I tend to find this time of the school year to be increasingly enjoyable, what with us being more or less halfway through the academic year alongside the mornings & evenings starting to get a bit brighter. As an SEN Coordinator, and to an extent in my current role as an assistant headteacher, I have often found this time of year to be a point where the workload feels just that little bit lighter - allowing you to really focus in on strategic projects rather than rushing from one operational duty to another.
Over the past month or so, aside from my day-to-day SLT duties (which continue to include some SENCo tasks) and my teaching commitment, I've had the pleasure of working with a group of students on a bid for £5000 via the 'School We'd Like' competition - a joint venture from The Guardian and Zurich Municipal. Our bid is based around creating a flexible, small-scale resource base for students with complex social-emotional needs, called 'The Pod'. Having made it to the regional final and presented our idea in Newcastle a few weeks ago, I'd assumed we had not got any further - partly due to the strength of the presentations by rival bidders - and was planning to share our proposal online, hoping another school might partner up with us on it. However, this week I received the good news we are through to the national final in London next month and so, for now, I will have to keep it under wraps. Whether we win or not, the competition has proved to be a hugely positive experience - firstly for the students directly involved who have excelled themselves in getting up on a stage and speaking publicly (not to mention the gruelling journey to Newcastle and back in one school day!) and for our wider school in terms of us being aspirational.
My role also includes overseeing our data collection and monitoring systems. Coming from an arts background, I readily admit I am not a natural statistician. However, I don't think this necessarily puts me in a bad position as I feel (or at least hope!) it leads to me keeping such things simple and accessible - although having said that, much of what I've learnt to do in this field has been garnered from colleagues who are natural statisticians! In terms of tools to track progress, I have recently uploaded a few examples of SEN spreadsheet templates, using a basic model of 'traffic lighting' to provide at-a-glance indications on performance.
In addition to the above, I have recently spent two days at the University of Manchester delivering sessions to PGCE students on 'Teaching the Bottom Sets', focusing on classroom strategies to aid lower-attaining students. Next month, I will also be delivering a session on how to organise CPD in schools at a jam-packed SEN conference from Optimus Education.
Finally, in terms of my teaching commitment, I am currently developing a 'Private Peaceful' scheme of learning for Level 3 to 5 learners in English, focusing on higher-order reading & thinking skills. I am, as ever, indebted to those fellow teachers who share their resources freely online. I must also give a special mention to Rob Smith's Literacy Shed website - the 'War and Peace Shed' has many moving, highly-engaging resources and teaching ideas. I had a magic moment just this morning with some students listening intently to an interview with the late Harry Patch as we considered the emotional impact of first-person narrators on their audience compared to third-person narrators (I used a documentary clip, presented by Dan Snow, to aid the comparison). If readers want copies of the resources developed so far, please contact me directly as I have yet to share them online. I have also just finished using some resources, including homemade reading materials, to accompany the film 'There's Only One Jimmy Grimble' which teachers of lower-attaining English / literacy groups may find useful - again, contact me directly and I will happily provide copies.