If you are familiar with Axcis and our fundraising efforts, you’ll know that we do our best to support a range of different charitable organisations. We are long-term sponsors of the National Autistic Society and nasen and are also currently supporting Sky Badger. This week, our team got involved with Macmillan Cancer Support by taking part in the world’s biggest coffee morning. Find out more and check out how we got on here.
Who are Macmillan Cancer Support?
Macmillan Cancer Support is one of the largest British charities and provides specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer. It also looks at the social, emotional and practical impact cancer can have, and campaigns for better cancer care.
What is the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning?
The worlds biggest coffee morning is Macmillan’s biggest fundraising event. People all over the UK host their own Coffee Mornings and donations on the day are made to Macmillan. The official date for the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Friday 25 September, but you can hold yours whenever and however you like – even if you’re not in the same room as your guests! In 2019, they raised an incredible £27.5m for cancer support.
Our staff like to take part in this event every year, and 2020 was no exception! Despite the challenges of many of our team working from home, they pulled together and made it work! Keep an eye on our social media pages to find out how much they raised. In the meantime, why not enjoy some photos of them taking part?
As proud sponsors of nasen, Axcis are thrilled to be able to offer one of their new SEND CPDL Annual Webinar Passes worth £200 to one lucky winner! Find out all about the exciting new webinar offerings from nasen here, as well as how you can be in with a chance of winning one.
Who are nasen?
Nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) is a charitable membership organisation that supports all education practitioners by providing relevant Continuing Professional Development and Learning (CPDL), resources, advice, information and much more to enable staff to meet the needs of all pupils including pupils with learning differences.
What is a nasen SEND CPDL Annual Webinar Pass?
Our partners at nasen understand how difficult it can be to get out of the classroom to attend face-to-face training, or to pick and choose between so many different online CPDL opportunities, that’s why they are excited to announce the launch of their new SEND CPDL Annual Webinar Pass!
If you can’t wait to see if you have won a pass, and would like to buy one instead, you can do so here. This new Webinar Pass will provide you with great value for money – with at least 30 per academic year, making the cost per webinar just £7 or less!
How to access the webinars
To make things easy for you, when you sign up to the Annual Webinar Pass you will automatically be registered onto all of the eligible webinars by nasen. They will then be sure to email you with details of all their webinars and provide the access details meaning you don’t need to do a thing! And what’s more, if you don’t have time to attend the live webinar, you will be able to retrospectively access the full recording. If you would like some more information about this pass then please email: email@example.com
Many schools are up to their necks in risk assessments in an attempt to keep their staff and students as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. But where does this leave you with regard to supply staff and is it still safe to book temporary teachers and support workers?
What are the main
questions/concerns schools have and how are we addressing this at Axcis?
1 – Where
have they been recently?
With track and trace being at the forefront of many risk assessments, one of the major considerations when hiring a member of supply staff is, “where have they been?” School leaders may be concerned with whether that person has recently returned from a high risk country/city or whether they have been in contact with large groups of people in recent days.
Axcis solution: We
are suggesting that schools which have a frequent need for day to day supply
teaching/support cover should consider hiring a long-term staff member from an
agency rather than booking ad-hoc staff on the day/the day before. That member
of staff can then provide float cover as and when needed and be a consistent
presence within the school (which would also work a lot better for many SEND
children who thrive on continuity as well!) On days when cover is not required,
they can assist with one to one intervention or support work. Plus, if you find
that your need for supply dries up, you are under no obligation to keep that
member of staff on indefinitely.
To support schools wishing to go down this route, Axcis are thrilled to offer a 10% discount* as our way of trying to help out during this difficult time. Get in touch with your local office to find out more.
We will of course also be following all track and trace
requirements in-house and following the evolving government guidance to the
2 – Are
staff members properly trained with regard to PPE and hygiene?
