Who does what?

 This question has arisen on many occasions in my first couple of months in post as Education ICT Officer.  In recent conversations I have discovered – to my delight – that in areas of overlapping services, others far more experienced than myself have been asking the same question….Who does what?

Take for example, the role of Key Comm.  Based in Pennywell Road, Edinburgh, they provide a service funded by Health, Education and Social Work.  East Lothian Council have a service level agreement with them to help pupils with communication impairments make use of technology to help them access learning.

These are their core services:

  • Assessment  (not sure how to best support a pupil who has communication problems? Key Comm will come out to the school and do a full assessment)
  • Support and Information ( questions answered, advice given)
  • Training ( opportunities to learn more about the use and application of technology)
  • Loan bank of equipment ( equipment for individual or group use)

Have a look at their website http://www.keycommaac.ik.org/p_Home.ikml or email Deborah Jans deborah.jans@educ.edin.gov.uk

Another agency which supports pupils with communication difficulties in schools across Scotland is CALL ( Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning)  Scotland.  Their website http://www.callscotland.org.uk provides valuable information on ICT resources which will make a  major impact in meeting the educational needs of pupils with communication difficulties.  There are excellent links to other websites which further helps create a picture of what is available and to see that there is a vast network of support out there for families and teachers.

Would it be helpful to create a definitive mind map or flowchart to help identify how best to support pupils with specific needs?  Please feedback your comments so we can finally answer the question….Who does what?

Dyslexia Support Service: Termly Up-date

All practitioners in each sector, in each department and in all settings have a responsibility to develop, reinforce and extend the skills which are set out in the literacy experiences and outcomes (Curriculum for Excellence).

Teaching: My remit covers all schools in the region. Therefore I do not – cannot – use my time to teach basic literacy skills, although of course I work with colleagues to support them in meeting the learning needs of individual learners with literacy difficulties. I try to help students learn how to learn better, with the intention that they gradually build up skills which leads to independence. Regular Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings ensure that all learning and teaching is balanced and coherent. At each meeting we assess the effectiveness of our work and build on our knowledge of the child’s needs to plan for the future.

 Many learners find identifying key concepts very taxing. This is especially difficult for some learners with dyslexia who tend to think in global terms – the big picture – rather than noticing the detail (the wood not the trees). This can cause problems when analysing text, whether spoken or read. Mind Mapping is a most effective tool for those learners with visual strengths to plan and organise their thoughts.

I find that teaching a whole class how to make Mind Maps is an effective use of my time. In one school we recognised that two learners with dyslexia in one P3/4 class learnt best through visualisation and the use of images rather than words. We felt that those whose natural style of learning was more verbal, linear and ordered would benefit from the challenge of approaching planning in a different format.

So the class used Kidspiration to prepare a talk to the P1s on Road Safety. After exploring the software they taught others in the class about the various tools (aren’t interactive whiteboards wonderful?). The final assessment was for them to create a Wanted poster of a master criminal outlining the essential things the public should look out for.

Identifying key words is crucial if learners are to progress. The children were repeatedly told that there was no need to write beautifully presented sentences while Mind Mapping. Whether they have taken this radical notion on board is yet to be seen. It always astonishes me that children are so wedded to perfect presentation even when their teachers are very clear that the expectation is of good content not error free writing.

 Three other teaching blocks have also centred on developing note making.

A group of P7s with literacy and organisational difficulties learned how to access text with WordTalk. They listened to texts they found impossible to read but which was at their cognitive level. Highlighting key words was a challenge but when done collaboratively enabled them to make Mind Maps with Kidspiration. These they took back to class as plans for pieces of writing. This work culminated in the creation of an animation about the Solar System – to be processed over the holidays.

I supported another group of p7s in preparing pieces of writing on the theme, Homes of the Future. We viewed a video and designed an estate agent’s schedule describing the technological and environmental aids to support future living. Plans in the form of Mind Maps were put into the class Glow Group and the group used these to write independently in class. I shall continue to work with this group in the new year, not least to consolidate my own understanding of using Glow in a real setting.

