TRS SEN Spring / Summer 2017

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Resource SEN



How master’s-level learning could boost your practice as an education professional


How working with parents and carers will benefit your classroom


From theatre to dance, give your lessons some artistic flare


Understanding the impact of the neurological condition

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Denise Connelly


Lindsay Cochrane


Kirsty McKenzie


Lucy Baillie


Lisa McCabe

Editor’s Letter Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Teachers’ Resource SEN! This issue is brimming with ideas to help you get ahead in your career, inspiration for the classroom, and pupil support information too. If you fancy boosting your career prospects, what about studying to master’s level? We caught up with two teachers in SEN schools who’ve done exactly that – and they’re reaping the rewards. Read all about it on page 12.


We’ve also been finding out about the issue of sex education in special schools – and how things need to improve dramatically. Elsewhere, we’ve been finding out about the benefits of arts education – check it out on page 25. @ResourceMagScot

If you fancy a change of scenery, and some exciting learning opportunities for your students, check out our guide to the country’s best school trip destinations on page 17 – and if there’s nothing listed in your area? Start making enquiries with local facilities to find out about access now!

Karen MacKenzie

DC Publishing Ltd 198 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HG Tel: 0844 249 9007 ©DC Publishing Ltd 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any way without prior written permission from the publisher. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of DC Publishing Ltd. The publisher takes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers within the publication. Every effort has been made to ensure that information is accurate; while dates and prices are correct at time of going to print, DC Publishing Ltd takes no responsibility for omissions and errors.


There’s plenty more to feast your eyes on this issue, so turn the page and get reading! Until next time,

Lindsay Cochrane, Editor



We find out more about what needs to change in sex and relationships education in special schools.

Fancy boosting your career prospects? A master’s degree could be the answer.



9 TEACHERS AND PARENTS WORKING TOGETHER The importance of positive teacher-parent relationships.


We put the neurological condition under the microscope.


Helping your students get ready for life after school.

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GO ONLINE For news and features, and regular updates from the team, head to the Teachers’ Resource website.



School trips don’t have to be off the table for pupils with support needs. We take a look at some of the best locations.


How dance, drama, music and art can really open up doors to learning.


The font that’s opening up reading to more and more young learners.

Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017


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Sex education is a vital part of any pupil’s learning experience, but for years the need for those with additional support needs to access the right information has been ignored. We investigate why this needs to change


nline pornography, fluid gender identity, pansexuality, sexting... The basics of the birds and the bees may remain unchanged, but the A-Z of sex today is very different to how it was 10 years ago. Yet the last guidelines on sex education haven’t been updated since 2000 – long before the advent of social media, online dating sites and Pornhub. Sex education beyond scientific fact remains non-statutory, and the quality of lessons in the schools that do teach sex education has been graded ‘inadequate’ in 40% of classes by Ofsted. But if mainstream educators are lagging behind on the topic, SEN schools are practically in a different century. According to a 2010 report by disability charity Leonard Cheshire, almost 50% of disabled people surveyed said that they’d received no sex and relationships education (SRE) at school. Today, youngsters at SEN schools remain in the dark – unaware of even the basics of biology, consent or relationships – and it’s having dangerous implications for their self-esteem, safety and sexual health. So why isn’t more being done?


Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017

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For Paul Casey, head of programmes at the Family Planning Association, it’s SRE’s non-statutory status combined with outdated attitudes that is creating a massive blind spot within schools. “Adults look at children and they’ll see the disability first and the person second,” explains Paul. “I’ve had parents say to me, ‘I don’t need to talk about sex and relationships because my child has a disability – it doesn’t apply’. Frankly, I find that staggering – the idea that just because someone may not want to have sex, either with themselves or someone else, that they won’t experience any sexual feelings and urges at all. But too often people don’t see disabled people as sexual beings.” However, Jennie Williams, managing director of disability charity Enhance the UK, understands why carers, parents and teachers are quick to dismiss a child’s sexuality. “It’s not their fault – when you are caring for a child who has a disability, it’s easy to feel overprotective,” she explains. “Especially if they’re a teenager who still needs personal care, I can understand why it would seem inconceivable to imagine that that child is going to want to be sexually active. It can be really hard for some people to get their head around.”


But the widespread misconception that SEN children are able to dodge the pitfalls of puberty is coming at a huge cost. “When you don’t understand your body and how it works, it opens you up to potential worst case scenarios and abuse,” says Jennie. “You can feel very vulnerable if you don’t feel like a sexual being like everyone else.” Mencap have found that children with a learning disability are more than twice as likely to be sexually abused by others. When abuse does occur, they rarely tell anyone what has happened, let alone

“I’ve had parents say to me, ‘I don’t need to talk about sex and relationships because my child has a disability – it doesn’t apply’. Frankly, I find that staggering” Paul Casey, Family Planning Association

report the incident to the police. Similar studies also show that those with mental disabilities are at high risk for STIs and domestic abuse, while a 2008 paper on teenage pregnancy in Wolverhampton showed that around 28% of teenage mothers had some form of learning disability. The same paper found that, from an SEN school in the area, 40% of its female pupils became teenage mothers within 18 months of leaving. “We know that young people who have a disability are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and other forms of abuse,” says Paul. “So the right SRE education can have a real safeguarding role for young people. It’s essential that good SRE exists in SEN schools.” Lack of adequate training, however, means many teachers are still hesitant to act. “We see a huge resistance from teachers because most of them are not actually trained to teach this topic,” explains Paul. “You may be a really good teacher, but if you have never actually

been trained in SRE it can be really hard to know where to start and what resources are out there. Lack of teacher training in this area is a significant issue.”


