Exloring inclusion.

Supporting students with SEN during lockdown – My notes from a Podcast with Craig Barton

Recently I was a guest on Craig Barton’s Podcast here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/s53nrchw117965h/TfH%208%20-%20Jules%20Daulby.mp3?dl=0 

I was talking about Supporting children with SEN during lockdown. 

Below are my ‘stream of consciousness’ notes which I thought might be useful.


Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself?


  • I’m currently Head of English in a special school. Previously I’ve worked in most phases, jobs and types of schools from primary to FE and mainstream secondary to an advisory teacher for an LA and head of a speech and language base. I’m also a co-founder of @WomenEd, governor in a first school, involved in union work and was a Labour councillor candidate in a predominantly Tory area – failed miserably but it was to be expected.  I am part of an abolitionist group called No More Exclusions and support the Lose the Booths campaign.  I’m slightly obsessed with inclusion and social equity and I’m a bit like marmite to people of twitter, loved by some but blocked by others! I’m married with four children, a dog called Jasper, a water turtle and a fish.   I also went to a secondary modern and am myself neuro-diverse so have my own learning differences.



  • How does the challenge of supporting students with SEN during school closures differ to supporting non-SEN students?


Firstly, students with special needs vary as much as their typically developing peers and as usual, one size does not fit all BUT…


Students with SEN by their definition need reasonable adjustments and barriers removed to help them learn in an equitable way.  That means being able to access the curriculum and record their knowledge meaning teachers will need to think carefully about the materials they give out.  In school, this is often in the form of scaffolding and verbal help from teachers and TAs.  You can already see how this will create a different experience from a learner who finds learning relatively easy. There may also be help at home but some children will have adults who may have a similar learning difficulty so be aware of this.


You are unlikely to be able to send a workbook home and expect a student with SEN to complete it in the same way as a higher attaining pupil. Obviously this will change for different subjects; I’m thinking of a relatively high attaining art student with SEN who will flourish at art but may struggle and need adaptations for English or maths.  Others may require more support for all subjects.

It must also be said that some pupils with special needs might be finding this less stressful than school and if materials are accessible, doing really well.  I’m delivering a YouTube spelling group (link below) and some of my students are waiting in the livestream ‘lounge’ ready with pen and paper! So it isn’t always that they won’t do work, we might just need to find out if it’s that they ‘can’t’ and that will be around access.


Children with SEN may also have more anxiety than others and be less confident which can affect them in different ways.  For example risk taking – people think of things like bungee jumping for risk taking and underestimate the fear of reading out loud in class or even having a teacher hover over their shoulder while they write.  Children can be risk averse when they are anxious and changes in circumstance or subject could be enough to create overload or shut down.  One child may be running along in your lesson quite nicely until you start a new scheme of work – suddenly you see behaviour or refusal – this is likely to be anxiety led as they’re out of their comfort zone and it’s something different that they may fail at.  This will be around confidence and risk-taking – starting something unfamiliar with all the risks of failure.  So with this in mind, you can imagine how lockdown could affect this type of child.  If they have attachment issues, the child may need more attention, if they have poor experiences with academic work and fear failure, they will do less or may come across as not doing anything.  If they have ADHD or ASD, they are out of routine and may become overwhelmed. Some children see school as school and home as home so will find having to do school work at home is the equivalent of me asking you to cook on a camping stove in your bedroom when there’s a perfectly good hob downstairs in the kitchen!

For this type of child social stories are extremely useful. I’ve done one for you!

(Carol Gray – Social stories link – School Work at Home). Such simple stories must not be confused with pupils having lower cognition.  Some of your highest attaining children with autism need simple language about social situations – this is their special need, not quadratic equations for example.Think about the simplicity of the language, the before and now, and also note that homework is not mentioned – this situation is too different.  Towards the end it mentions people who can help which is important as they may not let anyone help because they’re not teachers.

Example of a social story – each paragraph is a separate page in PowerPoint using pictures of your school environment and pupils.


