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NPQs – National Professional Qualifications perfect for international settings

As you may have already heard, Real Training is now working in partnership with LLSE, an approved Lead Provider of the DfE-accredited National Professional Qualifications (NPQs), to deliver effective leadership programmes to leaders and aspiring leaders in international settings exclusively.

Which NPQs are Real Training now offering?

As it has in recent years, Real Training will continue to deliver the National Professional Qualification in Headship (NPQH) and National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership (NPQSL). These courses cater for delegates in different stages of their career, enabling them to take the next step in their professional development. Our February 2022 cohort includes:

  • NPQH – This course is designed for international school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, a headteacher or head of school with responsibility for leading a school.
  • NPQSL – This course is designed for school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, a senior leader with cross-school responsibilities.

From September 2022, we will also deliver the National Professional Qualification in Leading Teaching (NPQLT), a course for teachers who have, or are aspiring to have, responsibilities for leading teachers in a subject, year group, key stage or phase. 

Benefit from our extensive experience delivering courses worldwide

NPQs delivered by Real Training are currently only available to the international market. Our extensive experience in delivering courses to delegates in over 100 countries worldwide during the past 15 years gives us unrivalled knowledge about how educational legislation and requirements differ from region to region. The courses are delivered by current leaders in international settings. This gives you peace-of-mind that, wherever you are based, the course will be highly relevant to your individual circumstances. In addition to the usual benefits of taking a leadership course such as this, our approach gives additional benefits to educators in international settings:

  • Our courses are delivered by current leaders in international settings, ensuring the content is highly relevant to your circumstances.
  • We have extensive experience in delivering National Professional Qualifications across the globe.
  • Work with facilitators who are experienced school leaders from the UK and international schools.
  • Share best practises and experience with educators in international schools who are at a similar stage in their careers.
  • Experience the National Professional Qualifications from the comfort of your own setting with Campus OnlineTM and Campus Live – the leading virtual learning environments for postgraduate study.

How to book your NPQ

We are currently accepting bookings for the first cohort, starting 4 February 2022. The booking form will close soon so don’t miss out. You can begin your application by completing the form found here. Please ensure you have Real Training selected as the chosen delivery partner.

If you require further information on any of our new courses open to international delegates, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email info@realgroup.co.uk or by phone on +44 (0)1273 35 80 80.

An Interview with Ceri Matty

Ceri Matty – NASENCO

Ceri has always had an interest in SEND, since she started her teaching career 18 years ago. It became more profound when her son was born in 2008 and as he started his school journey, his SEND needs became clear. He has had an EHCP since Year 2 (now in Year 9) and a diagnosis of ASD. His journey, as well as Ceri’s own teaching, led her progressively into more depth in the study of SEND. This enabled her to better meet her students’ needs in class as well as ensure her son gets the very best support from his school.

What made you choose the Real Training course over other options?

As a full-time middle leader (not the named SENCO) and parent of 2, Real Training was the obvious choice for me. The delivery solely online meant that I could work flexibly around my work/life, whilst still achieving the same accreditation as a course that had face to face delivery. It came highly recommended on SEND teaching support groups I follow. The use of the online network, whereby you can share your thoughts, ask questions and offer support was fantastic and I actively encourage
anyone using Real Training to utilise it.

What was your experience of learning with Real Training?

When I initially started, the course felt overwhelming. However, after reading advice from other delegates I quickly found that the organisation of the course and units were incredibly well structured. This was because the structure allowed me to work at my own pace and equally provided lots of links to online resources, articles and relevant legislation etc. My tutor was fantastic, available for email or telephone support when required and checked in when I had not logged in for a couple of weeks to see if I needed support. The course, once you get through the initial introduction unit, is incredibly easy to navigate. Tasks are progressive and provide a great mix of theory and practical opportunity. Strand 2 and 3, take time as you have to plan, implement and review projects within your setting, so I actively encourage delegates to look at these relatively early to plan into your year of study. As I work full time, I found it easiest to keep the actual assignment write-ups to the school holidays and use my face to face time to enhance my practical skills within the workplace.

How has the course helped make an impact at school?

Without hesitation, the support from the leadership team has been essential in the impact and outcomes. However, the knowledge that you develop enables you to motivate and enrich the learning of all staff within the school setting, which in turn enables them to support pupils with SEND. This ensures quality first teaching is at the forefront. SEND provision has and will continue to change based on the needs of those students in your setting – the course has made me realise that SEND is on an ongoing journey and I feel equipped with the tools and knowledge to ensure that the impact is not short term, rather sustained.

How has the course helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

It has helped me develop a much higher depth of knowledge and understanding of SEND and will allow me to continue to develop within the school setting and beyond, ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of all our SEND students.