Although only a small proportion of teachers cover SRE as part of their initial training, Paul believes that most teachers do have the skills to approach their pupils on the subject. “I always say, start where your strengths are and work from there. Particularly for SEN schools – where they are teaching across different ages and abilities – start wherever the strengths are in your school. So if you have a particularly good drama department, start by creating and acting out certain scenarios. If you’re good at science, start there, or start with art. The knowledge, skills, attitudes and feelings that are at the core of SRE are already done in lots of other areas of the curriculum. You can easily adopt sex and relationships into the discussions you are already having.” For those who are still uncertain, Paul suggests taking a look at the school’s current policy and evaluating it against the current good practice, or seeking help from online resources. The Sex Education Forum is a national charity that works to support teachers and provides in-depth information on how to frame your policy and advice on kick-starting SRE in your school. “It’s worth remembering that the kids might be embarrassed too,” explains Jennie. “For some disabled pupils, the last thing they want to do is talk to their teacher about sex. But teachers are an integral part of building their confidence and understanding. “Information is power, and having that information will make you feel less vulnerable. You need to know that your body is your body and nobody has the right to do anything unless you want them to do it,” adds Jennie. “At the end of the day, all young people should have the right to access good sex education. Everybody has the right to be sexually active if they want to be and everybody should have the right to be safe.”

USEFUL CONTACTS Family Planning Association Enhance the UK The Sex Education Forum

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Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017


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Create Partnerships Working with special needs schools to create superior outdoor spaces

We find out more about the brands working to create inspirational outdoor spaces for schools


reate Partnerships brings together several brands which all deliver products of an exceptional standard alongside excellent customer service. Within their extensive portfolio, Creative Partnerships offer numerous products ideal for the special needs setting. Timberplay Scotland, Timberplay and Playgarden all specialise in creating play environments that will stimulate children across a wide range of abilities. Inclusive design can enable and empower those with special educational needs to participate in the wonder and power that outdoor experiences can provide.


Specific key characteristics any SEN play design should take in are: • Access • Space • Sensory awareness • Enhanced learning • Flexibility and adaptability • Health and wellbeing • Safety and security • Sustainability • Budget

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The best designs would take a holistic and co-ordinated approach to create an outdoor space which supports the building of social, emotional and life skills. A consultative approach is ideal, with designers working closely with schools to understand the special requirements of the outdoor environment and the specific needs of the pupils. Effective play design for any environment should go beyond a one size fits all model, but even more so within a special needs setting where the specific physical and cognitive abilities of each and every pupil must be assessed and reviewed to ensure each individual child is catered for.


A cradle swing is undoubtedly a very effective piece of inclusive kit, but beyond this other natural resources, imaginative landscaping and carefully selected products can greatly enhance the quality of the play experience for disabled and special needs children. Easily accessible water play, for example, is one of the most inclusive play elements around as children of all

abilities and ages find experience with water very engaging and rewarding. Although health and safety concerns can act as a barrier, these fears are often unfounded and dissipate once staff understand the potential and far-reaching benefits of water play. Sports provision is also an essential element in special needs outdoor provision. With outdoor space often being limited, Multi Use Games Areas are one of the best ways to provide durable, low maintenance, flexible sports facilities. Vica, part of the Create Partnerships portfolio, have a vast experience in creating MUGAs of a superior quality, which can be designed to fit the specific requirements of the school. Their flexible product range can be tailored to the demands of the school with floor markings designed to lend themselves to specific games or sports appropriate for the abilities of the pupils.

MORE INFORMATION For more information on any brands within Create Partnerships please call 0114 282 3474. Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017


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Teachers and parents

WORKING TOGETHER When it comes to education, parents have their part to play too – and it’s crucial that schools, particularly SEN schools, establish positive relationships with the people caring for their pupils after the bell rings at the end of the day. Here are some tips to help you develop strong parental relationships

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Nobody knows a child quite like their parent or carer – so use that knowledge. Establish relationships early on and get to know the mums, dads and carers of your pupils and, more importantly, get to know the children you’re working with. A start-of-term parents meeting – maybe an informal coffee morning or drop-in session after school – is a great way to get to know more about the people looking after the pupils in your class when you’re not there, and to get some more insight into their children, their needs, preferences and what their hopes and aspirations are. Find out about the child’s background, their religious beliefs, culture, family setup, their parents’ jobs – any details you can get will give you a better picture of the person they are and how best you can support them.


As well as speaking to parents, ask them to complete a one-page profile for their child, detailing everything they feel you need to know. This will give you a document outlining their likes, dislikes, learning style, and anything else their parents or carers feel is important for you to know. You can ask them to review it once a term and see if anything has changed.


