Author, Trainer, Consultant
Specialising in bereavement, grief & loss
A career in SEND is like 'marmite'. You will either love it or hate it. It will either be 100% for you - or not. And trust me, to do this job well you'll have to love it. This is an immensely challenging and difficult career - there are no half measures in SEND. But once you've seen that you love it, you'll be spreading your toast thickly with marmite and you'll never want to leave.
The world of SEND teaching is a rather small one. A teacher that is new to this world can often find it rather difficult to get into and at times somewhat isolating to be in. This is short lived though. Once you are immersed into this unique and privileged club you'll be enveloped in so much dedication, knowledge, expertise and support that you'll be amazed. This will come from your colleagues, the families of your pupils and the pupils themselves. Each and every child that I have had the pleasure of working with has taught me so much. Sometimes I think they are the teachers rather than me!
If you are new to working in Special Education I hope that this website (which is ever growing) will provide you with a wealth of support, resources and ideas. Please contact me, via the contact page with any questions or thoughts, I'd love to hear from you.
The world of SEND can at first seem overwhelming and at times a little isolating. In reality it's a very supportive and tight knit community.
There will be a wealth of support and advice that you can gain from the colleagues in your own school and other schools in your local area - both special and mainstream schools, and I highly recommend you make connections with staff in all types of schools in your area. These local connections will be invaluable for training opportunities, sharing ideas, sharing physical resources etc.
But there's another incredible source of support and advice - from your digital colleagues. Other teachers working across the UK and across the globe. You can access this mass of expertise on all forms of social media.
Here are two of my favourites (ones that I have learnt so much from)
I'd love to hear of other ways that you connect digitally with fellow SEND professionals Please contact me via the contact page.
I quickly learned in my career that you will never complete everything on your 'to-do list' and you'll never have all of the answers. There will always be a child, a behaviour, a situation or new government initiative that you have to come up with a new strategy for.
This website (which is ever growing) is designed to be an easily accessible and practical resource for all SEND teachers, new and not so new!
I'd love to hear from you with any thoughts or questions. Please contact me via the contact page.
What’s in a label?
Is your copy of Sherborne Developmental Movement lurking in the back of a cupboard forgotten and unused? Maybe it’s time to dig it out, dust it off and delve back into this wonderful approach. I can guarantee your students will thank you and your finance officer will be pleased, too! A revitalised curriculum with no expense!
To jog your memories, here is a brief overview of Sherborne. Towards the end of the twentieth century, Veronica Sherborne developed a movement programme to help support individuals with limited movement experience and ability. Her approach was based upon the philosophy and theories of Rudolph Laban (Founder of Modern European Dance and movement), with whom she worked for two years.
The key to Sherborne’s philosophy is the observation of children and how they play as a part of their development.
"Through my experience of teaching and observing human movement, and of learning through trial and error, I have come to the conclusion that all children have two basic needs; they need to feel at home in their own bodies and so to gain mastery, and they need to be able to form relationships”
- Veronica Sherborne, 1990
The two core objectives in Sherborne Developmental Movement are:
Awareness of self – which is developed through the individual gaining movement experiences that ensure they become aware of their own body and what it is doing. They ‘listen’ to their bodies via feelings and touch rather than the typical means of thinking and looking. This more emotional approach brings about physical improvements, but also growth in self-esteem and confidence.
Awareness of others – after pupils have gained the awareness of self (knowing where their body starts and stops and the movements that they can make with their own body) they can then move on to being aware of others around them. Pupils learn to engage and interact with others, physically moving around other people and also learning to move in partnership with others to create expressive movement.
By exploring our physical self and our movements and then using these skills to be able to move with others, students not only progress physically, but they also develop positive relationships with others, build self-esteem, grow in confidence and their skills of communication blossom.
Developmental movement activities include
* floor play, tummy and back play, rolling over and over
* belly crawling and crawling
* pushing, pulling, stretching, hanging, sliding
* spinning, tipping, tilting, falling.
In a child’s early years, movement is their ‘food’ for developing physically, a means to engage with and learn about the world and to help develop relationships with others. As educators the opportunities for movement that we provide our children make up their ‘diet’.
