SEN provision at the heart of our academy

Nicky Broomhall

Principal Nicky Broomhall came into her role almost two years ago with extensive educational experience, most recently as a Deputy Head at another Stoke-on-Trent primary for six years. Prior to this, Nicky had been a senior leader at Star Academy when it was still Hollywall Primary School and started her career as a PE coordinator. Star Academy joined Academy Transformation Trust in April 2013 under her leadership.

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Arguably more than any specialist area of education, SEN pupils require certain qualities for a good education. Here, Nicky Broomhall, Principal at Star Academy Sandyford, discusses how her school has embraced SEN teaching.

As special needs programmes have become an increasingly important consideration for mainstream educational institutions, SEN provision is now a hot topic of discussion for primary schools striving to offer that extra level of support to their pupils.

Star Academy Sandyford in Stoke-on-Trent is one school that values its special needs programmes and has taken steps to further develop its offering with the establishment of a specialist intervention team. We have identified the need to bring together all the relevant staff involved in providing this specialised educational support.

The newly created team were asked to focus on early detections and interventions for SEN pupils, with the aim of ensuring the programmes put in place are of the highest quality and match their pupils’ needs, in the belief this will lead to better results for its pupils

A fresh approach:

In order to make the unit as effective as possible, the academy undertook a staff skills audit to identify those who would be most suitable for delivering specific interventions. The most appropriate staff then formed the new SEN intervention team, which comprises of:

• a Special Needs Education Coordinator (SENCo) to lead the team
• a Teacher delivering speech and language interventions in Foundation Stage 1&2
• a Teaching Assistant (TA) leading on dyslexia and Cumbria reading
• two precision TAs
• a TA focussing on spirals and language steps.

Once the formulation of the team was complete, the first task was to create an intervention timetable with booster sessions for targeted children delivered by the academy’s senior leadership team when needed. All staff also attend a quality first teaching staff meeting before the timetable begins so everyone involved is aware of their roles in supporting children with SEN.

We believe it is important for staff to communicate with each other, and update colleagues about the progress of specific children, on a daily basis. By working collaboratively, this helps to ensure consistent dialogue between all staff. The expectations for each timetabled session are shared to enhance and support the learning and progress of the pupils, while offering all involved the chance to input on the planning of sessions.

Relevant TAs take responsibility for storing evidence and detailing progress for their interventions. This data is collected each half term to check the quality of the support being offered and combines with learning walks taken by the SENCo.

The team then comes together every half term to share best practice, update the SEN register and adjust the intervention timetable (as needed).

Intervention in practice

A good example of the targeted approach taken by the academy’s intervention team is its work with phonics.

We identified phonetic awareness as an area of weakness which needed to be addressed in Key Stage 2 children. The intervention team took steps to work alongside the Literacy Leader as part of a rigorous process that aimed to ensure that they rapidly closed any gaps and embodied a culture that encouraged a love of reading in all their pupils.

They were also aware that some children were reluctant to try out new vocabulary in their writing, because they were unsure of how to spell specific words. Therefore, this intense phonics work also focussed on written work and four ability streamed groups were set up so each pupil was able to access appropriate phases in Letters & Sounds, or grammar and punctuation work for the more able writers.

The improvements in children’s writing have been dramatic and staff have seen standards rise across the academy. As a result pupils have become more confident in the subject of English and the success is something that can be sustained and built upon.

The pupils are now arranged into phased groups allowing each of them to access daily 30 minute phonic sessions at their level. These are delivered by teaching staff with additional support for the SEN children. All the TAs have attended a full day phonics course which helps provide activities that can be used to support specific children in the classroom.

Phonics assessments will be revisited at the end of the summer term to look at the impact of this targeted approach to phonics but the initial benefits have been pleasing.

Results and benefits

Since the targeted interventions began in the Autumn term, all the pupils on the SEN register have made notable progress against their starting point in September.

The APS (average points score) progress for SEN pupils for reading in key stage 1 increased by 2 points, while writing and maths increased by 1.5 points. Key stage 2 saw ever better improvements as a result of the special interventions. Writing levels rose by 2.5 points, maths saw progress of just over 2 points and reading witnessed increases of just under 2 points on average.

Since the intervention timetable was introduced, pupils have made good progress and staff can see the impact it’s having in the classroom. We have carried out interviews with a selection of SEN children which demonstrated that they are enjoying the programmes being delivered and enjoy working with members of the team.

This new way of working has made the monitoring of interventions easier for the leadership team to oversee, as they can see the specific work now being delivered. We can now say that having TAs matched to a specific intervention, ensures the best quality support and services we can provide. All staff are working together as a team to communicate effectively and the results can definitely be seen in the classroom.

How does your school tackle SEN? Let us know in the comments.

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