This time last year, none of us could have predicted where we would be in April 2021 – I hope you agree that Whole School SEND responded swiftly and positively to the changing world, by moving all of our DfE-funded offer online. This meant that all of our planned face to face CPD became online webinars – we had no idea how this would turn out when we first started, but it quickly became apparent that actually, there are many positives to being fully online, most particularly the increased access it offers to education professionals from across the country. We had more than 11,000 attendees at our webinars across the year, with an overwhelmingly positive response and feedback. We also published many online resources, including those that specifically responded to the lockdowns, and these were also very positively received (see all our resources here).
In the new contract year (April 2021-March 22), we want to focus even more strongly on the impact of the work that WSS does, and how this supports the schools’ workforce to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND – it would be great if you can help us with this by completing evaluations and surveys following engagement with WSS, as we will only understand this impact by evaluating your feedback to us.
We will be continuing our online CPD offer, so that you can benefit from the easier access and flexibility that this format brings. We will be offering our webinars mostly in series-format this year (see the Teachers’ Standards for Professional Development) on those themes relating to SEND which our regional leaders tell us are most pertinent to the schools’ workforce across the country. These are likely to include early identification, SEN Support, transition, preparation for adulthood, leadership of SEND and more, and we hope to call on our consortium partners to support with delivery. Look out for when dates and titles are released on our Events page.
An exciting development for 2021-22 is that we will also be offering education professionals the opportunity to join professional development groups, with each region facilitating one group of approximately ten people. These groups will be ‘sector led’ i.e. each one will address a key theme in SEND, but the detail of the content and development of each group will be led by the group itself, with the support of our regional leaders. There will be (online) group sessions across the year, interspersed with more individualised discussions with SEND leaders, facilitated by consortium partners where relevant. Contact Francesca Wakefield if you would like to register your interest in joining a group.
Our regional SEND leaders will continue their much valued networking across the regions, so look out for how you can get involved in your region – make sure you are registered to receive our e-newsletter and hear from your local SEND team in your Communication Preferences on your profile on the gateway. You can update your preferences by clicking your name at the top right corner of the screen, then hitting the “update your details" button on your profile.
We are delighted that WSS will be facilitating the sharing of effective practice both between special schools and between special and mainstream schools, by bringing together existing special school networks into our member community. The group will share outputs from the national SEND Reference Group and encourage special schools to share their learning and evidence of effective practice with the whole WSS member community – so look out for case studies, blogs and other outputs from this group.
You may have engaged with Real Group’s Online SEND Reviewer Training, which was developed through WSS last year – this offers a way of participating in this widely-recognised CPD in a flexible way, to suit you. This year, the module will be further developed to include guidance on conducting online reviews, as we know that this is likely to continue to be needed as an option over the coming months and years.
WSS will also be developing further online training modules on SEND – we recognise that for many, being able to engage in high-quality online learning enables access to CPD which might not otherwise be possible; as this is DfE-funded through WSS, it also means that this access comes at no cost to delegates or schools; cost can be another barrier to access to CPD. If you receive our e-newsletter, you will find out as soon as this becomes available.
Our eagerly-awaited resources to support Initial Teacher Training are due for release later this term, along with our ‘Teacher Handbook: SEND, embedding inclusive practice’ – we are very excited about the ambition and scale of these resources, which we hope will have a wide and deep impact on teaching for SEND. This year, we have secured WSS funding to develop the ITT resources still further – again, sign up to our e-news to keep up to date with release dates!
WSS will be continuing to work with local authorities, as selected by the DfE, to support the development of effective SEND leadership and practice in schools – the support we were able to give to 14 LAs last year was very highly rated by participants and we hope to continue our work with some of these LAs, as well as working with some new ones – hopefully you will find out locally if your LA is involved.
There is lots to look forward to from Whole School SEND in the next twelve months - thank you to everyone who has engaged with our work over the last, very difficult, year; I hope that WSS resources and CPD webinars have helped to support you through this period, and that you will continue to value what we offer in the coming year.