A similar group at another school was learning about World War 2. They prepared and delivered a session to the rest of their class demonstrating how to use WordTalk. They now mentor their peers – and their teacher.

A group of P3’s used Clicker 5 to create text from grids about the Ancient Egyptians. I found this a difficult enterprise for various reasons  although the children seemed to enjoy the attention even if they are not empowered to use Clicker independently yet. They were thrilled with the pencils and badges I got from the British Museum. I hope they remember more than these though! I shall return to the school to monitor their progress later in the session.

An individual P5 pupil with significant auditory memory difficulties needed help to focus and follow directions.  He practised listening mindfully, repeating instructions to himself and rehearsing these aloud. He then completed tasks to demonstrate his understanding.

We also worked on creating a safe place (a cave) in his mind to which to retreat when he became stressed. Naturally I spent time with his parents and teachers so that his learning is reinforced at home and in class.

I used a similar approach to work with another 2 pupils in P6 with auditory and visual memory difficulties which caused severe sequencing and organisation problems. This time we identified sources of stress in the morning routine that meant frequent late arrival at school. We made laminated cards and prioritised the morning activities. It took some time to convince the children that watching TV was less crucial than getting dressed! Again, this is a long-term outcome that can only be effective if the child, family and school work together.

The imminence of Standard Grade prelims exams saw me supporting 3 learners with dyslexia who find planning and organising revision a real challenge. A traffic light system helped them identify subjects and topics on which they needed to focus. They made timetables incorporating study as well as leisure time in the weeks prior to the exams. It will be interesting to see whether they achieve greater success as a result of this intervention.

Assessment and Consultation: I continue to use the computerised assessment along with formative assessment to identify needs and design interventions. I have formally assessed and consulted about 25 pupils this term. In addition, I attended Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings with parents and staff for 13 other children.


  • Literacy Strategy sub-group: I am working with 2 colleagues to improve the Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge that 5 schools piloted last session. We aim to clarify the language and process of the checklist, make specific links with Curriculum for Excellence, HMIE guidance and current legislation.
  • I liaise with the other literacy strategy sub-groups to ensure ‘joined up thinking’.
  • There is ongoing work with a small working group writing guidance on effective use of the Books for All project.


  • Dorothy Crystal, the optometrist, spoke about her work identifying visual stress.
  • 6 of the 8 modules of the ‘Hidden Dyslexia’ online course completed.
  • Child Protection course.
  • Planning and organisation skills – Occupational Therapy.
  • CfE in practice course.
  • Cluster meetings.

 Once more this has been a busy but fulfilling term.

Scotland’s additional support helpline is a model for the UK

Children in Scotland reports that a telephone helpline for England and Wales along the lines of Scotland’s well-established information service for additional support for learning is one of the recommendations made to the Department for Children, Schools and Families in the Lamb Inquiry.

The findings from the Inquiry, set up in 2008 to advise on effective ways to increase parental confidence in the assessment process for children and young people with special educational needs, were published this week.

Scotland’s advisory service for additional support for learning – Enquire – has operated a telephone helpline for 10 years to inform and empower children, young people and their families on all areas related to additional support needs. During the consultation process Chair of the Inquiry Brian Lamb met with Children in Scotland, who manage Enquire on behalf of the Scottish Government.


Free British Sign Language Audio Tours launched at Holyrood


British Sign Language users can now take a free tour of Holyrood while viewing an audio-visual guide. From today, deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors using BSL who participate in guided tours will be able to use hand-held audio/visual guides with BSL to learn about the Scottish Parliament.

The tours give visitors a behind-the-scenes insight into some of the Holyrood building’s unique architecture and art collection, and visitors will learn all about the role and work of the Parliament and its 129 MSPs.