Establishing open and honest dialogue from the start is essential. Don’t skirt around the fact that Jack isn’t achieving as he should be, or that Ellie’s behaviour is out of control on a Monday morning. Speak to the parent, address it, and work together on ways in which you can tackle the issue, or look for extra support. Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017


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Parents of children with special educational needs often have more questions, worries and queries than they might in a mainstream school, so it’s important to make time for them if they have a problem. Consider setting up office hours when it’s convenient for parents to pop by after school.


It’s essential that parents and carers are a part of all decisions made about their child’s education. When it comes to making choices, ensure that you have all the information on their options to hand and in an understandable format. For some parents, SEN is totally new – and it can be daunting. So make sure you give them all the information and advice they need, and identify local organisations who can offer support too.


Put together a pack for parents with info on local groups who can help, including national charities and helplines – anything at all that they might need to support their child. Having this information readily available will really benefit parents – and they’ll see that you’re on their side. It also keeps you up to date with legislation and local services.

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Before their children even get started with you, invite parents and carers into the school so they understand how you operate, where things are and what goes on day-to-day. It’ll give the parents more trust in what you’re doing – and a better understanding of what their child is up to during the day.



For some children, a link book is a good idea when it comes to letting parents know what they’ve been up to during the day, but also to keep you up to speed with what’s going on at home. Each day, the teacher and the parent can send notes to one another via the pupil – it could be that the child refused to eat their lunch, or there may have been an incident at home which could affect their behaviour in class. This really opens up the lines of communication between home and school, and offers explanations for out-of-character behaviour.


Keeping in contact with parents is easier now than every before. Technology has come

on leaps and bounds and nowadays, you can get handy smartphone apps which send reminders and alerts to parents if there’s anything they need to know, from homework to school trips. It avoids relying on pupils to take home letters, and gets information direct to the parent or carer. MySchoolApp ( is one worth checking out.

Your school website is a vital tool when it comes to communicating with parents – and letting them see that you’re doing the best you can for their child. Post photographs, blog updates and any news online for parents to access and see what’s going on. For parents who work, this is especially important – it helps them feel like a part of the school.


It’s great to get parents involved in their child’s education – so what about a class parent/child trip at the weekend for everyone to come along? This lets you meet the parents, and also gives mums, dads and carers the POSITIVE chance to get to know each PRAISE other and their child’s friends. When a child does something

fantastic? Let their parents know! An email or letter home to highlight when a child is doing well, or a certificate tucked in their school bag, will really boost both the child’s and the parents’ confidence.

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The Missing Piece of the Puzzle If you want to boost your practice as an educator, the key to success could lie in undertaking a master’s course with a university. We speak with two practitioners to find out about their educational experiences


MA Inclusive Education and Special Educational Needs and Disability Manchester Metropolitan University John works at Cravenwood Primary Academy in Crumpsall, Manchester, which is part of United Learning Trust. He is one of the vice principals, leading on inclusion. What inspired you to undertake the master’s course at MMU? It was as simple as enjoying my NASENCo so much that I wanted to continue study at this level. The NASENCo award at MMU allows you to base all your coursework on your actual job role, so nothing feels like an additional chore as it’s all pertinent to fulfilling your duties as a SENCo. MMU advertised the MA course as a continuation of the NASENCo award, but 12 Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017

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with a wider focus on inclusion and not just SEN. What did the course involve? As the NASENCo is a third of an MA, it felt to me that the remainder of my time completing the MA was again split into a further two thirds. This helped as it gave milestones to aim for. After the NASENCo, the next third of the MA included two modules on Understanding Inclusive Theory and Practice and Leading Inclusion. The final third of the MA was research project focused, with the two main ‘hand-ins’ being our research proposal before our actual final research project: this was instead of writing a more lengthy dissertation. The course throughout was good for this as each module often comprised of lesson attendance, delivering a presentation and writing an assignment – these things got you your marks. Throughout, there were smaller unmarked tasks given, which involved reading and responding/ instigating conversation on Moodle (MMU’s intranet).

How did you manage to balance it alongside your job? You need to be organised. You need to dedicate days within your weekend and a number of set days in your half-term holidays if you are a teacher completing this course. Also, you need to be committed to attend weekend and night school for approximately 16 sessions a year for the taught elements of this course. Would you recommend the MMU course to others? Without a doubt. The structure of the course, the online and face-to-face support, and the tutors gave me the best higher education experience of the three I’ve had (degree and PGCE at two other universities before this). To find out more about the MA in Inclusive Education at MMU, head to, or email course tutors Dr Sam Fox ( or Dr Ruth Hubbard ( for further details.

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MA Deaf Education (Teacher of the Deaf Qualification) University of Leeds Naomi is a qualified teacher of the deaf, working in a specialist unit for deaf children within a London secondary school. What inspired you to apply for the MA at Leeds? I learned British Sign Language (BSL) as a hobby while I was at university doing my first degree. Later, when I was looking to train as a teacher of the deaf, I was drawn to the Leeds course as their research focused around the philosophy of bilingualism, valuing the use of BSL within deaf education. How did it work? The Leeds course is based on distance learning. We had just one day a term that involved face-to-face lectures in Leeds. The majority of the course was undertaken online through completing reading, tasks and essays. This did require a great degree of self-motivation to come home from a long day at work and to get stuck into academic reading! We did also have a local tutorial group and tutor that we could meet up with from time to time. This was incredibly helpful for developing the more practical aspects of the course, such as audiology tasks and speech perception tests. There was an extended weekend away as well, where we were taught audiology skills. I also undertook a four-week teaching placement in a