So, do we give all of our pupils a ‘good diet’? Do we give them the opportunity for movement experiences of this kind? Do we ensure that children who spend vast amounts of their day supported by different pieces of equipment, such as wheelchairs, standing frames, sleep systems etc. are given regular opportunities to move in this way? If the answer is no, then revisiting Sherborne Developmental Movement could be the key to changing this.
‘Sherborne’ at Warmley Park School
Warmley Park School is a community special school for 4 to 19 year olds situated in South Gloucestershire. All students have a diagnosis of severe learning difficulties and the school population of 120 is made up of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders, physical and sensory impairments and medical conditions (including life limiting illnesses).
Sherborne is used across the school, but this article is a case study of how it is used in the Primary Department. Teachers draw upon Sherborne as part of their daily practice and each week the primary-aged children with physical difficulties also all meet together for 45 minutes to carry out a programme of Sherborne Developmental Movement. These sessions are lead by the Head of the Primary Department, with school staff and parent volunteers. Each child is supported 1 to 1 by an adult.
The sessions start with everyone taking off their shoes and getting onto the mat. Those children who use wheelchairs are hoisted onto the mats. As soon as the children are on the floor their faces just beam. The joy of being released from all supportive equipment coupled with the physical freedom that the floor yields is evident in all of the pupils. The children in the Sherborne group come from a range of classes and there is a mixture of adults supporting the group, so each session formally starts with a welcoming song. The children are encouraged to make a noise or move a limb to ask to be next in the song and very quickly they are all eagerly asking for their turn.
The sessions follow the same pattern each week, with staff using very consistent language: key words for the different movements e.g. rocking, leaning, sliding etc. Due to this very tight and consistent approach, the pupils are secure and confident in what they are doing with the key word descriptions of the movements preparing them for what they are about to do next. Also, by participating in the session each week, they learn to anticipate the sequence of movements, which in turn results in them being more involved in each of the physical actions.
These movements are beneficial on so many levels. Firstly, the children just love the physical activity; they also adore the closeness of another person. On the floor and without the barrier of equipment, child and adult can interact in a way that is much closer than is normally found in school. Children with physical impairments, complex needs and/or profound and multiple learning difficulties can miss out on a great deal of tactile engagement and physical interaction. This includes the additional learning that this provides: communication, social skills (turn taking, asking for more), emotional skills (caring and warmth) as well as the very important physical development that it engenders.
A child in a wheelchair can struggle to communicate with the educator and will find it difficult to reach out for physical interaction, but when on the floor these impairments are eradicated. Educator and child are eye to eye, hand in hand and breathing in unison. Together they can communication on a very deep level – through movement, body language, facial expressions and vocalisations. The child can control what he/she wants and this, in turn, is an immensely empowering experience.
By the end of the session, the children have a ‘warm glow’, relaxed muscles and a great sense of happiness. They have gone beyond the wheelchair and the isolation that it can bring, have enjoyed a shared experience and gained a greater awareness of themselves and others. Once hoisted back into the wheelchair, it is crucial for the child’s sense of empowerment, freedom and control is maintained and as staff we must remember to return regularly to the floor and the movement opportunities that it affords. We need to give our pupils as much of this time as possible – and this is what Sherborne can give you.
Do you use Sherborne at your school? Are you thinking about reintroducing it? I'd love to hear from you with any thoughts or questions. Please contact me via the contact page.
- This page provides advice and support on SEND teaching, through a range of articles.
Please contact me if you would like a particular area of SEND to be discussed.
1. Have a bank of song tunes that you can easily convert into a song for any occasion or topic e.g. have the tune for Row, row, row your boat and substitute the lyrics. Here’s a song I’ve just made up to go with a Healthy Eating topic using the tune of Row, row, row your boat. I’ve written these new lyrics in less that 5 minutes!
Fruit Song (to the tune of Row, row, row the boat)
Apples, oranges, pears and grapes
Fruits they are so good
Eat them up and feel so strong
We all love our food
Other tunes that are easy to remember and good to change the lyrics to are: If you’re happy and you know it, Five currant buns in a bakers shop, Two little dickie birds sitting on the wall, Twinkle, twinkle little star. Use whatever songs you know well and are confident to sing.
