The National Education Union (NEU) has spoken to members and requested examples of good policy practices for blended learning and have received several responses for SEND schools. The NEU recognises that schools vary significantly and what may work well in one school by not work well in another. However, the policy practices below may work well across a wide variety of SEND settings.
During the new period of partial closure, it is important to try and reduce disruption to all pupils more importantly SEND pupils who rely on structure, continuity, and social interaction.
Pupils in special schools have a wide range of specific needs and the practice around home/blended learning may need to be adapted accordingly. The staff working with pupils everyday will have the greatest understanding and knowledge of which approaches are best and how to adapt to individual pupil and family needs.
Virtual lessons present many barriers, which include pupils being unable to access necessary IT, safeguarding issues for the pupils and staff, and coordinating pupils to access lessons at the same time.
Some schools have opted to send out packs to home addresses where online learning is not possible. This is generally supplementary to planned work to further develop skills and not new content that could increase gaps in what pupils are taught.
SEND pupils are likely to need additional support from parents/carers to complete school work/activities at home. Home circumstances will therefore dictate how successful home /blended learning can be for SEND pupils, as with all pupils. School staff know their children best and will be supporting families to support their children at home as they see fit.
Some special schools have partnered with charities and theatre companies to create bespoke interactive lessons with musicians and theatre companies that the students would normally work with in person, as well as commissioning short dance films students can follow at home via the school website.
Below are examples from NEU members currently who are currently implementing blended and remote learning approaches in SEND settings:
- Sending packs to the home address of every child with projects and tasks to complete – for example painting images of lockdown and then posting them up on the school website.
- Live streaming lessons which students at home can join.
- Pre-recorded music/movement sessions for families at home to access via a password-protected Vimeo site.
- Music packs including percussion instruments sent to students for them to use alongside the pre-recorded music films.
- Working in partnership with theatre companies to create short dance and sensory stories accessible through the school website.
- Working in partnership with music charities to commission bespoke interactive music lessons.
- Calls made to parents or carers during self-isolation to make sure everything is OK.
- All the work a pupil has had access to, and parental correspondence is logged via CPOMS safeguarding software for schools.
- Teachers collaborating to plan and post ideas for different curricular areas.
- Indivdualised support to engage pupils using their favourite toy/equipment is highly effective.
- Remote video lessons of teachers reading stories to their pupils is visually stimulating for pupils and helps with concentration.
There are many online sites offering material to support blended learning.