In order to keep schools open and functioning, it is crucial for staff and pupils to maintain social distancing where possible, demonstrate effective personal hygiene and know how to use PPE correctly. This will help control the spread of the virus and keep schools open.
all candidates registering with us are being given a personal bottle of hand
sanitiser and a hygiene keyring. This will not only minimise the amount of
contact they have with switches, buttons, handles, etc. It will also provide them with the ability to
clean their hands at regular intervals, whether or not they are near a sink or
bottles of sanitiser being provided by the settings. In addition to this, we
have provided all Axcis staff with access to FREE training on effective hand
washing and use of PPE. We feel that we have done the best we possibly can to
help schools feel reassured that our staff will be well prepared to help
prevent the spread of infection in any setting they work in.
3 – Where
does the staff member live?
The government has made it abundantly clear that a nationwide school lockdown this winter will be highly unlikely. Instead, local lockdowns will be the way many areas will tackle outbreaks of the virus. However, for schools this can pose a problem. What if they have staff members who travel from an area in which a local lockdown is imposed? Will they be unable to come to work? If this happens, schools could find themselves short-staffed at a moments notice.
Axcis solution: At
Axcis, we always try to find you staff who live as close as possible to your
school. This will help to mitigate the risk of losing staff members during
local lockdowns outside of the school borough.
4 – Will
staff still receive CPD training during COVID-19?
Many school leaders may be wondering whether teachers and support staff hired through agencies are still receiving ongoing CPD training during the pandemic. This is a valid concern as the importance of continued professional development training is well recognised throughout the sector.
Axcis solution: At Axcis, we are working hard to offer online training. Our partners at nasen are offering CPD for the whole year for a one-off price of just £200 for an annual webinar pass (making each session only about £7.) This is something that they are able to offer in part due to our sponsorship of them, and we will be actively encouraging our candidates to take up the offer. In addition to this, Axcis are offering online training via Flexbee and direct CPD sessions to candidates via Zoom conferencing. In this way, we hope to continue to up-skill our candidates for their own benefit as well as that of the schools they are working in.
Do you need
SEND teaching or support staff?
With these factors in mind, we hope that we have put your mind at rest that we can still continue to service your SEND staffing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, if you need any teaching or support staff, why not get in touch today to see how we can help you?
*Terms and conditions apply – please contact us for more
What makes a great TA (teaching assistant)? This blog looks at qualifications and experience Vs personality and attitude… what’s more important and could YOU be our next top teaching assistant waiting to be discovered?
What does a teaching assistant do?
To understand what makes a great TA, it is first important to understand what a teaching assistant actually does. The role can vary greatly from setting to setting but the core duties often remain the same. You may be providing general in-class support. This means keeping a proactive eye out for students who look like they are struggling to stay on task and gently reminding them of the class rules and assisting them in completing their work. Or it may be that the class teacher would want you to sit with a particular individual or group to complete a task which is modified to suit the abilities of that child/group. The teacher may also utilise the teaching assistant by splitting the class into smaller groups to do more intensive activities with one adult taking charge of each activity and the class/groups cycling between the different adults to complete different tasks. Then there is one to one reading or literacy/numeracy support or a host of other activities which the teaching assistant may be asked to get involved with in order to meet the individual learning needs of students.
Special needs teaching assistant duties
A dedicated special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) teaching assistant may perform a role which bridges the gap between education and healthcare to a greater degree than a mainstream/general teaching assistant. For example, by supporting children with limited mobility by using hoists or helping them with personal care needs, administration of medications or helping with eating meals. There may also be non-verbal students in need of support, so teaching assistants with additional communication skills can be invaluable. This can range from full use of British Sign Language to more moderate use of systems such as Makaton or PECs – which often aim to support partially verbal children until they are confident/able to communicate more fully using verbal skills. The demands made of special needs teaching assistants can vary as much as the needs of the students themselves and to attempt to detail them all here would involve writing a book rather than a blog – but suffice to say, there is a huge range of knowledge and skills that can be of great value to specialist schools when seeking support staff.
What about personality?
A teaching assistant can look amazing on paper but perform very poorly in the classroom – and vice versa. This just goes to show that it’s not just about academic knowledge or practical experience. There is also a huge consideration to be made for someone’s personality and attitude when performing the role of the teaching assistant. Any adult working with children can consider that they are putting themselves in the position of being a role model. On this basis, there are a host of more practical implications which (in my opinion) are often as important or possibly even MORE important than the academic qualifications a person holds, or their work experience (although admittedly the two often go hand in hand). The traits we look for in our staff are as follows:
Reliability – children often respond best when they know what is happening on a day to day basis. This means that staff who often turn up late, call in sick or flit from job to job can cause distress and academic or emotional set backs for children – especially those who are particularly sensitive to change such as those on the autism spectrum. Reliability is therefore a trait which we hold in very high regard at Axcis.
