Posted in SEND, Uncategorized

Are we failing pupils with SEND?

We are currently in an era where many schools endorse and embrace the goal of full inclusion for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Undoubtedly, inclusion is the key to obtaining education and social equity.

Unfortunately, inclusion is often falsely translated to mean the “place” where teaching and learning occurs, stemming from the ideological belief all pupils should be educated in the general classroom – that instruction provided outside of this setting is akin to segregation. While general education can, and should, be strengthened to better meet the needs of all pupils, for many these practices alone are just not enough. Continue reading “Are we failing pupils with SEND?”

Posted in SEND, Uncategorized, yoga

Yoga for autism: does it work?

Specialist yoga teacher, Michael Chissick, has been teaching yoga to children in primary mainstream and special schools for two decades.

Last month, during a Commons debate, Education Minister Edward Timpson said that children should be taught Buddhist meditation techniques and yoga in schools to help them “unplug from their online world”. He suggested that lessons taught as part of the PSHE curriculum could enable children “to enjoy good mental health and emotional wellbeing”.[1] Continue reading “Yoga for autism: does it work?”

Posted in Assessment, research, SEND, Uncategorized

Dyslexia: overlooked and left behind?

Every year, SATs results and other national testing shows that too many children and young people are not meeting expected levels in literacy, with 1 in 5 children leaving primary school below the national expected levels in reading, writing and mathematics.[1]

If you cannot learn to read, you cannot read to learn, and too many children are unable to access the curriculum due to poor reading skills. It is these children who then become disengaged and leave school with few, or no qualifications, resulting in significantly reduced opportunities. Continue reading “Dyslexia: overlooked and left behind?”

Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, policy, schools, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Talking about… SEND Reform

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island, unable to access the news, you will know that September 2014 is an enormous month for school leaders up and down the country with monumental changes coming into effect.

Governing bodies and headteachers will have to grapple with reforms to performance related pay, the first teaching of the new national curriculum, implementation of universal infant free school meals, the risk pool scheme for free schools and academies, reforms to teacher’s pension schemes, and meeting their duty to support pupils with medical conditions, to name but a few.

I hope you’re still keeping up?

Well, if that wasn’t enough, last month, the reforms to the special educational needs and disability (SEND) framework, outlined in the Children and Families Bill, was given royal assent and became the Children and Families Act 2014. These changes will also come into force on 1st September 2014.

By now, you must be tearing your hair out (if you haven’t already) over all these reforms, but bear with me. TheSchoolBus has your back.

So, how much do you know about SEND? 

Were you aware, for example, that one in five children and young people have a special educational need or disability? Or that the types and range of SEND is increasing all the time?

Twenty percent is a substantial proportion of the pupils in the education system. To put it in perspective, applying the SEND prevalence rate to a class of twenty pupils, for example, would mean that at least four pupils in that class would have a special educational need or disability. This number is far too great for school leaders to brush aside as a secondary issue.

It is also likely that the SEND of each of those 4 pupils is unique, with varying types of support required to accommodate the pupil’s specific needs. That is why the Children and Families Act 2014 sets out a more individualised and better graduated response to support pupils with SEND.

What are the changes?

The overarching change behind all the other changes is that of autonomy. School leaders, teachers, pupils and their parents will be given greater freedom in the way that they identify, assess and deliver SEND provision.

More specifically:

There will be a new 0-25 SEND Code of Practice, setting out the detail of the new SEND legal framework.

Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments will be replaced by joint EHC plans, for pupils whose SEND requirements cannot be reasonably met internally, with the resources normally available in mainstream schools. Pupils, who currently have a Statement of SEN before 1st September, will be gradually transferred to an EHC plan. Schools will need to manage a dual system of SEN Statements and EHC plans for the next three years.

School Action and School Action Plus will be replaced with a single SEN Support system. SEN support will be the support available in school for pupils who have a SEND requirement but do not have an EHC plan. Your school should review the support currently given to pupils on School Action and School Action Plus in light of the changes in the 2014/15 academic year.

Local authorities will have a duty to publish a local offer outlining the support that pupils and their families can expect from a range of local agencies, including in education, health and social care. Your school should already be working with the LA, and local health and care providers, to develop the local offer and create the systems and partnerships needed to deliver the changes.