Year 5 isn’t a Place. This Is Okay. (picture of their class or, if older tutor group)


I am in year 5 in Mr Barton’s classroom at Barton School. As long as I am in year 5, I am in Mr Barton’s class even when I am not in his classroom, too! That’s because year 5 isn’t a place.


This school year, I am in year 5 wherever I go. I am in year 5 at school, home, and the shops; and on Saturdays, Sundays, and during the holidays, too! Being in year 5 means that I am part of a group of kids who are about the same age and learning similar things.


We started year 5 in a classroom. Mr Barton gave us work to practise new skills. He marked our work to be sure that we understood.


Now there is a pandemic. Pandemics happen once in a very long while. A pandemic is when many people in a large area become sick. COVID-19 is a virus that is moving around the world from one person to another.


Since 23rd March  people began staying home from school and work to stay safe from COVID-19 and keep it from spreading. Barton School closed to keep students healthy. It took adults a few weeks to decide the best place for children to finish their school year.


Adults have decided the safest place for children to be for now is at home. Mr Barton’s classroom is closed. This is okay. Year 5 is open. Working at home is another way to be in year 5.


Just like before the pandemic, Mr Barton gives us maths work to practise new skills, and marks our work to be sure that we understand.


Our carers, mums, dads, grandparents, or older brothers or sisters may help, too. When they were younger, they learned the skills that we are learning now. They may know how to help if we are confused or stuck.


Mr Barton is teaching us all that we need to know to finish year 5. That way, we’ll be ready to start year 6!


Returning to anxiety, for some, they may need  as much ‘comfort zone’ working as possible as their risk taking ability diminishes with anxiety and change.  Errorless learning in maths for example is a great strategy for some learners. This doesn’t mean it has to be easy just familiar.  And repeating something they can do over and over again is great for retention and retrieval – repetition is a good thing –  learning science is ticked but so too is comfort for what we call the risk averse child.


Other challenges are working independently – if they’ve been used to having lots of support in their learning, this may feel a scary time.  Don’t forget it’s about the learning process not task completion.  The MITA (Maximising the Impact of TAs) study found that children with 1:1 support were often found to experience task completion pressure for various reasons and therefore made less progress than those who were independently going through the learning process (even if they didn’t finish the task).


  • Students with which specific needs require the most support during this time?


Ones who struggle to learn independently – and it’s important to say this.  Some children with SEN are brilliant learners and are learning at the max – more than any other children.  They work and they work and must be rewarded for this.  There may be other students who are higher attaining but are just not good studiers – I’m thinking about learners with ADHD regarding lacking structure. They are likely to get overwhelmed very quickly then get angry and throw their laptop across the room! Some with ASD may need to spend time on their special interest to reduce anxiety.

Those with oral language difficulties (SLCN/DLD) will need explicit teaching and those with literacy difficulties should cope (if they haven’t been too traumatised and have become a behaviour issue rather than a learning one) if they have assistive technology.

A word about those with what we call ‘development language diffs’ – it’s similar to dyslexia but for spoken and receptive language rather than reading and writing.  They are common in classrooms and yet hidden and often haven’t been picked up.  Be very aware of this type of student as they may have coped by using their friends – e.g. the type of child who nods while you’re explaining and then turns to their friend and says ‘what have we got to do?’ – these type of children (in fact children with ADHD may need similar but for different reasons) may need a study buddy to get them through, so regular contact and ensuring they have someone they can study with who they feel comfortable to study alongside.




Good practice

  • What kind of things might schools/teachers do that you think are not a good idea?

Give out the same work – e.g. a big workbook and ask them to work through it

Give out work for younger children – age inappropriate

Give our work which needs an adult at home to help them every step of the way

Threaten them with detentions, isolation when they get back to school

Some families may need you to speak to their child not to threaten them but to ask what’s stopping them work and what you can do to help

  • What examples of good practice from schools and teachers have you heard about?

Loads – I’ve never been prouder to be a teacher than now – I mean how innovate are teachers? In a few days, we were drowning in amazing resources from all over the place – incredible.


Some great things I’ve heard: of Susan Douglas told me about the ‘Eden Academy parent forum’ which is amazing – link at the bottom.