Compassion – working with children can be challenging at times and as a result, staff members who are compassionate, empathetic individuals are usually more likely to be able to put themselves into the shoes of the child and offer support which feels real and builds a true connection. This is an important step towards forming a trusting relationship with children to facilitate getting the best out of them and really helping them to succeed in all that they do.
Resilience – when children exhibit challenging behaviour, support staff need to be able to maintain their own emotional state if they are to provide effective support. Resilience is therefore a really valuable quality in any individual working with children – but especially with care and support staff. Similarly, you may be in a situation working with children who have life-shortening conditions. In some of the schools we work with, staff may be required to deal with the death of a child who they have been supporting. To do so with grace and an ability to continue to support other children and individuals in the setting will mean that a degree of resilience is also of great value in these situations.
Do you fit the bill?
If reading this article has made you think that you could indeed be our next top teaching assistant, then why not get in touch with us or register online? You could also try our quiz to confirm if TA work is right for you.
Refer a friend and earn up to £250 in shopping vouchers
If you do not feel that teaching assistant work is up your street, but you know someone else who might be interested, why not refer them to us? If they complete 20 days of work, you will earn some shopping vouchers as a thank you. The more people you refer – the more you earn! Find out more about our referral scheme here.
Graham Chatterley has kindly provided this guest post for the Axcis blog. Graham is an ex-special school leader, father, SEND consultant and trainer. In this blog he discusses how children will often communicate their needs through challenging behaviour, and that if we take the time to decipher this, we can offer life-changing support.
I understand that being proactive is expensive. There are those in education who question whether behaviour is communication, those who acknowledge it but don’t believe it can be understood successfully and those that say some children are too ‘far gone’ for a mainstream setting. The truth is that there will always be children who will need a specialist provision and what they have to offer but my experience when I was a school leader was that a lot of the children didn’t need to be in one. Their behaviours were extreme and they wouldn’t be able to cope in mainstream now, because of failure and previous missed opportunities. But with the right interventions at the right time they would have. Behaviour hadn’t been seen as communicating and nobody had looked at the underlying causes so these children had been forced to find their own ways to cope. The ways they ask for help aren’t always obvious and often they take up more time – but sometimes children have something really important to say and have a really strange way of saying it. Sometimes we have to be detectives!
Lee was socially awkward, stubborn as a mule and openly negative about school. He felt like nobody understood him and to a degree he was probably right. Lee had had an unsettled week, it wasn’t unlike him to be oppositional and withdrawn but he was being so more than usual. He had had an altercation with the Headteacher earlier in the day and was struggling to move past it. I met him in the corridor where one of the teaching assistants was struggling with him. I offered a change of face for Lee and tried to engage him in a conversation. It can be hit and miss but he liked superhero movies and a few days earlier we’d had a conversation about the Shazam film. On this occasion he was having none of it and was adamant I should send him home. When I said I didn’t want to he said he’d get sent home. This was immediately strange to me because Lee wasn’t adverse to absconding and if he really wanted to go he would have gone. He had taken a screw about an inch long out of the wall and started to threaten to stab me with it. When I still wouldn’t send him home he poked me with it. I still didn’t believe he wanted to go so I offered him the door. If he chose to go we would deal with that later but I wasn’t going to send him. He continued poking me but without any force, Lee was capable of being quite violent but he wasn’t being that way – it was like he was testing my response. I asked him if he wanted to tell me something. The fact he didn’t say no gave me my answer and I suggested going to my office. To my surprise he followed. We sat but he didn’t speak. I let him sit quietly while I started to do some work on the computer and he started to mess with my phone. I share an office with Debs and he started to mess with her stuff on her desk. I turned off my computer screen and looked at him “do you want to tell me something?” He said nothing but his eyes said something else. Debs, as she often did read the room and made an excuse to leave. It is at this point he disclosed some significant safeguarding concerns!