different setting from my own which was extremely enjoyable. What did the course itself involve? The course had four main modules that covered Educational Audiology, The Context of Deaf Education, Learning and Teaching in Deaf Education and Deafness and Development What did you enjoy most about it? I really enjoyed being able to have the opportunity to take a step back from focusing on the details of my everyday job to look with a broader perspective at deaf education as a whole. I was then able to focus back in on different specifics of the theories and skills that I was learning and apply these to everyday scenarios with my students. What was the most challenging element of the course? Undertaking the course on top of a full-time job was challenging. Spending every holiday break studying and writing essays required a lot of determination. What do you feel you’ve taken away from your MA? If I can sum up one theme that I learned on the course, it’s that you can’t put a deaf child ‘in a box’. Every deaf child is unique and flexibility is key if we are to support and encourage that child to achieve their potential. For more information on Leeds’ MA in Deaf Education, go to, or email pgtaught-enquiries@


University of Strathclyde This part-time course is great for those hoping to boost their understanding of autism spectrum disorders.

MEd Inclusion and Special Educational Needs

University of Birmingham This flexible course is available via distance learning, and can be completed over one to six years. Modules include Language, Literacies and Dyslexia, Autism and Education of Learners with Multisensory Impairment.

MA Special and Inclusive Education

University of Nottingham A web-based distance learning course, the MA from Nottingham covers Relationships and Behaviour, Communication and Literacy and Researching Special and Inclusive Education amongst other modules.

MA Special Educational Needs

University of South Wales USW’s postgrad course is great for teachers hoping to explore the key issues related to special educational needs, including areas such as autism, communication difficulties and learning disability. Search for master’s-level opportunities online at

“Every deaf child is unique and flexibility is key if we are to support and encourage that child to achieve their potential” Naomi Jarrett

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There’s an app for that... Let’s get technical – with some clever apps for smartphones and tablets Abilipad (iOS, £9.99)

Created by an occupational therapist to help patients write, Abilipad is a great way to let kids express themselves through letters, words, sentences and pictures. The customised keyboard can also modify key sizes, fonts and colours, and use the text-to-speech function to help minimise errors.

Make It (iOS and Android, free)

This nifty tool allows teachers to create their own educational games and activities.

Peek-a-Zoo (iOS and Android, £1.25)

Not only does this app help children learn animal names, it’s a fantastic way for them to understand more about actions and emotions.

Minimal Pairs for Speech Therapy (iOS, £3.99)

Designed to help kids develop speech sound recognition and expand their vocab and phonetic skills through fun and vibrant games.

Listen Hear


(iOS and Android, free)

(iOS and Android, free)

Designed to assist kids with listening skills, auditory memory and auditory sequencing. Listen Hear offers fun, interactive games that teach kids everything from the alphabet to tricky speech sounds.

Spuble aims to bring people who have a hearing impairment back into the conversation by creating real-life speech bubbles, using your tablet to turn words into text.

10 Ways – A Social Skills Game (iOS, free)

10 Ways uses – you guessed it – 10 question types to promote social interaction and help kids learn to communicate, develop friendships and ask and answer questions. A great app for children who need a helping hand to build up confidence interacting with others.

iDo Community

Breathing Zone (iOS and Android, £3.99)

A great app to use with children who struggle with anxiety, Breathing Zone talks the user through mindful breathing exercises that help to slow their breathing rate and keep calm.

What is Dyslexia? (iOS and Android, free)

A free tool designed to help kids and adults better understand dyslexia.

(iOS, free)

Articulation Essentials (iOS and Android, £9.99)

Make speech therapy fun with this handy tool packed with creative activities, including vibrant games and flashcards.

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This app has been designed to help kids with special needs learn how to act independently in the community. The game encourages kids to lead their character through different scenarios – from visiting the cinema to the dentist – and rewards points when they understand what behaviour works best in each situation.

Me and My Choices (iOS, £4.99)

Great for ASD students, this app allows kids to express themselves by creating an album of their personal choices, preferences and areas of interest. Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017 15

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• Early support and screening for English and Maths • Easy to follow programmes • No preparation required • 5 minute sessions that work • Excellent for English as an Additional Language (EAL)

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Mini adventures


SCHOOL TRIP IDEAS It can take years to perfect your classroom routine, but sometimes going out of your comfort zone is just what you – and your pupils – need. It’s time to get planning that accessible out-of-school adventure 1 Mousetrap Theatre Projects What? Theatre trips are a great way to inspire your students, and London easily boasts the best theatrical scene in the world. MTP is the only organisation that creates access to West End theatre for SEND schools, sending over one thousand young people with additional needs to the theatre every year. Each term, subsidised tickets for two productions are kept aside for SEND schools – all you need to do is apply. If

a London trip is too far out, MTP can bring their theatre workshops to you. Their bespoke in-school projects use theatre as a base to explore important core skills such as confidence and communication. Where? London. When? To discuss what’s available, contact Jo on 020 7632 4117, or email How much? Tickets for shows are sold at £8 per ticket, while the creative learning projects cost £250 for five 90-minute sessions, or £500 for a full week’s residency.

