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Siblings have needs too

Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in video case studies | Comments Off

Dyslexia and Young Offenders

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in video case studies | Comments Off

Annie’s latest article in ‘Special Children’ issue 221 ‘Dyslexia and Young Offenders’ looks at new moves to support the special needs of young offenders and offers advice for teachers.



Literacy and young offenders

Governance with impact

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in video case studies | Comments Off


Annie Grant’s latest article in ‘Special Children’ magazine (220) features Carrington Primary School in Buckinghamshire, where Headteacher, Amanda Fell has found innovative ways to engage the governing body and improve challenge and support.  All pupils at Carrington considered to be ‘vulnerable’ have provision maps and their progress is monitored closely and regularly by the school and reported to the Inclusion Working Party, which comprises the headteacher, governors and key teaching staff including the SENCO and literacy and numeracy coordinators. The Working Party considers the effectiveness of interventions, any changes proposed and the associated costs.

The impact of the Inclusion Working Party’s work has been profound and far-reaching, extending to:

  • Major structural changes such as the way teaching assistants are deployed
  •  More precisely targeted interventions, reviewed regularly, and
  • A closer and better informed relationship between governors and key staff, such as the SENCO.

Supporting children with sensory needs

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in video case studies | Comments Off





University Challenge – your starter for 10

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in video case studies | Comments Off








Multimedia advocacy

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in video case studies | Comments Off








A sense of belonging

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in video case studies | Comments Off







Draft SEN Code of Practice – nasen Learning Events – video

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in video case studies | Comments Off

Over the last month nasen has been holding Learning Events around the country to discuss the draft SEN Code of Practice. DfE presented at the meetings alongside Pathfinders and other speakers. There was plenty of opportunity for discussion. Feedback from the Learning Events will feed into nasen’s response to the consultation on the Code, which closes on 9th December 2013. Because the Learning Events were oversubscribed, nasen asked Atomic Productions to film them to enable a wider audience to participate.

The videos are now available to watch on the nasen YouTube Channel – nasen online at

Videos include:

  • Stephen Kingdom, Deputy Director of the SEN and Disability Division at DfE. Stephen out lines each chapter of the draft code and highlights salient points
  • Michael Cotton reporting on SEND Pathfinder progress to date, with a particular focus on North Yorkshire
  • Jane Friswell, nasen Interim CEO, who considers the implications of the draft Code for working with and engaging parents and carers
  • 6 discussion groups on various aspects of the Code – 0-25 age range, Local Offer and Local Authorities, Involving parents, carers and young people in decision making, identification and support, assessment and planning, and training needs arising from the code.
  • Further videos featuring Pat Bullen, Leicestershire City SEND Pathfinder Lead and Gareth Morewood, Director of Curriculum Support and Specialist Leader of Education at Priestnall School in Stockport will be added soon.

What’s special about special?

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in video case studies | Comments Off



Reaching out: specialist leaders of education

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in video case studies | Comments Off

Reaching out: specialist leaders of education

ldr magazine

Specialist leaders of education have a significant role to play in raising standards in our schools. Annie Grant finds out more about what they do.

two women and two men talking in a library

Debra Redpath, headteacher of Rowner Infant School, a small school in a deprived area of Hampshire, was delighted when her school was judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ in all categories.

In previous years, however, things had not gone well for the school. “We had been judged consistently as ‘satisfactory’,” says Debra. “Staff worked really hard to make a difference to children’s attainment and yet we still were not seen as a good school.”

Things came to a head at Easter 2012 when three teachers, each for a different reason, resigned their posts. “With only six classes, that was a significant proportion of my staff,” she explains. “We were really up against it and my deputy and I thought hard about whether to ask for help. It was a difficult decision to make but we didn’t want to become a ‘requires improvement’ school and we felt we would rather seek help and be in control of the process, than having it imposed upon us.”

Debra approached Hampshire County Council who then worked with the school to create a support package tailored to help them improve. “That package included having an SLE, a specialist leader of education, to work alongside us in school,” says Debra.

The 2010 Schools White Paper introduced the concept of the SLE role as a way to improve the quality of school leadership, raise standards and improve outcomes for pupils through school-to-school support and peer-to-peer learning. Teaching schools broker the deployment of SLEs into schools that request their support.