It had all been a test to see if I was trustworthy enough to tell his secret to. He’d tested other people that day but they had focussed on the behaviour. Having prescriptive behaviour policies based on actions would have meant I had to challenge the threats, I would have had to demand or take the screw, I would have had to threaten consequences when he messed with equipment. All of which would have escalated the situation and failed his test, he would have never made his disclosure.
The truth is that behaviour is a form of communication and we all speak it, sometimes we have to work a little harder to decipher it. It can be argued we have to stick to policies. It can be argued, ‘What message does it send to other children?’ When they see Lee behave that way and nothing be done and it can be argued that we don’t have time for this kind of message. But that hour I invested in Lee that day means he talked to me, he trusts me and he’s invested in me. I am the part of the school that passed his test and now he is invested in the school. That one hour out of class has meant so many more hours in class, a huge reduction in negative behaviour and so much more work produced.
Nobody can convince me that it is a wasted hour!
Let them fly
All to often we support children by insulating them and doing things for them. We put off seeking funding for real support because they might be OK, we don’t want a label or that without failing first we can’t get a diagnosis or appropriate funding to provide the support. If we do get support, it is needed for the entirety of their school life and having it there means that we may be helping them to avoid stressful experiences. We often do this with the best intentions but the result may be that we are not preparing them for the future or giving them the resilience to succeed when the support inevitably is removed.
Wouldn’t it be better to give the support early and then withdraw it? As I write this and look back at my role, I realise that the more successful I was the less I was needed. Children who I would spend hours and hours with at the beginning would integrate, become part of the school family and I would no longer be needed. I’d be going to them rather than the other way round.
The term ‘one of a kind’ gets used too much – but Ethan really was! I’ve never met anyone like him before and I’m not sure I ever will again. I’m sure I will one day see him on TV. Confidence, showmanship and wickedly funny, but it wasn’t always like that. At the beginning it was incredibly tough. Never having felt safe in school, never having belonged and never feeling understood. School was a tough place for Ethan. Littered with misunderstanding and failure, it filled him with anxiety and frustration. He would often get things wrong in and out of class but not understand why he had upset people. He hated anyone thinking badly of him but regularly added to this with failed explanations. I would often spend time unpicking and explaining situations. It was time consuming, deeply frustrating and at times felt pointless. However it wasn’t – not only because it showed Ethan I was there for him, willing to listen and had his back but also because it gave me the clues I could cascade to staff to help them understand and adapt their practice to meet his needs. My breakthrough with Ethan came when I bumped into him by chance, very distressed having been sent out of PE. My conversation with him went a little like this;
Me: “Ethan you seem very upset about something can I help?”
Ethan: “Everybody hates me”
Me: “I’m sure that’s not the case, tell me what happened?”
Ethan: “I didn’t get it”
Me: “what didn’t you get?”
Ethan: “I didn’t get it and he sent me out”
Me: “What didn’t you get?”
Ethan: “I didn’t get it and when I said I didn’t get it he said I was being silly”
Me: “What were you being asked to do?”
Ethan: “when I said I wasn’t being silly and that I didn’t get it he sent me out for answering back”
Me: “Ethan can you stay here whilst I go and find out, I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding.”
I knew that if I pursued this in this way I would be going round in circles. When I spoke to the PE teacher, he was teaching badminton serving. The method of teaching for this was to practice serving at a target on the other side of the net rather than an opponent. Very common and taught this way in schools up and down the country. When Ethan had said he didn’t understand, the teacher had repeated the instruction, then felt Ethan was trying to avoid and eventually felt he was disruptive enough to send out. Ethan’s eventual explanation connected the dots. Badminton was a game for two people who hit the shuttle back and forth. What is the point of hitting it over the net if there is nobody on the other side to hit it back? ‘I don’t get it’ had nothing to do with what he was being asked but everything to do with why he was being asked to do it. Ethan had to know why he was being asked to do something and how it benefited him to learn it. Knowing the importance of this to Ethan meant that I knew how to approach my conversations with him – meaning less time going round in circles but most importantly, I could share this information with staff to aid their own explanations of tasks. Hours spent with Ethan became minutes at a time, 5 times a day became 5 times a week, became 5 times a month. The intense support initially given to Ethan wasn’t needed because we had understanding and empathy to support him better. We had a sequence of support to work through and he thrived. Staff knew how to work with him and it improved his academic performance. His confidence increased and the child who had had no confidence was rapping on corridors at break time, wowing other kids with magic tricks and having staff in stitches. He was far from perfect but a completely different child. It took us until year 11 to get Ethan’s ASD diagnosis. If we had waited for that before supporting him, he would never have completed school. He didn’t need one to one support, insulated from situations and things done for him. He needed things explaining differently. A reasonable adjustment that could have been done early in his school life preventing all the negativity from ever happening.