2 Glasgow Science Centre

What? Perfect for curious young minds, this awardwinning centre pairs informative course material with handson sciencebased activities. Children aged four to 18 can explore everything from the human body to the cosmos. The building has accessible toilets, and induction loops are available in the IMAX cinema, front desk, auditorium and the Science Show Theatre. Where? Just outside Glasgow city centre. When? Wednesday to Friday, 10am-3pm, from 31 October to 31 March, and then 10am-5pm seven days a week for the rest of the year. How much? To visit the Science Mall and take part in one activity (workshop, planetarium show, science show or IMAX film), it costs £4 per student. Science Mall plus two activities costs £6 per pupil. One teacher per five pupils is admitted for free.

3 Disability Snowsports UK

What? Snowsports don’t need to be a pipe dream – thanks to DSUK’s fantastic lessons, your pupils will be conquering the slopes in no time. DSUK run classes, fronted by specially trained instructors with plenty of experience in working with people with disabilities, for school groups of up to seven students, teaching them everything they need to know to master the mountains. From skiing to snowboarding and mono-skiing, there’s something out there for everyone, and plenty of exciting new skills to learn. Where? Lessons are available at ski centres across the UK, from Tamworth to Hemel Hempstead and Glasgow’s Snow Factor. When? Call 0845 521 9338 for more information. How much? £117 for a group of seven. All lesson prices are based on one-hour sessions, but 90-minute and two-hour lessons are also available.

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What? More than 2,000 school groups visit Cadbury World each year – and it’s not hard to guess why! Kids will be overjoyed at the chance to visit some real-life Willy Wonkas and get insight into the secrets behind the nation’s favourite chocolate. In addition to audio and touch tours, kids can also complete colouring activities and Chocolate Trail worksheets

during the tour – teachers just need to download the free worksheets before they go. Where? Birmingham. When? Open daily, 9.30pm-3pm. Times can vary depending on the time of year, so call ahead to check. How much? Schools and colleges with groups of 15 or more pay £9.65 per pupil. Adults pay £10.70, with one free adult admission for every eight paying school children.

5 Eureka! The National Children’s Museum

What? This fully accessible museum aims to inspire children to discover more about themselves and the world around them through interactive exhibits and activities. The Wonder Walk, for example, features scented plants that encourage visitors to use all their senses and feel, listen, pull and smell everything around them. The venue also offers specially adapted educational workshops to suit your pupils’ needs, plus chill-out rooms, signed interpretations and accessible toilets. Where? Halifax. When? Tuesday to Friday, 10am-4 pm. How much? Self-guided trips cost £6 per child, while a combined workshop and gallery visit, led by their fullytrained museum team, costs £7.25 per child. One free adult ticket for every five child tickets purchased.


4 Cadbury World

6 Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park

What? The animal kingdom is a source of constant wonder for young minds, so your pupils will love the chance to turn the great outdoors into their very own classroom. At Blair Drummond, most of the site is fully accessible and children of all ages and abilities will have the opportunity to see rare artefacts and come face-to-face with their favourite animals. Where? Near Stirling – less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh. When? Open daily, 10am-5.30pm, 18 March to 29 October. How much? Entry costs £11 for adults and £8.50 for children (3-14 years). For group visits, you get one free adult for every 10 paying children. If you want to do more than see the animals, the park’s education department can provide additional activities, for a small extra charge, such as touch tables or interactive sessions. Email education@ for more details.

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Drive through Wild Animal Reserves, Boat Trips around Chimp Island, Sea Lion Presentations, Bird of Prey Centre & Displays, Lemur Land, Bug Land, Pets Farm, Elephant Habitat, Adventure Playground with Pirate Ship, Giant Astraglide, Pedal Boats, Flying Fox, Fun Fair, Restaurant, BBQ & Picnic areas. Free Parking. See our Education section on the website for additional activities Open daily - 18th March to 29th October 2017 10am – 5.30pm, last admission 4.30pm

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Aberdeen Performing Arts

ACCESS SERVICES • BSL signed • Touch tours • Visual stories • Captioned • Relaxed • Orientation performances performances visits

Please email for further details

Aberdeen Performing Arts is a charity registered in Scotland, No.SC033733

Education sessions are delivered at the Zoo and cover a wide range of exciting subjects, some including hands-on experiences with some of our smaller animals.

SEE THE WORLD AT... RZS S ED IN BU RGH ZO O To find out more information and book, email or phone 0131 314 0324

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With the condition affecting one in 103 people in the UK, epilepsy is far more common than you might think – and it’s important that teachers and support staff get clued up on how best to support those affected. We find out more from Epilepsy Action


hether you work in a special education environment or not, the chances are that, as a teacher, you will teach a pupil with epilepsy at some point in your career. In the UK, 600,000 people have epilepsy, with 87 people diagnosed with the condition every day. “Epilepsy is diagnosed when somebody has recurrent seizures, as opposed to a single seizure,” explains Cherry Lander, advice and information services officer at Epilepsy Action, the UK charity which works to improve the lives of people with epilepsy in the community. “There are lots of different types of epilepsy and lots of different types of seizure, and the way in which it affects people is really varied.”