School teaching staff will be held specifically accountable for the progress of their pupils with SEND and will be expected to demonstrate this during their performance appraisals. The training and development of the employees at your school will, therefore, be vital, to ensure that they have the knowledge and expertise of SEND to provide quality provision.


TheSchoolBus has a range of resources in our SEND section that may help you prepare for the new SEND reforms, including:


Our editorial team is also on hand to provide you with any bespoke document or template that you require, so if there’s something we can do to help you prepare for and implement the SEND reforms, just send us an email to:

Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, learning, schools, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Teaching strategies and key approaches to support learning for deafblind children

Today we have the concluding part of our fantastic blog piece from Sense Children’s Specialist Services on the key approaches to support learning for deafblind children.

When we talk about deafblind or Multi-Sensory Impaired (MSI) children we mean:

  • Children who have difficulties with sight and hearing and sometimes learning or other additional disabilities.

Key approaches to learning

Building trust

  • Deafblind children may only be aware of other people when they are very close to them, so they take time to develop relationships. Work closely enough for children to pick up information about you through smell, touch and warmth, as well as sight and hearing.
  • Limit the number of different people working with the child, and use personal identifiers – a particular bracelet, for example, which one adult always wears and shows to the child, and a particular song or gesture they always use in greeting.
  • Be alert to very small signals from the child (changes in breathing pattern, for example), and always respond in a way that the child can pick up.
  • Never assume that children know who is with them unless you have specifically told them, and never leave children without telling them that you are going.

Being consistent

  • Deafblind children receive so little information from the world around that events need to happen consistently if they are to make sense. Personal identifiers, for example, must be used every time the child and adult meet.
  • Use routines – carry out dressing, getting ready for dinner, saying goodbye, in exactly the same way each time, in the same place, with the same person if possible, using the same objects. Only introduce changes when you are sure that the child recognises and understands the routine.
  • Keep furniture in the same places and don’t leave bags or other clutter lying around. If children trip or bump into things when they try to explore, they may be deterred from exploring or moving independently.

Helping understanding

  • Tell children what is happening, and going to happen, in a way that they can understand. Cues, such as an armband for swimming or a particular song, can be used to mark the beginnings and ends of events and to identify activities. Some children will use speech or signing or other communication modes – but all need help to anticipate what will happen next.
  • Give access to activities by letting children touch, smell, taste, hold their hands over or under yours, while you make a drink, mix the paint, put the toothpaste on the toothbrush. It takes much longer but gives the child a chance to understand the activity.

Taking time

  • Using limited residual vision or hearing is tiring and very slow. Using touch for information is incredibly slow compared to sight. Deafblind children will take much longer to receive, process and respond to information – think of half hearing a remark someone has made, then realising what they have said a moment later, or trying to find a torch by touch in a power cut.
  • Missing out a stage of a routine because you are running late may stop the child recognising the activity. Making children hurry may mean that they get too little information to make sense of events.

Following the child

  • Give control to the child wherever possible – many deafblind children learn that they cannot affect what happens to them, and so give up trying, and hence learning.
  • Deafblind children may respond to signals that sighted hearing adults do not even notice – the draught from an open door, for example. Try to understand children’s behaviour and to show them the significance of the information they receive.
  • Respond to signals that mean the child wants to finish an activity, or to continue or change it. Give choices wherever possible.

Being supportive

  • Using limited sight and hearing, or operating without sight or hearing, is tiring and often frustrating. Children will need frequent breaks.
  • Conventional play activities may well be demanding rather than relaxing – children will need to relax in their own way.

MSI curriculum – download a copy of the curriculum document for multi-sensory-impaired children, created in 2009 by Heather Murdoch and the MSI unit at Victoria School, Birmingham, and published by Sense.

Find out more about training and consultancy for professionals working with deafblind children and young people.

Sense’s Children’s Specialist Services are a team of specialist advisory teachers, children’s therapists, and children and family support workers. The team provide expert advice and information to deafblind children and young people, their families, carers, and to professionals who work with them. They also provide support in the home, at school, or at Sense’s family’s centres.


Sense RGB 2-col reverse

Sense is a national charity that has supported and campaigned for children and adults who are deafblind for over 50 years. Further information can be found on Sense’s website – Continue reading “Teaching strategies and key approaches to support learning for deafblind children”

Posted in education, schools, teaching, Uncategorized

A Lifetime of SEN

Young Anton
Anton Venus aged 5

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi

I have yet to realise my childhood ambition of becoming the Captain of the Starship Enterprise, but I did travel to the North Pole, obtain a Master’s degree, worked in Westminster, and volunteered in West Africa, where I delivered the first piece of disability legislation in Gambian history.

