Back to school: Supporting pupils with SEND on the return to school

Published 24/02/2021

Chadsgrove School Support Services provides a variety of specialist support to schools across Worcestershire and beyond. Mark Loveday, Head of Service, discusses how standardised assessments can be used to baseline pupils, unpick difficulties, identify cohort trends and inform intervention when pupils return to school.

Following the first period of national lockdown, as an inclusion advisory service we asked ourselves what kind of support our schools were going to need from us. Our focus was around the social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs of pupils, recovery of the curriculum and returning to some form of “normality” for a lot of our children, young people and teaching staff who had not experienced this for a long time.

Many teachers were asking themselves “Where do we start? What have our pupils’ home learning experiences been like? Where are the gaps and how do we plug these?”. Of course, the gap in learning had widened – but the question was, by how much?

It was really important that we started by celebrating some of our young people’s achievements. There were lots of success stories, for example, a child learning how to tie their new school tie over the summer so that they could be as independent as possible when they started secondary school in September. It was also important to remember that children would have had very different home learning experiences that they were bringing back into the classroom.

It has been a juggling act for schools and teachers to implement recovery curricula and balance SEMH needs. The gathering of baseline data to establish what constituted significant need, and the impact of lockdown on teaching and learning, was clearly of vital importance, however this needed to be carefully managed alongside supporting the SEMH needs of pupils as they returned. Gathering baseline data is where the use of standardised assessments has come in, and GL Assessment’s suite of assessments have really helped to provide that starting point.

Data from the Progress Test Series and the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) not only provides information about individual pupils, but also about cohort trends. It gives us a focus, helps inform how we are going to look at (and potentially target) quality-first teaching, and helps us establish if pupils have made progress. Strategies such as GL Assessment’s Reading Diagnostic Pathway have also really helped us to dig deeper into where pupils are, and to identify any underlying problems and whether interventions or targeted support may be needed.

I am a firm believer in the power of standardised assessments. GL Assessment’s suite of assessments really help to provide a clear cognitive profile of where gaps, and indeed strengths, in learning are, and what you can do to support your pupils in the classroom upon the return to a more “normal” curriculum.

Chadsgrove School Support Services is one of our Centres of Assessment Excellence