Special Class and Special School Teacher Planning
Very detailed guidance for special class & school preparation for teaching and learning is provided by the National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT), however their long term preparation guidelines are 74 page long and their short term preparation guidelines are 51 pages long, so I will do my best to summarise the main points in this post!
New guidelines on preparation for teaching and learning were released in April 2021 (read my summary blog post here), and there is now recognition that “Preparation for teaching and learning involves invisible, visible and recorded preparation which can take place at the same time as well as before, during and after teaching and learning”. What this means is that when an inspector visits, they will take things other than a teacher’s written notes into consideration in evaluating the teacher’s level of preparedness for teaching. These include collaboration with colleagues, engagement with curriculum supports, teacher reflection, the learning environment and resources the teacher has prepared.
This post will focus on the recorded preparation i.e. written notes, only.
What recorded preparation/ planning is needed in a special/ autism class?
As per the NIPT guidelines, a special school/class teacher needs to have the following:
- Class timetable
- Student support file (which includes the child’s School Support Plus plan, checklists such as those from NEPS, assessment records, summaries of professional reports, a personal pupil plan, an individual behaviour plan if needed, a care plan if the child has allergies/ takes medication etc.)
- A long-term plan for each curriculum subject
- Short term plans
- Cuntas míosúil
I will give more details about each of these 5 areas below:
- Class Timetable
- The teacher needs to prepare a timetable for themselves and the SNAs who work with their class (the school principal or SENCo may also be involved in creating the SNA timetables, but usually it is up to the class teacher to plan the best use of time for the children and staff in the autism class).
- All of the curriculum subjects need to be included in the timetable and they need to have the correct time allocations as per the DoES requirements.
- Time for tidying up, eating etc. should not be listed on the timetable. They should be included as SPHE and OT exercises and walks should be listed as PE.
- Literacy and numeracy should be timetabled daily.
- The children in the class should cover all of the curriculum subjects, although given the complex needs of the children involved and the time they need to spend on regulation and working on their individual targets, it is most often impossible to timetable this is in the same way as would happen in mainstream. The most useful approach would be to dedicate time each day to “integrated learning” which would look similar to Aistear, where the children cover many subject areas at once through integrated play-based learning in small groups or stations. In this way, the teacher can have one short term plan each week for this “integrated learning” which will cover a number of subjects at once.
- It is also important to note that as per circular 0054/2022 students in special schools and in special classes in mainstream schools can be exempted from studying Irish without having to make a formal application and holding a Certificate of Exemption. This doesn’t mean that they won’t study Irish, but that if the parents are in agreement then a decision can be made to focus on their priority learning needs instead. If all of the parents in the class are in agreement that their children will not study Irish, then the teacher doesn’t need to timetable Irish lessons.
- I have a sample Autism class timetable here.
- Student Support File
The Student Support File consists of the following:
- A School Support Plus plan – Guidelines on completing this are below
- Checklists such as those from NEPS which can be download for free from teachingplans.ie
- Assessment records – The teacher’s own assessments, and/ or assessments such as the VB-MAPP/ ABLLS (the NCSE offer courses in how to administer these tests)
- Summaries of professional reports e.g.. Psychologist, OT, SLT, Physiotherapist
- A personal pupil plan – Guidelines on this are below
- An individual behaviour plan (if needed – See the SESS Behaviour Resource Bank)
School Support Plus Planning
- Each child in the special class needs an individual long-term plan
- Traditionally, this was in the format of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). However, since 2017 there has been a move towards using the NEPS Support File format.
- Children in a special class will be on the highest level of support in the school which is School Support Plus. The same NEPS template that is used for Classroom Support Plans is used for School Support and School Support Plus plans.
- I have a comprehensive guide on how to complete long term planning using the School support format which you can download for free here. I also have sample completed School Support Plus plans here.
Personal Pupil Plan
- Any child who receives SNA support will need something called a Personal Pupil Plan (PPP) as per Department of Education Circular 0030/2014. This is completed by the child’s SNA and teachers.
- As per the NIPT Long term planning guidelines, “The plans should outline the pupils’ special care needs and show how SNAs will be deployed to assist the pupils. The plan should demonstrate how the school intends to actively reduce, and where appropriate, eliminate dependency on SNA support within a reasonable timeframe. The plan should include time-bound targets for the development of independence skills educational needs and very significant care needs will continue to require access to Special Needs Assistant support throughout their education.”
- I have a template and sample PPP available here.
- Long-Term Subject Plans
- The intended learning for the children should be draw from the age-appropriate primary school curriculum (or PP curriculum).
- While you will prioritise particular Learning Outcomes based on the needs, interests and abilities of the children (See SSPP), ensure that children have the opportunity to engage with the learning described in all the Learning Outcomes across the curriculum – NIPT Long Term Preparation Guidelines for Special Classes page 17
- Sample completed long term subject plans for all class levels are available on teachingplans.ie. Plans should be adapted to take the needs, aptitudes and interests of the pupils. There is also a free blank template that contains all of the sections recommended in the guidelines here.
- A thematic approach to planning can be very useful.
- Children with learning disabilities may need plans created using the Curriculum Access Tool (CAT-GLD). There are other support materials in the Guidelines for Teachers of students with Learning Disabilities
- Short-Term Plans
- Autism class teachers also complete fortnightly notes. Teachers undergoing probation/ Droichead will complete weekly notes. I have a free short term planning template here.
- Cuntas Míosúil
- The cuntas míosúil is a monthly report given to the principal which outlines the work actually covered. Some schools will have a specific template for this, but I find the fastest way is to simply tick the content that has been covered on the short-term plan and to write a teacher reflection. I include space for this on my own short term planning template.
The following recorded planning is needed for an autism/ special class teacher:
- A class timetable
- Long term plans for each subject area
- A Student Support File for each child (School Support Plus file, assessments, PPP, IBP if needed).
- Short term planning
- A cuntas míosúil to be given to the principal each month
I hope this has been of assistance. If you have any queries or suggestions, please leave a comment below!