All aboard! Last stop
I used to work hard at teaching emotional literacy to my pupils. I always believed that if they had a better understanding of why they were behaving the way they were behaving then it would result in less shame and more opportunities to build self-esteem. The barrier that I would come up against is that emotional literacy is very hard to learn. Especially for our children who had a wide range of communication difficulties. Add to this the fact we very rarely feel things in isolation, that some feelings are very similar to other things and when in the moment we are feeling these things, we probably aren’t thinking well enough to recognise them.
One thing I did use to try to aid this process was the Aggression Train Line, learned in training (pardon the pun) with Rob Long.
Another thing Rob Long had said in that early training session was that low self-esteem leads to frustration which leads to anger. I then added aggression to that as an end destination. They became stations on a train line. It gave both me and the children a visual with a clear starting point that unchecked has a clear end point. The speed of the train will vary but it’s a journey I have watched hundreds of children take. We could use it in the moment to see where they thought they were or we could analyse events to see what happened at different points and try to pinpoint the moment when they were no longer in control of their own train.
The idea for the children that there are times when someone else is driving their train or it’s become a runaway is important for working with shame and for re-building that self-esteem. The outcome of aggression is still not OK but we can focus on what got us there, not the outcome. When the focus is on the process rather than the end result the child can start to identify how to maintain control or where they can regain it.
For many children it wasn’t as much about identifying the
emotional feelings as it was the physical symptoms that go with them. Tension,
tummy ache, faster HR or breathing etc can all be associated with feeling and
place them somewhere on the train line. The use of bottom up rather than top
down is a powerful tool for children who struggle with emotional literacy.
Getting them off the
Our first aim from an intervention perspective is to get them off the train. Definitely preferable to the aggression at the end of the line we can have interventions that stop the momentum.
However which station we get them off makes a huge difference
To get them off at anger we probably have very limited interventions. We are probably looking at a removal from class that may take time to get them out, may be disruptive to other learners and may take even longer to get them back into class. I mentioned earlier we don’t manage anger so the impact on learning at this point is a very large one.
Preferable to anger but still disruptive. The process of chemicals being released has still begun as has the runaway train. We may well have more options in relation to interventions in terms of time outs, distractions etc which will be quicker than with an angry child but it is still going to impact on learning.
Station Low -Self Esteem
At this point the child is still in control of the train. We have a multitude of fast interventions to get them back on track; small interactions that might distract, re-focus or big them up or reminding of successes as they start to worry about failure might take seconds of investment by us but gets them off the train before it picks up momentum.
I focussed on these three feelings as my stations but there are so many other things that they might be feeling. However whatever these are they are leading to one of the stations; Jealousy might lead to anger, disappointment to frustration, sadness to low-self esteem. Whatever we identify we can work out where they are and what we need to do to get them off the train before they reach aggression.
The hope is that with teaching and practice they can get themselves off the train. That in the future a hand goes up in class and ‘Miss I feel really angry can I go for a walk outside’, ‘Sir I feel very tense can I have a time out?’ or ‘I feel really anxious can I go talk to ………………’. Children recognising their own feelings and having strategies is them managing those feelings before anger and aggression.
Sometimes despite everybody’s best efforts we can’t get them off the train. How we respond is paramount. In my experience children are often devastated and disappointed in themselves. It is vital we separate guilt and shame. We need that child to feel guilty about the action, we want them to be motivated to repair it and we want them to analyse what went wrong with us so we can both learn what to do next time.
What we don’t want them to do is blame themselves and believe that it will keep happening. If the aggression becomes inevitable then getting them off the train becomes much harder.