Google Docs for isolated learners

Recently at a CPD session at Knox Academy several teachers practiced using Google Apps together.

One application which is useful in supporting a pupil who cannot be in class, perhaps due to illness, is to paste and send them a Past Paper or other document which they can work on at home. The teacher can type on comments as the pupil is working rather than sending it back and forth as you would with email.

A way for a pupil to keep in touch with peers, is to work from home on a document while classmates type from school. A group can participate together on a Powerpoint or other document from various computers in various locations simultaneously.

One Guidance teacher was eager to put her learning into practice in support of a young man in his final year of school who is undergoing lengthy medical treatments. He can now communicate with classmates and teachers from hospital or home from a lap top and can progress in subjects with a better chance of achieving his potential.

The scope for creating learning opportunities is exciting.

To learn more look at Youtube Googledocs in plain english

Resource for supporting EAL students

I frequently find super tools at the blog of a teacher in Edinburgh who maintains a very interesting blog full of links to great online resources.

Here is a resource she has found invaluable for helping a family whose first language is not English.

Check it out – and if you like it make a comment on her blog to say so. It’s so encouraging to those of us who blog to see that others are interested in what we have to say.

Using Clicker 5 in the classroom

I have long promoted the use of Clicker 5 to support independence in reading and especially writing. But I have reluctantly decided to abandon advising its use. Crick Software claims that,

Clicker is the proven reading and writing tool that helps pupils of all abilities to achieve success in reading and writing. Clicker is used on over half a million school computers and in over 90% of UK primary schools.


It is a fantastic resource, although the talking word processor aspect has now been superseded by WordTalk. However, in my experience Clicker is rarely utilised very much at all in classrooms.

Why is this? Well, either teachers are uninterested in supporting their reluctant readers and writers or the software is not user friendly. I don’t think it’s hard to choose which of these options is the most likely.

I have taught many children to access Clicker 5. Sometimes this has been relatively successful. Children can produce pieces of work that are largely coherent, well presented and illustrated without having to spell. It is unusual, though, for the use of Clicker 5 to become a central component of classroom activity independently.

I have been working this term with a group of 6 P3s (7 year olds) on The Ancient Egyptians. (Don’t ask my why this topic was chosen; seems daft to me but there we are.)

I located a ‘Find Out and Write About’ disc that I thought would solve all my planning problems. And, indeed, it is a lovely resource with 3 levels of difficulty, interesting information and clear illustrations.

Unfortunately, there is only one copy. So I did what all of us do, improvised. I borrowed the information – why re-invent the wheel? – to create grids for the children to work on in pairs. I have made many grids over the years but each time I have to re-learn the process. As I, like all teachers, have little time to prepare resources the grids turned out to be less user-friendly than I’d hoped.

I spent most of the first session sorting out the blips. That is, once we had managed to open the software. Just the admin involved took most of the initial lesson: turning the laptops on once they had been located; searching for someone who knew the logins after refreshment; helping little ones type passwords.

Following sessions were a whirlwind of activity with both myself and the support for learning teacher (who gave up her precious preparation time to help me) running between 3 pairs of children helping them to produce at most 8 lines of text. Yes, you read that correctly: 2 very experienced teachers working with 6 7 year olds became frazzled and frantic in five 45 minute sessions!

This is just not practicable in a busy classroom. Differentiating work is essential of course, but when the energy required in providing support far outstrips the end result we have to question whether it’s worthwhile.

I shall still use Clicker 5. The ‘Find Out and Write About’ and Talking Books software are terrific and can be used with small groups to enable them to access stories and produce a considerable amount of writing without having the drawback of poor secretarial skills hindering the process. I will also continue to recommend accessing extant grids available on learninggrids.com. Many teachers contribute their work to this site and they can be incredibly useful.

But I shall be much charier about recommending its use as a resource for class teachers to implement alone. It’s just not possible.

I’d welcome comments on this, colleagues.