2. Remember that teaching is very similar to acting - when you enter your classroom you have to step into the role of teacher, put on your game face and put everything else on hold. We all have personal lives and some days this is easier to do than other days.
As the teacher of a classroom of children and leader of class of staff, this level of energy and commitment is needed to keep everyone motivated and on track.
3. Have a list of ways to fill those odd 5/10 minutes when one activity has ended and you aren’t quite ready to move onto the next (e.g. there’s 10 minutes before assembly or 5 minutes before going out to play etc). Ideas for this list: singing a song, reading a story, playing a game. Point 4 below also helps with ideas for filling these odd times in the day.
4. Always have a small box of great, but simple resources that can be made into an exciting activity.
Things that I always have to hand:
* some great books - to read
* a hat - to play ‘pass the hat around the circle’ (see below)
* an interesting bag to play ‘what’s in the bag (see below)
* a space blanket - to play ‘someone’s hiding’ (see below)
* a large piece of material - to play ‘someone’s hiding’ or to all hold onto and bounce a ball or teddy on it - how many times can we count the bounces before teddy falls off?
* balloons - to practice blowing and breath work, or to work together keeping the balloon up in the air
* bubbles - to practice blowing and breath work, and to encourage the children to make requests (asking for more bubbles etc)
5. Remember that one of the joys of teaching is that no two days are the same. The flip side of this is that you will probably never have a day when everything goes to plan. I have always told my teaching assistants that if we have a day when we do everything that is on the daily plan and have no problems/interruptions etc etc then this will be a ‘champage day’. A day when I buy champagne for us all. As yet I’ve never had to buy champagne for the whole class team! We’ve had some wonderful ‘prosecco days’ though :)
Pass the hat around the circle
Pass the hat around the circle
Pass the hat around
Pass the hat around the circle
See where it stops
This activity encourages motor skills (passing and putting on the How are things with you?) and eye contact (following the hat around the circle and looking at who it stops with).
What’s in the bag?
What's in the bag?
What's in the bag?
(Name of child) can you tell me
What's in the bag?
Have lots of interesting objects in the bag for the children to feel and reach for. This activity and song can easily be changed to use a box, a tin, a hat ..... the options are endless. Change the 'container' to challenge the children's manipulation and dexterity skills, also so that it fits in with your given topic and lesson.
Who is it?
Who is it?
It’s (name of child)
Make sure that the child is happy to hide underneath a large piece of material/space blanket. If necessary another child or a member of staff could be under the blanket with them.
This activity encourages timing and anticipation skills, physical skills (pulling the material off) and vocalisations - shouting ‘it’s me’ or the child’s name when they appear.
Unfortunately I am currently unable to add audio files to this website. If you'd like to hear the tune for any of these songs goes please contact me and I will send you an audio file.
Labels are common place in all sections of society and the use of labels is frequently discussed. Labels are a constant area for debate in the world of special educational needs and disabilities.
So, what’s in a label?
Or more importantly what’s the purpose of a label?
Do we use these labels to -
In using these labels do we condemn children to a group and strip them of their individuality?
I believe that very often the label is seen before the child is truly seen. The label that a child has can then determine the type of education and curriculum that they receive. This may be the appropriate and best schooling and curriculum for them, but it could be the case that they are merely being put into a box for the ease of the education system.
Labels are attached to children with SEND from a very young age. Do these labels even remain accurate? How many children have you worked with who had a label that just didn’t seem to fit anymore? Also, there is no concrete definition for each label. One person’s understanding and use of a label can be very different to another’s.
In preparation for a new school year we receive mountains of information and paperwork about new children that we will be working with. It has always been my philosophy to make sure I meet the child before the labels.
If I am unable to meet the child before they join my class I will read the bare minimum about them (only the key information I need to make sure that the child is safe). By doing this I am endeavouring to ensure that I have not predetermined the manner in which I will communicate, engage and teach the child. Instead I meet and communicate with the child, getting to know them as an individual and not as a label.