Which is why Epilepsy Action has produced some useful resources to help teachers get a better understanding of the condition and how it affects their pupils. There are 40 different types of seizure, and some people with epilepsy might have more than one type of seizure. Seizures occur for a variety of reasons, from tiredness to flickering lights. Amongst Epilepsy Action’s education resources are videos which explain different types of seizure, and how to respond. They also have two free online courses – the first is a more general

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course aimed at all school staff, while the second goes a bit more in-depth. “Some people use the short films for the whole school, and then the class teacher or the SENCo who needs that in-depth knowledge will do the course for teachers,” explains George MatsonPhippard, the charity’s electronic learning officer. “That’s why we have the wide selection of resources, so you can pick and choose.”

need brought up to speed and can carry on with their day – but it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs or symptoms.



Epilepsy can have an impact on pupils’ learning in a variety of different ways – and it’s worth remembering that it’s a very individual condition. For some, it can cause issues with memory or attention, and there’s the associated emotional impact too. “If a pupil has a seizure in the classroom, it could be a tonic-clonic seizure, which is where you lose consciousness and start to shake, so they might need to have first aid,” George says. “They might need taken out of the class, and it might mean missing lessons, especially if their seizures aren’t controlled.” With absence seizures, which last for seconds but can occur in clusters, it can often look like children are daydreaming or not paying attention, which can make them difficult to diagnose – and can mean they miss a lot of what’s going on in class. In most cases, children just

600,000 people in the UK have epilepsy

What Cherry and George both stress is the importance of updating your own knowledge of epilepsy – and for your whole school, pupils included. “Children with epilepsy need support socially, and they need support with managing it in the classroom,” Cherry points out. “There is still a level of stigma around epilepsy. Raising awareness means everybody is more informed and they’re less likely to see it as a really big problem.” Check out Epilepsy Action’s education resources to educate yourself – and your wider school community.

MORE INFORMATION Epilepsy Action 0800 800 5050

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FINGER GYM The FINGER GYM programme helps to develop strong, flexible fingers, hands and arms. It promotes better hand-eye coordination, differentiated movement and manual dexterity. It fosters children’s use and understanding of spoken language. It builds cognitive abilities and provides opportunities to practise self-regulation. Above all it helps hand to prepare physically for writing, building the secure foundation required for the acquisition of legible, rapid and fluent handwriting. FINGER GYM is suitable for all children from nine months to nine years. It is an invaluable play resource for parents and carers, teachers classroom assistants and early years practitioners, SEN coordinators, speech therapists and occupational therapists.

For more information about training and the book please contact: Galina Dolya at See also




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• Providing accommodation and support options for adults 18+ including residential, supported living and short breaks. • Supporting transition from an educational environment, the family home or other providers. We understand the importance and impact of a successful, personalised transition plan, particularly for younger people reaching adulthood. This forms the start of a full person centred plan focusing on goals and aspirations,

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dedicated support required and leisure, work and social opportunities. Contact us for more information on our services across the UK for adults with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs.

0808 223 5320 Our service in Ipswich is dedicated to children and adolescents aged 14 – 25 with complex needs.

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For young people nearing the end of their school career, the big question for many is: what next? We take a look at the importance of the transition process, with some tips from the experts on how staff can best support pupils throughout


ransition can be a complex process for any young person moving from one stage of their life to the next, but it’s even more complicated when they have additional support needs to take into consideration. For most pupils in SEN schools, there’s a handful of options for after school – further education college, supported employment, supported living, residential care or a combination of these things. And it’s all about careful planning, and support from the local authority, to get them to their chosen destination. “It’s the teaching staff and transition staff within the school who have the biggest access to these young people in the key period of time running up to when they’re due to leave school,” points out Bernie Middlehurst, referrals manager for Consensus, the UK-wide provider of specialist residential care and supported living services for people with learning disabilities and a range of other additional needs. “They need to be working closely with parents – to be able to help the students and the student’s parents navigate what is a very confusing system.”

really start until the age of 16 or 17.” Consensus believe that, whatever the child’s current situation, abilities and potential, it’s important that schools establish a relationship early on with their parents or carers – and class teachers, whether responsible for transition or not, have a key part to play.


“We often find when talking to parents of students approaching this critical stage in their life that, although the young person themselves and their families may have aspirations regarding their future, these are not reflected in the support options being discussed. No matter how complex a person’s disabilities, it is rarely the case that further development of skills is impossible or that ways cannot be found to support the individual to undertake some tasks and contribute in some way that will be

valued by others.” He advises too that school staff should research what’s available in the local area for students, whether that’s specialist college courses, support schemes, day centres, care services or employment opportunities. “Practitioners and transition workers within schools and colleges need to know the differences between the different models in care – residential and supported living,” Bernie points out. “And understand the expectations of the local authority too.”