 

An Interview with Anne Louise Davies

Anne Louise Davies – NASENCO

Anne is currently the Assistant Headteacher and SENCO at a mainstream 11-18 secondary school in Westbury, Wiltshire. When asked if she has any special interests in SEND, Anne explained “Dyslexia has become my most recent interest as I am interested in understanding more about phonological awareness and verbal memory”. Anne recently completed the NASENCO qualification with us at Real Training, read on to see how she found her time. 

What made you choose Real Training over other options? 

A colleague of mine had previously undertaken the NASENCO qualification through Real Training and had recommended it. It also appealed to me as it was online learning and the assignment completion dates had not been pre-set and therefore offered me a huge amount of flexibility.

What was your experience of learning with Real Training? 

My experience of Real Training has been extremely positive and I have strangely really enjoyed the course and all the reading that was involved. It has been a long time since I have written an assignment but I found the whole process easier than I had imagined, due to the excellent structure and support from my amazing tutor Clare. When you first start the course it appears daunting but the ‘tick box’ approach to complete the different elements is very satisfying and the tracking tool that shows you how far through the course you are is also very motivational. 

Consequently, I have now signed up for the Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing (CCET) course. Even though the course is all online and I have not met my tutor I feel that the level of interaction has resulted in a relationship being established, her feedback was not only extremely helpful but was also provided promptly enabling me to make the necessary alterations while my research was still fresh in my memory. 

How has the course helped make an impact at school?

The course has resulted in a complete re-working of our SEND provision. This started with the visit to my placement school where I discovered how they developed their TAs and also the types of intervention they had to offer. I was also able to improve publications that we had on our website, including the SEND Information Report so that they met the requirements of the Code of Practice. My leadership approach has also been reflected upon and has resulted in a style that has now empowered the Teaching Assistants and given them a greater sense of responsibility. Basically, everything that is now in place is down to this course. 

How has the course helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

The course has added substantially to the amount of educational research I have undertaken and has offered views and opinions that I would not previously have considered. The new knowledge has been applied to my setting to improve the quality of our SEND provision. It is also a reminder of the importance of keeping my SEN knowledge up to date through academic research. 

An Interview with Emma Sison

Emma Sison – CPT3A Intensive

Emma currently works as a Deputy Examination Manager within a mainstream secondary school and sixth form in Suffolk, which has 1500 students. She has recently completed the CCET intensively with us and is now starting the AAC component of the CPT3A qualification.  When asked what her specific interest areas are within SEND, Emma explained that she is fairly new to the role but passionate about working alongside the school SENCO to support their students. We had a chat with Emma to see how she found her time on CCET and what her plans are once she has obtained the full CPT3A.

What made you choose the Real Training course over other options?

I originally found out about Real Training once I had been asked to do the qualification and it was recommended by a few of my colleagues. It worked really well being able to complete it online and have it fit around my current work situation. The time they give you to complete the course is enough to give you the flexibility and work at your own speed.

I also found it was really useful to be able to do the online aspect and chat with others in the same or similar situations.

What was your experience of learning with Real Training?

The whole experience with Real Training has been amazing! Angela was amazing at booking me onto both courses and answering all the questions that I had.

The online platform for the intensive course and the module page was also great – easy to navigate and the resources were well put together! The tasks following the day course put all the learning together in a great practical element, which tied everything together nicely. Being able to do the online training and be split into smaller groups for work was also useful to be able to almost have that face-to-face interaction.

Now I have attended the one intensive day for AAC (now doing my work on this) and the three days for CCET, both presenters and tutors are so great. Very responsive and the feedback given was clear, relevant and really useful for me going forward.

I honestly cannot thank the whole Real Training team enough for their support and commitment to everyone on the course. On top of this, it has given me a better understanding of SEND and what is involved in terms of AA.

How has the course helped make an impact at school?

Despite not having completed the full CPT3A, I have already been able to push for more test kits to be purchased and streamline the process a little bit with our SENCO – who is already a qualified EAA assessor. Once I am also fully qualified, this will help a great deal.

Also as a non-teaching member of staff – I hope to be able to assess students as and when they are brought to my attention and ensure that support is in place early on in their studies.

How has the course helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

It has been great to be learning again. The course has taught me a lot but also given me the confidence to be able to conduct educational testing.

I look forward to putting my qualification to use and doing the Access Arrangement Assessments in school. They are already in talks for me to oversee AA in other secondary schools in our Trust too – which will be interesting for me to be able to do.

 

An Interview with Colette Davis

Colette Davis – MA LIE Programme

Colette is the Leader of Inclusion for Beacon Hill School in Hong Kong. Her school have 540 students on roll with 21 spaces for students with more moderate needs. Leading a team of 3 teachers and 7 assistants, Colette and her team aim to help support children and teachers to remove barriers to learning. She is working toward gaining her MA in Leading Inclusive Education (MA LIE) with Real Training. Having completed the Leading Inclusive Practice 60 credit module, she has gone on to begin the Gender and Sexuality and Social, Emotional and Mental Health modules. Colette explains her specialist interest areas of SEND are: mental health, wellbeing and Autism. Having recently completed a mental health first aid course and previous training in social thinking as a way to support. We caught up with Colette to see how her studies with Real Training have been going. 