There are 3 feelings I always keep separate. Anxiety and
fear responses can take us anywhere on that train line at any time. The other
one is grief which is extraordinarily complex,
an emotion everyone processes differently and can change all the time.
Especially if it is linked to bereavement. We must have an extra awareness of
Even better than getting them off the train and dealing with the fallout is driving it with them or getting them driving their own train. Without support the bottom line is inevitably what will happen but it doesn’t have to be a runaway train.
In all my time I’ve worked with a huge range of children. Those with ASD needs, ADHD, Trauma, speech and communication difficulties, sound and visual processing difficulties. Despite being incredibly different in practically every way, they all had one thing in common. From the day they arrived at school their self esteem was rock bottom. They might hide it with behaviour or mask it with fake confidence but they each started the same journey. The question for us was could we work together to switch the tracks.
Graham is a regular contributor to the Axcis blog and has recently released a book called Building Better Behaviour – why not get yourself a copy?
Our September giveaway offers you the opportunity to win a personalised, signed copy of Dr Emily Lovegrove (AKA The Bullying Doctor’s) recently released book; “Autism, Bullying and Me”. This is a fantastic resource that offers supportive, practical advice for managing bulling issues. Find out more about this wonderful resource as well as how you can be in with a chance of winning a signed copy here.
About the prize
In a recent blog for Axcis, Emily told us all about why she chose to write this book. Aimed at parents, autistic teens and their teachers, it provides a loving, practical approach to building self esteem, understanding how others think and vanquishing bullying. We think that you’ll agree that this publication is a valuable addition to the anti bulling materials out there.
How to enter
To enter our free monthly giveaway and be in with a chance of winning a personalised, signed copy of Autism, Bullying and Me, you can either take a quick peek at our Facebook page, Tweet us, or sign up on our website for work and you’ll be in with a chance to win. Follow the link below and you’ll be sent to our third party giveaway page (run on there to keep things fair and square) – where you can choose your method of entry and get your name in the hat for this great prize!
As the leading agency dedicated to the recruitment of special educational needs and disabilities teaching and support staff, we are pleased to announce that Axcis has agreed to continue to sponsor nasen until 2024 (and hopefully beyond!) Find more about this partnership and how it can benefit you here.
About the Axcis and nasen partnership
The National Association of Special Educational Needs (nasen) is the UK’s leading organisation supporting those who work with or care for children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities. Nasen supports all staff including SENCOs, leaders, teachers, governors and teaching assistants in meeting the needs of the pupils in schools and other settings through promoting education, training, and development.
Nasen also reaches a huge readership through their journals: British Journal of Special Education, Support for Learning, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs and the magazine nasen Connect.
Axcis has been supporting nasen for a number of years and our relationship has gone from strength to strength. From sponsoring key events and exhibitions to contributing to publications and the SEND Gateway, a valuable online resource for SEND professionals, Axcis is pleased to be affiliated with an organisation doing such great work. Our partners had this to say about the relationship:
“For almost 30 years, nasen has been committed to providing the most effective and relevant support for all those working with children and young people with SEND. We are extremely delighted to continue this long-standing partnership with Axcis and with their support over the next 3 years, I am confident we can further enhance our support, advice and guidance for the SEND workforce.”
Prof. Adam Boddison CEO
Extension of the partnership
We have just agreed to extend our partnership with nasen until 2024 (and we hope that it will continue beyond this, too!) This means that this wonderful organisation has funding to help continue some of the initiatives we have supported, such as the nasen awards and nasen Live – a key event for many in the SEND industry. There are also lots of other exciting ideas on the cards such as online training opportunities so watch this space for more information and opportunities for you to get involved with!
Graham Chatterley has kindly provided this guest post for the Axcis blog. Graham is an ex-special school leader, father, SEND consultant and trainer. In this blog he discusses how the period of lockdown and school closure may have affected children who struggle with social and emotional issues and how we may support them effectively when they return to school.
Nobody asked for this, nobody wanted it and nobody had any control over it. It was without question schools had to close to the majority of children and it was the right thing to do. It was the logical thing to do.