I am also a Person who is Deaf and a Person with Epilepsy.

Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by inspirational people, not least my family, who provided me with the platform and the encouragement for everything that followed, starting with school.

School was tough, but so was I.

Although I did not realise it at the time, those words of Gandhi epitomised my attitude to every wall that I ran into.  Yet it would have been naïve to think that sheer willpower alone was going to achieve anything.

I had great special educational needs (SEN) support along the way.

Back when we had SEN statements, I had been assessed at a very young age and had been provided with every bit of the support that I needed to academically progress.

At Primary School, I had a speech therapist to assist with my communication difficulties, teaching assistants that supported me in the classroom, and open-minded teachers that made every effort to accommodate my learning requirements. I also had technical support with a radio aid, linked to my hearing aids, which enabled me to understand what my teachers were saying.

Whilst I did not manage to pass my 11-plus examinations, I did pass the entrance examinations for Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf.

With Mary Hare being a private school, it did not come cheap. Yet Lincolnshire Local Educational Authority (as it was then called) was once more considerate enough to cover my school fees.

Mary Hare School believes in preparing Deaf children for integration into the Hearing world and had a no-sign language policy in the classrooms. Nevertheless, the support that the school gives its pupils was world class as well as tailor made.

Classrooms were size limited to 12 pupils and organised in a manner that enabled us to observe specially trained teachers of the Deaf in an optimal way. I can still recall my Physics Teacher, Mr. Treasurer, who will forever remind me of Albert Einstein – hairstyle, eccentricity, all of it!

Pupils at Mary Hare School were further supported by its own audiology clinic, which not only ensured that our hearing aids were functioning properly, but provided us with headphones programmed to our individual hearing loss.

We were taught the national curriculum like everybody else and I left Mary Hare School with 10 GCSEs A-C and 3 A-Levels.

My educational experience up to 18 years old throws up an old question, particularly in light of the current momentum towards mainstreaming special needs provision. Yet I remain unsure to this day whether I could have succeeded quite as well without Mary Hare School. Perhaps I would not have got to Mary Hare School in the first place without the excellent SEN support that I had at primary school either?

This is an issue that I will give deeper reflection on and write a bit more about, as I continue to contribute on issues relating to special educational needs for TheSchoolBus blog, but that’s for another day.

Now, how do I enrol at Starfleet Academy?

Take a look at SEN on TheSchoolBus

Posted in education, schools, video

Pupils, know your rights

Earlier this week, TheSchoolBus covered a news story which involved a 5-year old autistic boy being expelled for being ‘naughty.’

One of the incidents involved him pushing another pupil into a bookcase. Understandably upset, his mother claims that the schools had ignored a letter informing that that her child was on the autistic and ADHD spectrum.

The extent to which schools should be inclusive and support children with special educational needs is certainly a sensitive topic.

The argument which these schools may have is that such children put fellow pupils and staff at serious risk due to disruptive behaviour. But, what about the rights of pupils who are illegally excluded?

The Department of Education has advice on school exclusions which state that a child may only be excluded for disciplinary reasons. Moreover, the headteachers must let parents or carers know the reason behind the exclusion and for how long the child will be excluded.

Earlier in July this year, a rise in permanent primary school exclusions was observed for the previous year, with 45% of pupils being excluded for physical assault. A report on the Education section of the Guardian earlier this year found that several children with disabilities are being illegally excluded from school. According to the figures, 22% of pupils with disabilities were being illegally excluded every week.

Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, says that schools remain within the law when considering the difficult decision to exclude a pupil.

“We recognise that some pupils can be very disruptive and that it may be necessary to exclude them but doing so can also have a hugely negative effect on the young person and an ongoing cost to society in later life as disrupting education is likely to make them less employable.”


Looking for the latest statistics on primary and secondary school exclusions? TheSchoolBus has it covered – via some amazing interactive graphic maps which allow you to zoom in to view the details.

We’ve also got some great resources by our legal experts – these include an exclusion procedure for schools, a helpful flowchart and an exclusion template letter which you may modify for your needs.