What made you choose the Real Training course over other options?

The tutor support was excellent. I enjoyed the variety of coursework including readings, videos and practical work. It was great to be studying again and having a bit more rigour and ownership of my professional development. I enjoyed the interactions with some of the other students and was particularly interested in those who were also in international settings. 

How has the course helped make an impact at school? 

The course has had a direct impact on the work we have been completing at school in terms of inclusion. In the last two years, we have redefined what inclusion means to us as a school and changed our model moving forward. This has involved whole school reflection, professional learning and intense professional development days.

The course has meant that our approach towards the leadership of this change project and the measurement of the impact has been much more intentional. The timing was perfect. The change project that I shared and unpacked for this module was just a small part of the larger change project that we were already leading.

The impact has gone a little beyond the school as we have also had an opportunity to share within our wider foundation and at two international conferences.

How has the course helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

I am looking forward to continuing my studies and deepening my understanding of a broad range of topics linked to inclusion. There is a big move in my organisation towards recognising and respecting Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and I look forward to Real Training helping me to dig deeper into this.

I have also been reflecting on my personal qualities as a leader and how I might become more intentional and inclusive in my approach.

 

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.

Prevalence

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)
[https://thefluencytrust.org.uk]

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.

An Interview with Rachel Trigg

Rachel TriggRachel Trigg – CCET

Rachel currently works as a Learning Support Tutor at a university in Newport, Shropshire. Her specialist interest area of SEND is Dyslexia. Rachel has recently completed our Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing course via the online route. We caught up with Rachel to ask her some questions about her time studying with us. 

What made you choose Real Training over other options? 

I selected the Real Training course as I was looking to become a Dyslexia Assessor and this seemed one of the quickest and most direct routes. It was convenient in terms of online learning which meant I could work on it alongside my current job and also study at my own pace. 

What was your experience of learning with Real Training?

I found the course excellent in terms of materials, assessment and support. The first thing I received was the folder of resources which was great to have as a source of reference that I could look back at if I was stuck on anything. There was a very comprehensive section on statistics that enabled me to understand and explain some of the statistical terminology used in testing. The videos were also helpful in explaining key areas and it was useful to be able to refer to previous students’ work for help with assignments. 

I also found methods of assessment on the course were relevant and practical, such as assessment reports and videos of testing or giving feedback. My tutor was really helpful throughout my time on the course. She responded quickly to any queries and also gave me constructive feedback on my assignments as well as motivating me to keep going even when I was finding things a bit hard!

How has the course helped make an impact at school?

It has been useful to share my updated knowledge of testing with my colleagues and for us to discuss the layout/requirements of assessment reports. I have also increased my confidence in administering tests to students and hope to continue building on this when undertaking my next course in Dyslexia Report Writing. 

How has the course helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

I have now enrolled on the Dyslexia Professional Report Writing module and hope to become a Dyslexia Assessor next year. I will then be able to undertake dyslexia assessments with students. Enabling them to access support at University and to apply for Disabled Students Allowance, having a positive impact on my professional role.

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 

Empathy 

Language 

Preparation

Support

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.

An Interview with Tina Thompson

Tina Thompson Tina Thompson – DPRW and CPT3A

Tina currently works as an Academic Support Teacher and Assessor for Access Arrangements. The role is within an Independent Senior School based in Bedford. She has a special interest in Dyslexia. Tina recently completed the Dyslexia Professional Report Writing module with us at Real Training. In previous years, Tina has also completed our Certificate in Psychometric Testing, Assessment and Access Arrangements (CPT3A). We caught up to ask Tina about her time studying with us.

What made you choose Real Training over other options?

I initially discovered Real Training through a colleague who had completed a course. I was looking for a course I could study that would fit into my work pattern. Online learning seemed the way to go and then I investigated how rigorous and professional the courses were at Real Training. I found only excellent reviews and made my decision on that basis. I noticed there was a lot of support from tutors, a library with a vast selection of relevant resources and plenty of guidance with assignments.

What was your experience of learning with Real Training?

I enjoyed studying the courses with Real Training, they were challenging academically but I saw this as a positive. If I needed additional support and guidance, it was easy to contact my tutor and the help was always constructive, clear and accessible. I found this gave me confidence in my own development. There was the opportunity for one to one contact either via Zoom or phone. I found this really valuable. Each course did meet my expectations in terms of challenge, professional development and new learning. I particularly enjoyed the library resources and reading academic articles and journals. These led to greater knowledge around subjects such as developments in Dyslexia. 

How has the course had an impact on you professionally and your school?

The impact at school is linked to two developments. I am now able to assess for Exam Access Arrangements and complete diagnostic reports for Dyslexia. Additionally, these skills assist in informing support plans for students following assessments. 

 

 

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