That’s easy to understand for adults who can use logic and see the big picture. They have fully developed brains, are designed to be less egocentric than adolescents and have better skills to take on another person’s point of view. The problem is that for many of our children; especially the vulnerable and the ones with poor communication skills, they don’t use our level of logic or see the bigger picture. They see their personal picture and in that image, we (as education practitioners) left them. They trusted us and we abandoned them. They wanted to see us every day and we rejected them and told them not to come to see us.
Many teachers did their best to keep in contact or provided online classes which will have helped. However, for many of our children, we provide their safe place, we are their trusted adult, their primary caregiver and for many the impact of losing us is a trauma that will have damaged the relationships. In some more extreme cases we may have even sent some to an unsafe place putting them at risk and giving the belief we don’t care. In reality we may have been having daily conversations with social workers and making repeated welfare calls but they won’t be aware of this.
It will not be a smooth transition back to school for these children. Many are likely to display attachment-like behaviours which we need to be prepared for. We associate attachment with parents or caregivers who are abusive or inconsisent or emotionally absent and we had filled that gap for them. Then we were the absent caregiver; we have through no fault of our own triggered or caused that attachment distress.
So what should we expect?
Attention seeking behaviour usually occurs because a parent has been inconsistent. Sometimes loving, other times not. A child will take what attention/connection they can get. ‘I don’t know when you are going to be available so I will keep you here all the time’. Children who hang of your leg when they are little or need constant reassurance, ask countless pointless questions and want you to check every answer may be struggling with attachment issues.
However, this time it is us who left them and we might leave them again. They will need as much of your time as they can get in case it goes away again. This is made even harder because we can’t reassure them because we simply don’t know. We could have a ‘second wave’, schools could close again and we could be separated with little notice. We have to understand this child’s anxiety and validate it. If we tell them that the COVID-19 pandemic has gone away and that we won’t be going anywhere again we do them a dis-service. Understanding and empathy of what they are feeling and working with the anxieties must take priority over academic work for this child.
‘I showed you that I care about you and you left me!’
Trust is a huge thing for many children, especially those who have been let down by adults before. If we have taken time to build trust with a pupil before this, we must be prepared to start that relationship again from scratch. There will be no picking up where we left off. If we tore down walls before, they are back up and probably higher. Feelings are a sign of weakness and a mistake that will not be repeated. Lockdown for this child is another rejection and the safest way to avoid being rejected, is to reject first. Expect this child to push you away, to sabotage everything that starts to go well. If they destroy it first at least they have something they can control.
‘It’s better to live in the comfort of misery, than to face the misery of uncertainty’, Virginia Satir
It might be lonely and it might be rubbish but at least I won’t be let down or hurt again!
If we want the relationship and trust back
with this child we have to face being pushed away and keep coming back. Accept
that they believe that adults can’t be trusted and focus their attentions on
fantasies or material goods because those things give an escape and won’t let
them down. Rebuilding that trust must take priority over academic work for this
‘You were supposed to keep me safe but you sent me to that house!’
Some of your children have only ever felt safe at school. You took that away from them and you made them unsafe. This child has been fully-focused on surviving throughout lockdown, They will return to school on high alert and possibly feeling angry. They may have been dis-regulated for long periods and the safety and trust built between you will have been eroded. If the child who is withdrawn has regressed in terms of trust, this child is even further back, feeling unsafe. We simply have to start again.
If we try to teach this child in a dis-regulated state, they will learn nothing. Children who perceive threat cannot think about anything other than survival. Our sole focus for this child is finding ways to regulate and make them feel safe. If we do that over time, we can regain their trust and once again get them to a place where they can learn.
progress and catching up
Lots has been said about gaps in learning and catching children up. This cannot be the focus! A wise man called Ben Slater said to me the other day that there is a lot of talk about children being school-ready, but the reality is, are school’s children-ready?
For children who stayed in school, bubbles forced us to change the way we worked. The smaller groups, more relational approach and less pressurised school environment actually led to children who would normally struggle thriving. The problem is we seem in such a hurry to return to how things were and this is going to be hard for many.