MORE INFORMATION For more information on the support and services offered by Consensus, head to


He says that it’s important for schools to start thinking about transition as early as possible. Current legislation suggests that the planning process should commence at 14-plus, but this often doesn’t occur until the age of 17 in some schools, which can be too late. “In terms of planning, young people’s needs do change between 14 and 18, or whenever they’re leaving school. Services can change in that space of time too, or new services will have been developed,” points out Bernie. “But it’s good to start thinking about transition as early as possible – start forward planning at 14-plus – albeit the detailed work can’t

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he arts are incredibly powerful. Through music, drama, dance and visual art, we can explore complex social issues, spark political debate, evoke emotion in even the stoniest of hearts – and in education, it’s the ideal platform to tackle difficult curricular areas and get kids thinking outside the box. Research from the University of New Mexico has shown that involvement in the arts increases student achievement across all subject areas, as well as their social and adaptive skills – which is why it’s disappointing to see fewer pupils opting to study arts-related subjects at GCSE and A-level, with arts departments in some schools disappearing altogether. The benefits of arts education are wide reaching – and it can boost pupils’ achievement across the entire curriculum. In SEN schools, teachers can use performing and visual arts in a range of clever ways to get their pupils communicating, creating and understanding in new, different and interesting ways.


“We believe the arts foster what we call creative communication and empathy, which are totally crucial skills for anyone to have when they are employed,” explains Paul Morrell, director of education and training at Chickenshed, the inclusive theatre company. “The curriculum becomes so narrow and so focused on certain subjects that kids achieve in those and then leave and struggle to work in groups, to communicate, to find creative solutions to problems. That’s the kind of thing that performing arts really can help with. We believe those things are crucially important.” And Chickenshed have seen first hand just how beneficial arts education is. The company, which was founded in 1974, is fully inclusive, encouraging people of all abilities and backgrounds to get on stage together to create and perform side

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From drama to dance, visual arts to music, the arts have plenty to offer learners – but how do you make it work in an SEN environment? We explore the benefits of arts education for learners with special educational needs and disabilities

by side. One of their most successful projects is in education, where they team up mainstream schools with SEN schools in the same area, and work with the children to produce a show. “The first year we did it, in 1995, it culminated in a huge event at the Royal Albert Hall, where we paired a mainstream and special school in each of the boroughs of London, so it was like a Londonwide Chickenshed inclusive theatre project,” Paul reflects. “We included our own children’s theatre and youth theatres as well, so the cast was about 1,500. For a slice of time, in our minds, all of London was working in an inclusive way together.”


Because the arts are a great leveller. Everyone can play a part, whether they’re the lead in the end-of-term play or the person with the important job of opening the stage curtain for the drama to commence. It’s a real team effort, a



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IN THE CLASSROOM chance to be a part of something that’s energised, creative, visual and exciting – and, crucially, you can take part whatever your ability. For some children, it might be the first time they get to participate in something so large too. “Our philosophy is all about getting schools to work together and learn from each other,” Paul says. “We believe that it’s for mutual benefit. It’s not just that the mainstream child benefits the child from the special school – it’s both of them learning something mutually new and beneficial about each other, and it pushes along the achievement of both groups. To the extent that you almost forget that there is a distinction of any kind at all.” Arts education doesn’t have to be about producing an impressive play or dance recital. It can seep into other elements of the curriculum too and help learners who perhaps struggle with learning in a traditional context to understand different concepts, thanks to the visual nature. “Recently, we went into a primary school and we were getting children to create obtuse angles and acute angles by lying on the floor and making the angles with their bodies, literally visualising those things,” Paul explains. “Performing arts, we believe, has quite a special part to play in the inclusive education agenda. It can really open things up.” Arts integration can take lots of different forms. Whether you’re getting a child to create a piece of artwork during speech therapy and asking them to talk you through it, or you’re using dance and movement to bring words on a page in an English lesson to life, there are lots of different ways to break down barriers to learning and get kids involved.

26 Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017

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“There’s no other vehicle, in mainstream or special education, where kids can put out both their ideas and their feelings, their thoughts and reflections, and the issues that they’re bringing from home”

Paul Morrell, Chickenshed


And while the arts have the potential to really boost achievement, participation and enjoyment in education, Paul reckons there’s one benefit which overarches them all. “Never mind the learning side of it, just for children’s wellbeing – it’s so important,” he says. “There’s no other vehicle, in mainstream or special education, where kids can put out both their ideas and their feelings, their thoughts and reflections, and the issues that they’re bringing from home. Empathy can be encouraged. It’s almost like exploring those things in a non-threatening environment. There are so many ways in which the arts can help and foster huge wellbeing,

but at the same time foster and open up educational concepts.” To boost your school’s arts output, or to integrate a bit more creativity into your lessons, get in touch with Chickenshed or local arts organisations to see what sort of support is out there. “In performing arts especially, kids can overcome limitations and narrow expectations and end up doing things that no one expects,” Paul adds. “It’s immensely powerful.”

USEFUL ORGANISATIONS Arts Council England 0845 300 6200 Creative Scotland 0845 603 6000 Shape Arts Chickenshed 020 8292 9222

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HOW EFFECTIVE IS PLAY THERAPY? Parents’ and referrers’ observations


Play Therapy UK tell us about their recent research

he latest analysis of clinical outcomes of play therapy delivered to Play Therapy UK’s standards compares parents’ observations to those of the referrer, often the child’s teacher. Both sets are based on the completion of the Goodman Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire before and after therapy. This measure is the one used to nationally survey the mental health of British children.


• the use of a wide range of creative arts media – drawing/painting; sand tray; clay; music; puppets; masks; movement; creative visualisation; therapeutic storytelling; • the use of both non-directive and directive methods; • practice and research Training to PTUK standards gives admission to the Register of Play and Creative Arts Therapists, which is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.


