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.

 

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.

Help at hand for pupils and parents

 A new national campaign has been launched to encourage and empower parents to find out about the help available to support children through difficult periods in life. The Just Ask campaign aims to raise awareness of the rights of parents to ask for additional support when something is affecting their child’s learning. Children may not be reaching their full potential due to a diverse range of issues and the situations that lead to pupils needing extra help can also include many social and emotional factors.

Dyslexia Support Service termly report

 

My work is very cyclical. Every element of the Dyslexia Support Service has a different emphasis as the session progresses.

I do most of my face to face teaching in the middle months of the school year, while at the beginning of session I tend to focus on assessment and consultation for future planning. The summer term is always busy organising the service development plan for the coming year and completing programmes of study with young people, attending Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings and evaluating learners’ needs for the new session to follow.

 

This term my principal focus has been on assessment and consultation.

 

Assessment: Since August, I have been involved in the assessment of 34 children and young people. Each assessment takes between 2 and 3 hours of my time, not counting the feedback sessions to parents and staff. I use the computerised assessments LASS and CoPS and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale to provide a snapshot of learners’ attainments in literacy, visual and auditory processing, phonological awareness, reasoning and receptive language skills. This complements the observable evidence found in class performance to help us construct a picture of a child’s strengths and difficulties. From here we are better able to develop a personalised programme for each learner. Personalisation does not mean individual learning programmes for each child. Instead it means having a ‘deep understanding of both depth and breadth, creating continuous rich learning opportunities that are real and of their world not apart from their world’. (Greg Whitby)

I spent some time making a short movie illustrating the various components of the computerised assessment. At some point I shall learn how to upload this!

 

Consultation: I have met with teachers from 20 primary schools and 5 of the 6 secondary schools, most of them at least twice. I have answered emails from many, many more! I have spent some considerable and profitable time with 3 teachers new to Support for Learning. This is such a valuable opportunity for us to learn from each other. One has come from another region and brings a wealth of knowledge about different resources which I can then disseminate. The others have recent experience in the classroom and as such provide a refreshing approach to the support role. I can aid their understanding of the processes involved in identifying learners with dyslexia and help them get to know their pupils’ needs more thoroughly. In one school we took some delight in throwing out ancient resources that bear no relation to the reality of learning and teaching today.

It is at these meetings, and those with parents, that we plan any teaching blocks for later in the year. Sometimes I am not directly involved with individual pupils but support school staff to use alternative strategies to engage learners.

 

Meetings with parents: I have met 12 sets of parents this term, some of them more than once, to discuss their children’s profiles of learning and ways to address their requirements.

 

Teaching: This term I have only worked with 3 groups of young people. One block was to help an S4 student in making notes on his Physics and English course work as memory aides for exam revision. I used the same techniques of Mind Mapping (with paper and pens as well as Kidspiration and Inspiration) with the P6/7 class in a small school. My 3rd group of 3 P7s needed support in keyboard skills and shortcuts in word processing.

 

In-service training: In addition to the regular informal training I offer colleagues during consultation I have tried to raise awareness about dyslexia to newly qualified teachers and to the staff of a primary school so far this session. I contributed to  East Lothian’s Literacy Newsletter and attended meetings to take the Literacy Strategy forward for learners with dyslexia.

For my own professional development, I have read a great deal and attended several talks in my own time, and attended the Scottish Learning Festival, to develop my own knowledge and understanding. I joined Cluster Meetings where all Support for Learning teachers come together to discuss issues and learn about new developments.

 

It’s been a busy start to session as usual. I’m looking forward to the break. I hope all who read this manage to have one too.

 

Research on the use of audiobooks with young people with dyslexia

In my personal blog I have summarised a research study on the use of audiobooks with learners with dyslexia here but I wanted to post the abstract here also in case others hadn’t seen it. The paper confirms what we knew already, which is comforting.

The objective of the  research study was to understand what benefits the use of audiobooks (both school-books and books of various genres, recorded on digital media) could bring to preadolescents and adolescents with developmental dyslexia.

