When a Tameside primary SENDCo recently said to me, “You’ve changed that boy’s life!” it meant a lot. Being able to “make a difference” is what gets me out of bed in the morning – I’m sure most teachers would agree that this is the fundamental challenge and ultimate reward of teaching.
As a specialist teacher, I work across many schools and witness daily the relentless pressure on teachers to raise the attainment of every pupil, at a time when learning needs seem more diverse and complex than ever. This is not easy and teachers need help. If bringing in an external expert like myself can be ‘life-changing’ for one child, it made me think about the wider impact of my work.
I decided to talk to some of the schools I’d worked with to dig a little deeper. The Tameside primary school SENDCo said: “You really have made a big difference to Jack’s* life, because of your advice we have been able to individualise his support and many others in a more targeted way.”
The school asked me to assess 12 children whose progress in literacy was causing concern and Jack was one of them - a bright boy presenting with a range of difficulties. After assessing him, I was able to create an individualised plan which started with a two week intensive handwriting programme.
The intervention was a huge success and the school is now planning to roll it out to other pupils. With Jack’s new-found confidence, he is performing better in class and school can now implement the next stages of his bespoke support strategies and interventions.
The SENDCo added: “Your expertise and strategy suggestions have been invaluable to myself and all staff, and the interventions you’ve recommended and created have enhanced our graduated approach no end.”
The impact of regular specialist support
So if “one-off” assessments and advice can be invaluable to schools – what about regular specialist teacher support?
The head teacher of an an Openshaw school said: “Everything you do is built around what the school and pupils need and is embedded into our provision for SEND pupils. You provide expert advice and support to staff, pupils and families.”
The school have embraced my strategies to individualise quality first teaching and use resources that I develop and recommend. The head teacher added, “The high-quality resources you provide ensure that strategies taught to pupils in their one-to-one or small group sessions, are transferred into class.”
It is testimony to the school that many of their SEND pupils really flourish, but it is great to know that the part I’ve played has been vital too.
Finally, I wondered what the impact might be on the wider attainment of pupils through my support.
The assistant principal of a Newton Heath primary school said: “Your teaching and intervention programmes have had a huge impact on our SEND children. It has improved their confidence, attainment and in Katelyn’s* case, contributed to her improved mental health, [and] Lily* is now working at age-related expectations for reading.”
The SENDCo of a Chorlton primary school said my expert advice in developing reading and spelling interventions has been invaluable. She wrote, “Standardised scores indicate that these new interventions are impacting positively on SEND children and contributing to accelerated progress in class.”
There are Jacks, Katelyns and Lilys in every school and my job is to help them and their teachers. Not all children find learning easy but it seems that external support can be a crucial part of raising attainment and reducing barriers. Is it really possible to change a pupil’s life? I certainly hope so.
* Names have been changed