Understanding Inset in Special Schools
This week Schools Week reported on the increasing role that school-based professionals have in delivering medical care to pupils with complex needs. Dominic Wall and Judith Smith are both experienced school leaders who have driven this project and are also Whole School SEND regional SEND leaders. One of the key issues raised in this investigation is that meeting the complex health needs of children in special schools is being delegated to non-medical staff, at a time when the volume of pupils with complex health and medical needs is increasing.
In October Whole School SEND also ran a short online survey for education professionals in special schools exploring how inset days were used. We hear regularly from members of our Community of Practice that ensuring that staff were up to date on a wide range of non-educational training made it difficult to prioritise time for training and development activities around curriculum development and planning, assessment for learning, and pedagogy. Something also referred to in the letter to Nick Gibb that accompanied the DfE’s Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development.
To explore the issue the further we sent out a survey to the Whole School SEND community of practice and Teaching School Special School network.
Here is what we asked:
Training topics most frequently mentioned included:
- Administering oxygen
- Asthma, epilepsy and allergy
- Communication technologies (these can be unique to the pupil, as well as cut across the school/class)
- Condition specific awareness training – e.g. acquired brain injury or autism
- Fire evacuation planning for pupils with different mobility needs and sensory impairment
- Food hygiene
- Harmful sexual behaviours
- Intensive interaction
- Intimate care and hygiene
- Medical equipment use, e.g. tracheostomy, gastro feeding, administering oxygen
- Medication management and administration
- Moving and handling
- Physiotherapy in the classroom
- Positive handling/TeamTeach/physical intervention/restraint
- Sensory processing
- Structured conversations
- Water safety
In a mainstream school it is less likely (rightly or wrongly) that all these topics would be whole staff training areas. However, within a special school context the majority of staff may well need to understand these areas. And, often these areas require more than an hour refresher PowerPoint in the hall – they require two or three days of intensive face to face training.
Answers to this question followed three main themes:
- More of the same – mentioning the topics above, as the current time available left some topics covered at speed.
- Time for curriculum development and planning and preparing for reforms, RSE was mentioned frequently here.
- More time to understand available options open to learners after school and successful transitions into adulthood and independent happy living.
We didn’t ask the same question of staff in mainstream settings or AP/PRUs, so we can’t offer a direct comparison in this blog, but this is an area that would benefit from further exploration.
Three common themes that emerged from these responses were:
- The protected time for staff to come together from across a school or group of schools to share learning together
- The opportunity to develop teaching practice and curriculum quality
- The value of refreshing knowledge of specific interventions and approaches
Some typical responses were:
Training around our new curriculum and inspiring staff to think about why our students learn, what they learn and how they learn was a really positive inset day
The common training day with other special schools where we could target training for staff relative to their context; sensory curriculum for PMLD staff, Mental Health for our Interveners, sensory processing for ASC staff, etc, however a number of our staff were not able to access the common training day as they had to complete a Team Teach refresher course
Everyone getting together in September after a long break, talking about school vision, values and mission, different Campuses and participating to make the school a better place to be
All inset days are positive. We held a trust conference which had inspirational speakers, workshops, research based training and leadership training. Unfortunately not all staff could access this as there is a need to keep on top of the earlier mentioned statutory training
Visiting our counterpart future academy colleagues and sharing good practice
To provide a safe and productive learning environment many special schools have to have additional expertise at hand to support pupils with care and medical needs.
It is clear from the responses that staff in special schools see this expertise as essential to delivering an excellent education to pupils. However, as a system we need to consider the following:
What it is reasonable to expect education professionals to do, as opposed to nurses and other professionals?
How do we ensure that these staff can safely and confidently meet the medical and care needs of pupils with complex needs, whilst also having opportunities to maintain and develop their educational expertise?
If you’d like to participate in future Whole School SEND surveys or polls, or access our free training opportunities then join our community of practice.
- The survey ran from the 26th of October until the 11th of November
- Duplicate responses were removed
- There were 260 respondents
- This is not a representative sample, but we still think the results are interesting!