Two groups, each consisting of 20 adolescents, were compared. The experimental group used the audiobooks, while the control group continued to use normal books. After 5 months of experimental training, the experimental group showed a significant improvement in reading accuracy, with reduced unease and emotional-behavioural disorders, as well as an improvement in school performance and a greater motivation and involvement in school activities.

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Interesting use of the word ‘normal’ to describe printed matter. It’s a generational thing perhaps.

You can access the study by paying a fee. Anybody really interested is welcome to look at my copy.

Developing successful learners in nurturing schools: the impact of nurture groups in primary schools

This publication is designed to stimulate debate on nurture groups in primary schools. It is part of a series of reports which is intended to promote improvements in Scottish education by illustrating effective practice, raising current issues, and stimulating reflection and debate. Another important purpose is to relate existing pedagogy and curricular provision to the aspirations of Curriculum for Excellence.
This report is based on evidence obtained from:
  • information gathered during the period 2006-2008 from general inspection visits where a nurture class, group or approach was being used;
  • questionnaires received from a number of EAs across Scotland;
  • detailed, structured interviews with senior staff in six education authorities;
  • EAs which had adopted nurturing approaches in their schools;
  • visits to schools with nurture groups which had been recommended by education authorities during 2007-2008; and
  • observation of children on split placement in both their mainstream school and within their off-site provision.
Inspectors focused on the quality of learners’ experiences, their attainment and achievements and how well their needs were met by the nurturing approach. Three case studies describing good practice are provided at the end of this report1. In addition, hyperlinks to inspection reports with good practice entries in reports or on the HMIE good practice website are included.
 
 

Book festival event is a reminder of children’s real life trauma

Children in Scotland announces that Bronwen Cohen, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland will chair an event at this years Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 23 August.
‘As research regularly shows that stress, family trauma and the effects of poverty are taking their toll on the mental health and wellbeing of Scotland’s young people, an event at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, chaired by Bronwen Cohen, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, will generate a timely discussion about the value of featuring these real-life situations in works of fiction aimed at younger readers.
 
Children in Scotland has a long-standing commitment to researching and promoting the role of the arts and developing emotional literacy in young people, and the Book Festival event, ‘Compelling Novels, Vulnerable Children’, taking place on Sunday 23 August 2009, at 6.30pm, will examine whether the experiences of a variety of children at risk, including runaways, orphans and young carers, should be used for entertainment, and to what extent authors treat such subject matter with the sensitivity it merits.
 
The panel of young people’s authors – Anne Fine, Melvin Burgess and debut novelist Rachel Ward, will spark what is set to be a candid debate.
 
Speaking ahead of the event, Bronwen Cohen said: “The arts in all its forms plays a vital part in the development of creativity, emotional maturity, and wellbeing for young people. Works of fiction, such as those we will be discussing, can offer new perspectives, and allow young readers to deal with difficult situations in their own lives. But, authors must take responsibility, treating the subject matter with sensitivity, not sensationalism.”’
 

Under-5s with mental health issues slipping through the net

Disturbing evidence that under-5s are not being monitored for mental well-being by statutory services has been highlighted by the Health and Sport Committee in its report published today. The committee’s inquiry into child and adolescent mental health and well-being evaluated mental-health services for these groups in Scotland. The committee was very concerned about the extent of problems provoked by recent changes to the health-visiting profession. For more information see the news release

Some more equal …

The Outreach Team had an interesting day recently looking at the new Curriculum for Excellence outcomes and experiences for Literacy and English and Health and Well Being.

One of the outcomes under the Responsible Citizens heading started a lively debate which raised the whole issue of inclusion and equality:

I can evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues.

We discussed case studies of students with English as an additional language (including those who use British Sign Language) and wondered if such an evaluation carried out in English would be fair to them. Surely if it is their knowledge and understanding of, say Biology, that is being assessed, then a full answer in their native tongue would be a truer representation than one done in a second language.

If this does not happen, pupils who use English as an additional language are not fully included in Curriculum for Excellence until they are proficient in written English. We decided that their abilities in their own language must be acknowledged; just as learners with dyslexia are entitled to have poor spelling overlooked if the content is understood.

This of course raises enormous issues about availability of translators, apart from the more deep seated issue about a right to be included.

Thanks to Janet Storey for the fascinating lead on this discussion.