within the classroom.

The research questions were:

  • How can spelling interventions be tailored to target students specific needs based on set parameters and error trends?
  • How can we develop a more consistent approach to spelling with regards to the delivery of the intervention and in-class support, across years 1 – 3?
  • When spelling error trends are targeted within an intervention, do we see a holistic improvement with regards to confidence, skill and attainment within the classroom?

Research findings

The research was focused on Foundation stage 1 to year 3 at a British school in Dubai, which caters for children 3-18 years of age.

  • 94% of students showed improvement in obtained standardised scores from baseline to progress assessments.
  • 91% of students taking part in the research indicated an improvement in self-confidence between the start and end of the interventions.

Project impact

As a result of this research, the school identified spelling intervention as being in need of further investigation, and that baseline data could be used to identify students who needed support.

“Based on the research undertaken I further developed a spelling programme called Picture This! Spelling. The programme is an innovative pencil-free spelling programme that addresses irregular words and supports retention and recall through the use of visualisations and mnemonics.”

Picture This! Spelling has subsequently been published and has been awarded the British Dyslexia Association Assured Product Status, making it accessible to schools all over the world.

The programme has since been used by specialist teachers working with students who have severe to moderate learning barriers, as well as in Early Years education, English as an Additional Language and those learning English for the first time, further cementing its value within inclusive learning environments.

“I developed the programme based on my research and the 3 schools across which I work are all using it now and having great success. The students are motivated, engaged and progressing well.”

Bronwyne has been invited as a guest speaker at conferences and workshops across the UAE, as well as becoming a Specialist Assessor registered with the British Psychological Society. She remains passionate about “finding alternative methods of instruction to accommodate all her students, ultimately opening up possibilities for progress and achievement.”

Alison Szalay MEd SEND - Enquiry-based SEND Practice

Delegate name: Alison Szalay 

Course: Enquiry based SEND Practice module

Qualification achieved: MEd in SEND 

Project title: Top Banana: The IPEELL Approach

About Alison: With a background as an early years teacher, Alison had specialised in helping pupils with literacy difficulties. Alison previously worked as an advisory teacher for literacy and taught family literacy. As her career progressed, she specialised in teaching pupils with cognition and learning needs, particularly dyslexia, and now works as a specialist advisory teacher for a local authority and a SENCO. Having previously studied postgraduate qualifications in dyslexia and the National Award for SEN Coordination (NASENCO), Alison completed her MEd with us at Real Training. The Enquiry-based SEND Practice module gave Alison the opportunity to explore writing composition and metacognition in depth. It informed a better understanding of how to target writing composition and led to the opportunity for Alison to work as a trainer for the National Literacy Trust, and to study the area in more depth through a PhD.

Project goals: This enquiry focuses on researching the impact of a metacognitive writing intervention, known as IPEELL. This is a mnemonic for ‘Introduction, Point, Explanation, Ending, Links, Language’ to target compositional skills for a group of key stage two pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The project aimed to discover the impact of the intervention on three main elements; writing composition, attitudes toward writing and pupils’ metacognition about writing

Alison considered four main questions when approaching her research:

  1. How do pupils feel about writing?
  2. What do the pupils know about how to improve their writing and how to be a writer?
  3. What impact does the intervention have on the pupils’ writing composition? 
  4. What are the resulting implications for school?

To answer these questions Alison carried out the following steps in her project:

  • Identifying a group of key stage two pupils attaining below age-related expectations in writing 
  • Finding out more about the pupils’ understanding of their own learning in relation to writing 
  • Developing and implementing a writing intervention over a five-week period
  • Evaluating the impact of the intervention and identifying implications for the pupils and school

Research findings: In line with the four questions highlighted above, the findings for this project were divided into sections. 

First of all, Alison looked to understand how the intervention impacted the five pupils’ attitudes towards writing

  • There was some impact noted, with four or five pupils talking more positively about writing in the post-intervention interview. 

The second finding looked at pupils’ knowledge of how to improve their writing and be a writer

  • The evidence suggested that the project had some positive impact on the pupils’ knowledge of this, with indications of increased metacognitive knowledge and control post-intervention. The data suggested that pupils knew more about the features of writing composition, talked about their own actions when writing and used their metacognitive knowledge about writing by applying the target writing features.

Thirdly, Alison’s findings surrounding the impact on the pupils’ writing composition showed the following:

  • All five pupils applied more features of writing composition in their independent writing post-intervention, indicating that the intervention had made a positive impact on their progress.

Alison created a bar graph to show the comparison of each area pre and post-project, you can see this below:

Project impact at school: 

As part of Alison’s project she also considered what the resulting implications for the school were. She highlights that “given the evidence base that the school now has, an intervention using this model should be considered for other pupils who experience difficulties with writing composition. It will be important to adapt the writing focus and features so that they are appropriate for their age and learning level.”  

Alison created an action plan to be carried out in the school in the six months following her project implementation. The main outcome was the delivery of ‘Top Banana’ as an intervention to target improved writing, delivered by teaching assistants, with class teachers remaining responsible for high-quality whole-class teaching.

In conclusion, Alison states “In addition to my own professional development, this enquiry has built on and developed practice at school”. 

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