SLEs are outstanding middle and senior leaders with a particular area of expertise and the skills to develop the leadership capacity of colleagues in similar positions in other schools. As Claire Carter, leader of the Cabot Federation Teaching School in Bristol, explains, “They are not experts going in to tell people how it’s done, but they do have a track record of relevant and successful leadership expertise in their own or other schools to draw upon. There is a lot of coaching in the SLE approach. It’s about discussion, asking the right questions and seeking solutions together.”

Although teaching schools have the flexibility to deploy SLEs according to capacity and need, most SLEs combine their outreach role with a leadership role in their own schools. Claire believes that this is a major strength of the SLE programme. “It is essential that those being coached know that the SLEs are also practitioners,” she says. “It creates credibility. SLEs know what they’re talking about because they’ve done it themselves.”

In Hampshire, where Rowner Infant School is located, the local authority works closely with the Pioneer Teaching School Alliance. Moira Groves co-ordinates the SLE programme there. “I meet half-termly with our local authority district manager,” she says. “We analyse data from schools across the district to identify those in need of support. He also has ‘inside’ knowledge about schools’ support needs, capacity issues and so on, which is very useful.”

It was during such a meeting that Rowner Infant School’s ‘cry for help’ came to Moira’s attention and the decision was made to work with the school to design a support package to address their particular needs.

“We all sat down together – the local authority, senior staff from the school and myself – to plan what support was needed,” Moira explains. “We looked at what each of us could offer. It was decided that the local authority would support the school in mathematics and that an SLE from the Pioneer Teaching School Alliance would focus on literacy.”

An important element of the SLE co-ordinator’s role is brokering the deployment of SLEs into schools, and headteacher Debra Redpath believes the quality of the input she received from Moira at the outset was crucial to the success of the initiative. “We were really lucky that Moira was our broker,” she enthuses. “She suggested three different SLEs whom she felt might fit into our school and whose skill set would be ideal. One – Alix – stood out as the right person. We were offered the opportunity to see Alix teach before deciding, but I declined. I had faith in the SLE selection and training process and we needed a much broader skill set than just her ability to teach. The most amazing teacher won’t necessarily be able to support others to improve.”

Moira also stresses the importance of brokerage to ensure that schools are ready to accept the kind of support that SLEs can offer. “Unless schools see the need for change and are committed to it before SLE support commences, it cannot work,” she says.

Debra agrees.

“Our staff wanted to change,” she remembers. “We knew we didn’t want to stay ‘satisfactory’. We didn’t want that for the staff, the children or the community. There was a common commitment to improve.”

Once commitment has been established, to maximise the likelihood of success, Moira works with schools to agree clear, achievable, time-limited targets. “We were able to offer six half-days of SLE support at Rowner,” she explains. “You can’t improve literacy across the school significantly in such a short time. So we focused on improving the confidence of year 1 teachers.”

“It was about coaching the staff and making them feel that they could make a bigger difference,” says Debra. “There was joint planning with the SLE, classroom observations, modelling and team teaching. Alix focused on the positives. Her approach was ‘that’s good but how could it be even better?’. She made the team feel that they had the answers within themselves and within two sessions a trusting relationship had been established.”

The impact of SLE support was tangible. Year 1 pupils’ attainment in literacy and their attitudes towards the subject improved. But there were also unexpected benefits. “It changed the ethos. Confidence improved. We saw more professional conversations happening in the staff room,” says Debra. “Staff were discussing what they were doing, whereas before they were anxious talking about that in case it didn’t go well.”

“Gradually, the changes in year 1 began to percolate across the school,” observes Moira. And in March 2013, Rowner Infant School was judged by Ofsted to be a ‘good’ school.

But the benefits of the SLE work can extend beyond the support the receiving school gains. Moira believes that SLE programmes can only be sustainable if they also benefit the SLEs themselves and their ‘home schools’.

Research carried out for her Master’s dissertation indicates that home schools also benefit from the SLE programme, with SLEs reporting that their own teaching improves through taking on the role.

Claire Carter from the Cabot Federation Teaching School concurs. “SLEs gain a profile across a group of schools, they develop as leaders and take what they learn back to their own schools,” she says.

Moira stresses that, at its best, the SLE programme provides joint professional development. In this spirit, Rowner Infant School was pleased, later, to reciprocate the support they received from Alix by training and coaching staff from Alix’s school in working with children with autism. “My staff appreciate the benefit of the kind of support they received from Alix,” says Debra. “They have completed coaching training and are observing and coaching each other. Some may even have ambitions to take on an SLE role themselves in the future.”

Published October 2013

Annie Grant is a freelance educational writer.