Summary of Updated Guidance on Supporting Children with SEN – January 2021

Late on Friday evening, with remote teaching due to start on Monday, the Department of Education sent updated Guidance on the provision of supports for pupils with SEN to schools. The full 16 page document can be accessed here, however with most school staff now under immense pressure to get organised for a return to remote teaching tomorrow, I have summarised the main points below: 

During this time, all teachers, including special education teachers (SETs), are required to continue to support teaching and learning for all pupils/students in their class/subject group or on their caseload.

In assigning work to be done at home by pupils with SEN, schools and teachers should be mindful of the pressures that some families may be experiencing and not overburden pupils with large amounts of homework that require adult assistance.

As with face-to-face supports, schools should ensure that the pupils with the greatest level of need are provided with the greatest levels of support during remote teaching and learning.

Adaptive technologies which have been provided for the pupils for use in schools should be made available for use in the home environment (i.e. if a child has assistive technology, it should be sent home if it is needed for remote learning).

It is also important to remember that the parent is not a teacher and cannot be expected to take the place of the teacher. The role of the parent is to support their child’s engagement in learning to the extent that it is feasible and practicable.

Schools should remind parents and guardians of the importance of making time and space available every day for their child to continue to engage in learning.

NCSE has created a dedicated phone line for teachers to seek advice with regard to delivering remote teaching and learning to children with special educational needs. Teachers calling this line can access a number of NCSE advisors with expertise in a range of special educational needs. This new phone number is 01 603 3233 (from Monday 11 January).

Mainstream class teachers:

  • Mainstream class teachers should continue to differentiate tasks appropriately to match the learning needs of pupils with SEN.
  • Mainstream class teachers should consult with colleagues and the SEN team to ensure a coordinated whole-school approach to assigning work to pupils with SEN.

Special class teachers:

  • Teachers in special schools and special classes should make every effort to maintain regular contact with all of their pupils, and where appropriate, make provision for one-to-one online supports. They should also emphasise opportunities for pupils to learn in their home environment, including participating in structured activities related to life skills and independent living.

SET teachers:

  • SETs should be regularly communicating and engaging with the pupils on their caseloads.
  • The SET’s knowledge of their pupils’ priority learning needs and agreed targets as outlined in the pupil support file will enable them to work with parents and guardians to choose appropriate supports in a remote learning environment
  • Liaising with mainstream class teachers to ensure an appropriate programme of work for the pupil with SEN; the programme should, as far as possible, be personalised to the pupil’s needs
  • Providing regular opportunities for the pupil to engage with the SET using various platforms as appropriate and available
  • Where possible, sharing specific resources or individualised supports with parents and guardians, for example, those that are calming and regulating for pupils with autism
  • Here are some practical ways in which special education teachers can engage with their pupils:
    • Phone
    • Provision of hard copy work packs to parents and guardians
    • E-mail
    • Online video communication apps such as Skype and Seesaw
    • Audio-visual online platforms so they can talk with and see the parent and the pupil and provide online learning support.
  • SETs should maintain regular contact with the parents and guardians of pupils on their caseloads even if the purpose of some early conversations is limited to a courtesy check-in, general supportive conversation or listening to parental concerns.
  • For parents and guardians of children with more complex needs, contact with parents and guardians may need to occur daily.

Special Needs Assistants

Working under the direction of the school principal and class teacher(s) SNAs should:

  • Engage with the pupils they usually support in school eg by assisting in the provision of social stories and advising on appropriate coping and calming skills
  • Engage with and support the work of parents of the children on their caseload eg by providing information on management of behaviour
  • Work on providing educational or therapeutic resources / materials in collaboration with the teacher and SET Team
  • Participate in staff meetings and all other normal meetings using online technology or by telephone, if online systems are not available.

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