Many schools have had cuts in funding coupled with concerns over teacher numbers. Play therapy is an effective way of reducing teacher stress and enabling larger class sizes by reducing the number of disruptive pupils. It has also been shown to improve pupils’ ability to learn more effectively, as well as their emotional well-being. A good and a measured use of funds.

Eighty per cent of the children referred with a borderline or abnormal condition, show a positive change. This result is based on 10,130 cases. Eighty-three per cent of the girls show a positive change compared to 78% of the boys.


Seventy-seven per cent of the children referred with a borderline or abnormal condition show a positive change. This result is based on 10,840 cases, of which 31% were girls and 69% boys. Eighty per cent of the girls show a positive change compared to 75% of the boys. These data show a very similar result, comparing parents to referrers who are observing the children in different environments. This suggests that play therapy is effective in enabling children to cope in many situations. There is an important caveat. The results have been obtained where play therapy has been delivered by therapists trained to Play Therapy UK standards. This uses an Integrative Holistic Model that integrates: • Working with unconscious and conscious processes;

MORE INFORMATION Find your local Play Therapists online at For further information about training to PTUK standards, head to or email 28 Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017

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Let’s talk sensory! Our experienced Educational Sales Advisors cover all regions. Why not arrange a meeting today?

1di0sco% unt

EN17 Quote S June th 0 3 before 2017 Call 020 75155633 Email

EXPLORER DOME EXPLORER DOME will bring a wonderful, immersive, multi-sensory science experience to your school.

Inside the Dome Inside the magical atmosphere of the Dome, we can accommodate up to 25 people. Wheelchairs can also be accommodated as we can lift the sides of the Dome for a dramatic entrance! We have different show topics inside the Dome. For a first experience try “Space and Rockets”: an imaginary trip off the Earth and into Space to explore the awe and wonder of the night sky.

© Ed Maynard

Our shows are interactive and Hands-On. Our presenters use Makaton to support science learning and take care to help every child feel comfortable and excited! We will always adapt our shows for different interests, ages, ability and needs of your children and, as we come to you, we can work around your timetable for buses, lunches and breaks.

Science Bubbles! We also have shows that don’t use the Dome and involve exciting chemistry: freezing fog, fire and flashes. The Bubble show is a firm favourite: full of fun and surprises, the children will delight in bubbles that float and sink, grow and shrink, burn and explode!

For more information visit or call 0117 914 1526

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20/03/2017 15:14


DYSLEXIA-FRIENDLY FICTION Six million Britons are living with dyslexia. And with Braille and large-print editions already on sale, could dyslexia-friendly books be the next big thing in your classroom? We found out


think that it is important for all people, children or adults, to be able to read and enjoy books – regardless of their abilities,” says Ellis Moore, acquisitions editor at publishing firm WF Howes. It was this belief – that reading should be accessible to all – that motivated Ellis and her team to publish a special edition of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book for dyslexic readers. “I tried to imagine how it would be to grow up not being able to read my favourite Harry Potter books, and at this point, I made the decision to approach our senior management with the suggestion of creating a large-print dyslexia version of The Cursed Child,” says Ellis.


The Leicester-based publisher, which specialises in audiobooks and large-print editions, has been developing ways to adapt and improve accessible reading for years. But it was only when it came to their attention that 10-15% of the UK’s population struggled with dyslexia that 30 Teachers’ Resource SEN • Spring / Summer 2017

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they realised more needed to be done. “That’s a reasonably large chunk of readership that isn’t being given the opportunity to enjoy and love books,” explains Ellis. “We publish books in so many ways, for so many different reading groups, but why not a hard-of-sight and dyslexia group?” Thanks to research from the University of South Wales and the British Dyslexia Association revealing that a slightly altered format could make it easier for those with the condition to focus, dyslexia-friendly editions of our favourite stories could become the norm. “We worked alongside Professor Amanda Kirby from the university and the British Dyslexia Association,” says Ellis. “With their knowledge and guidance, a brief was created that not only assessed the dyslexia font, but also the whole formatting of the book in general. For example, addressing paper thickness and its colour, ink colour and margins on pages.”


Dyslexia-friendly fonts are also becoming

more and more common across the world. Christian Boer, a dyslexic designer from Holland, created his own font called Dyslexie in an effort to make reading easier for himself and others. The font, which features taller, more bottom-heavy letters, has since gone on to be used by Penguin, Nintendo, Pixar and Google. “I think there definitely needs to be more awareness that dyslexic readers should have as much access to books as those without dyslexia,” says Ellis. “Whatever the genre; books inspire us. They capture our imagination and allow us to think beyond the realms of everyday life and circumstance. Books offer a creative space that, especially with children, allows the mind to grow and evolve.” While Ellis admits they are still in the early stages of exploring further dyslexic reading options, she promises this effort won’t be the last. “The feedback has been fantastic,” says Ellis. “We even had a lovely customer tell us how happy her 10-yearold son is that he can finally read one of the Harry Potter stories by himself. That, for me, was hugely rewarding.”

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“Create a Music Garden” Percussion Play create beau t iful accessible music gardens for everybody everywhere. Ou tdoor musical inst ruments are fully accessible sui table for children and young adul ts in complex and mul t iple special needs environments.


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