For others who were at home, there will be a great number of pupils who won’t be picking up where they left off and we should be cautious of expecting this. The truth is there will be a monumental gap between our children’s experiences and their readiness to return. A belief shared by many in education is that there must be a sustained period focused on repairing the loss of safety, trust and belonging for children before we return the focus to academic standardisation.
Are you anxious about returning to the classroom in the midst of COVID-19? How can you be as prepared as possible for the coming term? What training can you do to help you feel more ready for it? We have some suggestions for you here.
Keep up to date with government plans
Government plans for schools are continually evolving, so it would be misplaced to spell out exactly what you can expect by the time term starts. However, we can point you in the direction of where you can find the latest guidance and information for schools. The government website is updated regularly and is the most reliable source of information.
Liaise with school
If you have a job lined up at a specific school or provision, make sure you are in contact with them prior to the start of term to ensure that you know what their policies and procedures around coronavirus are. We are anticipating that many schools may also be looking to brief staff on the first day back, so if you are unable to contact your school directly before going back, try not to worry too much. Be assured that they will have been working away in the background to ensure that all staff and students have the safest environment possible.
Be PPE confident!
Many of the staff we recruit work with children who have profound special needs. This may include children with medical needs. Even in a mainstream school, you may have to use PPE in certain situations. It is therefore a great idea to make sure you understand how to use PPE safely. The World Health Organisation offer a free online course on this which will enhance both your own confidence as well as that of the people you are working with. If you turn up at school with a WHO certificate in using PPE, we are sure that the school leaders will be impressed, even if you don’t end up needing to use it!
Keep your hands clean
The mantra right from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to wash hands regularly, thoroughly and to use an alcohol-based sanitiser when hand washing facilities are not available/convenient. To help with this, Axcis will be issuing all candidates with a small, personal bottle of hand gel with a keyring clip so that it can be kept handy at all times and refilled when needed. The World Health Organisation also offers a free online hand hygiene course. It would be another useful certificate to be able to show at school to demonstrate that you are taking the pandemic seriously and doing all you can to minimise the spread.
Undertake additional training
In previous blogs, we introduced some training and resources that our charitable partners, the National Autistic Society and nasen have made available to help you negotiate your way through the COVID crisis. Other training offerings out there include a series of webinars from the TES. These webinars offer practical guidance to prepare you for September. These include sessions on supporting pupils with additional needs from Lorraine Petersen and Jane Friswell.
Minimise unnecessary contact with your surroundings
When at school, you will often be opening doors, operating light switches and using computer keyboards. With this in mind, Axcis will be providing contractors with a “hygiene hook keyring”. This is a hook shaped keyring which can be used to open doors without touching them. It also has a rounded tip on it for pressing buttons without the need for direct hand contact.
We hope that these suggestions and measures will help you to feel ready to return to the classroom in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. If you have any suggestions to add to this list, feel free to get in touch with us and let us know!
Are you looking for materials to support your special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) practice prior to your return to the classroom in September? Or perhaps you work with holiday schemes, residential homes or have children with special needs yourself. Whatever your situation, if you need SEND support during the COVID 19 pandemic, our partners at nasen are offering plenty of help and resources. Find out more here.
How are Axcis affiliated with nasen?
The National Association of Special Educational Needs (nasen) is the UK’s leading organisation supporting those who work with or care for children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities. Nasen supports all staff including SENCOs, leaders, teachers, governors and teaching assistants in meeting the needs of the pupils in schools and other settings through promoting education, training, and development. Axcis has been supporting nasen for a number of years and our relationship has gone from strength to strength. From sponsoring key events and exhibitions to contributing to publications and the SEND Gateway, a valuable online resource for SEND professionals, Axcis is pleased to be affiliated with an organisation doing such great work.
FREE webinar. This is an invaluable resource for SENCOs looking at how they can respond to the COVID lockdown and transition back to school?
COVID FAQs – Responses to frequently asked questions regarding the pandemic. Updated regularly.
SEND Reference Group – Prof. Adam Boddison, nasen CEO chairs the SEND Reference Group, find out more about it.
Nasen’s new webinar annual pass
With attendance at in-person training looking tenuous for the coming academic year, nasen have launched this fantastic new offering. There will be regular webinars on offer and a huge discount available to those buying an annual pass for them. Find out more here.