‘Parents as Partners’

‘Excellent!’ “A really enjoyable afternoon,” “It’s great to see what our children do”

These were some of the many very positive comments made by parents who attended our “Parents as Partners: Supporting Learners at Law” open afternoon last week. Our aims for the session were simple – to introduce parents to the Support for Learing team (in the wider sense), to share some of the games and activities we use, to look at the displays and resources and to encourage pupils and parents to play together. A bonus was to meet parents informally in a relaxed setting.

The room was soon buzzing with chatter and laughter as parents had a go at some games, tried ACE dictionaries, looked at some reading resources and enjoyed the displays of children working together. Laptops were set up with a range of web-based games and activities which proved to be extremely popular. The children joined their parents when classes finished and were soon sharing favourite games and websites with their families – it was delightful to see parents and children having fun together!

The focus was on literacy and Support for Learning teachers had prepared a range of handouts covering reading, spelling, writing, websites and internet safety. Parents helped themselves to these and had an opportunity to ask staff about mind mapping, strategies to support reluctant readers, paired reading and a host of other questions.

The children themselves were very involved in planning this successful event. They enjoyed using mindmaps to make the invitations, choosing their favourite games, acting as guides and having their photos taken for displays. Our in-house ‘paperazzi’ photographers came along too so there’s a lovely record of the afternoon.

Parents and childen were so busy in fact that they didn’t have time for coffee and juice!

ICT and Communication

Last term I was privileged to visit a special school in Glasgow, Croftcroighn. The work which was being done on literacy and communication was innovative and inspiring and I left with my head absolutely buzzing and so much to think about. A couple of weeks later Croftcroighn’s HMIe report was published – wow!

Since then I’ve worked with Elizabeth Cowan our ICT curriculum Officer and a speech therapist to develop and implement some of the innovative practice I observed.

We’ve created a Communication Book (using BoardMaker V6) for one wee lass who has no spoken language but has lots to say, we’ve invested in some new software to trial, bought some funky stationery and Talking Photo albums (A5 and A3 size), a new digital camera and I still have a wish list! Creating the Communication Book has certainly stretched (and greatly enhanced) my Boardmaker skills! Now I keep thinking of more and more applications for the software.

The software is Communicate:In Print 2 by Widget. Every word which is typed has a symbol which appears above the word – even ‘the’ and ‘a’ have symbols. This supports the child who finds it difficult to recognise abstract symbols (writing) and the added visual symbols can open up a whole new world. The symbols an be switched off or only used for specific words and images can be uploaded. You may choose to upload images of ORT characters for example or photos so if you type a name you get an actual picture of that place or person. At Croftcroighn some of the children were now reading and these youngsters had severe and complex difficulties – it was wonderful! Additional specific symbols can be purchased – Shakespeare for example. So far I’ve written a social story and had a go at a couple of other things so I’m looking forward to experimenting a bit more.

We’ve been using Talking Photo albums for quite a while in schools but the A3 ‘Big Book’ size was new to me. It’s now in a P5 classroom and the class will use it to record their ES topic – the Seashore – artwork, photos, text – whatever the children choose to record. This will give a voice to a pupil who has no spoken language enabling her to share in the work of her class and to express her views.

I’d be interested to know how teachers in East Lothian are using technology to give kids a voice.

Moving and Handling Courses

Well we’re off! It’s good to report that East Lothian’s four Moving and Handling Tutors (Handling People with Special Needs, Education) have recently led their first course and the feedback has been very positive! The six willing participants on this first course were great to work with and there was plenty of laughter all round!

In October four staff from East Lothian and a further 3 from Midlothian qualified as Manual Handling Tutors with a view to delivering training within schools throughout our respective local authorities. Both authorities had identified the need to have qualified ‘in-house’ tutors who could offer this essential training to relevant staff on a regular basis.

The course is designed to cover all aspects of theoretical and practical aspects of handling clients in line with Manual Handling policy. Training covers a variety of modules including Safe Load Management, Legal Requirements, Spinal Awareness, Safety Checkpoints, Risk Assessment and Looking After Yourself as well as practical work and the use of aids and equipment. High quality resources, DVDs and teaching materials enable us offer interesting and dynamic courses.

As well as the generic 6 hour training delivered over two Friday afternoons, sessions can also be tailored to individuual schools or partcular clients. These courses will be in the new CPD brochure and particular requirements should be discussed with the Staff Development Team