Aditi Singh gave me some great examples from her alternative provision – risk assessments which include parent/carer voice – what will learning look like? Checking home situations and equipment – included a call tracker to ensure regular phone calls and check-ins with students and families who need a bit more. Online mentoring, counselling for parents – all sorts of incredible offers.


Gary Spracklen from Prince of Wales first school in Dorchester –the most inclusive mainstream school you’ll see had his incredible caretaker delivering work packs, furniture and chrome books to homes – he’s doing lots of virtual lessons and even whole school assemblies.



  • What are your favourite resources/ideas/activities to use during school closures?

Personally I’ve used Lift Science lessons on vocabulary – free

My #SpellingwithJules lessons (shameless plug!)

My 11 yr old twins find the Maths apps very easy to use and feel they’ve done their maths – MyMaths and TT Rockstars– that’s the most consistent thing

Read Theory (English – reading tests and comprehension)


BBC bitesize

And I really love the video classes – I was shown one for complex special need children by Molly Bertrand which is lovely (link below).


Anything which is clear and easy to use and no more than 30 mins.


If I had learners who need it, this is also the perfect time to become acquainted with assistive technology.  The accessibility function on phones, ipads and laptops – text to speech and speech to text.  Predictive text, Grammarly.  Some others in the Microsoft suite – Immersive Reader is incredible and so is Office Lens.  Just typing and using spell checker is pretty liberating for many children.




  • Do you think anything positive in terms of teaching practice will come out of this experience?

I had an online governors meeting with my Cerne Abbas first school this week and I think the head there summed it up when she said – if there’s one thing which changes from this is that teachers have had the time to be creative and really concentrate on the needs of their learners with far less external pressure such as accountability measures and marking.  The time to sit back and think strategically about learning for classes is a real luxury and it shouldn’t be, it should be part of our timetable.  Non-contact time should be sitting in a dark room and just thinking!


Kids who are in isolation, excluded regularly – do you know them better? How can you build on this when you get back? Can you see why they might be disruptive now? Have you considered the intersection between race and SEND.  Boys from black Carribean heritage are likely to be excluded more than white counterparts – are you seeing your students through a different lens during this time?


  • What general advice do you have for teachers of SEN students during school closures?



Visual visual visual – draw, dual code, let them draw – it helps communication and memory

Lists lists lists  – bullet points – now and then – first I do this next I do this

Time – remember slower processing and adapt – less is more where quality is rewarded

Repetition – as much as possible

Language – clarify don’t simplify – reduce carrier language but keep subject specific

Narrative – who, where, what, when, why, how

Chunkety chunk chunk

Presentation – distraction free

Be careful on assessment – are you assessing what they know or their literacy skills, retrieval ability, poor working memory?


Main SEN behaviours and things which will help

Executive function – sequencing – concept mapping, categorise, sorting

Short term Memory – chunking, visuals, triggers

Attention and focus – achievable lists/targets – timed – distraction free work station

Retrieval – triggers, choices e.g. Capulet or Montague not who is Romeo’s family?

Feeling overwhelmed – chunk and reduce load

Impulsivity – flexibility around work – may do really well at 2am if they’re in the groove- that’s OK during lockdown!

Phonological awareness – hearing sounds, rhyme, playing with words – listen and read the lovely language books – even ones without words – the story, the narrative, what’s not said


Reading Skills

Activate prior knowledge








Language – clarify don’t simplify – clearer not easier



  • How about parents?

It’s hard to advise parents as they are the expert in their child but I would say don’t feel under too much pressure (see Special Needs Jungle article link below). Remember we’re in an unusual position now and all of us need to care for our mental health.  Also think about invisible learning – one of my children grabbed a rock from our garden yesterday and painted the most amazing pattern – another was hungry and made a packet pasta but she read the instructions, worked out the fluids and temperature and between her and ‘Alexa’ they made it independently.  I heard her tell a friend on Facetime later how proud she was to have made it.  So let their interests flourish and seek the learning in it.  Be kind to yourself too.


Free links

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.