The lockdown SENDCO – how to support children and families during another school closure

Schools to close again. Lots to put in place for Headteachers, whose roles I don’t envy. But what about the SENDCO? Follow these steps, to ensure children and families can be well-supported during school closure:

  1. Be aware of the needs of your teams, and of yourself. If you have Teaching Assistants who are clinically extremely vulnerable, highly anxious, recovering from COVID or looking after family members, their deployment will need to be carefully considered at the moment. Likewise for yourself!
  2. Create your list of which children you’d like to be physically in your school. Schools are open for children of key workers and children identified as vulnerable. Following the initial lockdown in March, the Government’s definition of vulnerable was extended. As a SENDCO, you should be considering whether a place needs to be offered to students who fall under the following criteria:

This list is broad, particularly in areas with higher levels of deprivation. As a SENDCO, know who from your SEND register should be accessing the in-school provision, and invite them in accordingly (with your Headteacher’s blessing).

3. Where students have EHCPs, review and update your risk assessments. Ensure adequate steps have been taken, i.e. where there are concerns about the child remaining at home or concerns about the child being offered a provision in school safely.

4. Find out what all children in your school will be getting and reflect on this for your children with the highest needs. Whether your pupils will have live lessons, pre-recorded lessons or virtual learning, consider what amendments you should make for some of your students with need. On a sliding scale, this might involve:

  • Setting up separate sessions, led by you or a colleague, instead of mainstream lessons.
  • Ensuring a Teaching Assistant also attends the mainstream lessons, as they would in school, so they can support the child on the call and in follow-up sessions.
  • Setting up breakout rooms as part of the mainstream lessons, so that Teaching Assistants can support certain students with SEND during independent work.
  • Reminding the teacher about the needs of a particular child and how particular strategies might be adapted for online learning.

5. Look at your interventions offer. Where intervention sessions can take place remotely, they should. Think creatively about how they might be adapted, so that a child can still get support with reading, maths, handwriting, emotional regulation (or whatever they normally access) while they are at home.

6. Contact your external providers of intervention. Make sure you know how external providers that support your children (therapists, advisory teachers, family support workers) are continuing to support during school closure.

7. Create a list of children who will need check-in phone calls. Try to engage as many adults as possible in making these calls, so it is not left entirely to the SENDCO (Teaching Assistants, form tutors, Heads of Year), and work out in each case whether these will be daily or weekly. You might provide some suggested questions that colleagues could ask the children, such as:

  • What is your daily routine?
  • What are you doing to relax?
  • What are you doing that is helpful to others?
  • Which subject are you enjoying the work for?
  • Is there one subject you’re doing less work for?
  • How are others supporting you at the moment?

Work out who your colleagues making calls should feedback to, so their feedback is not lost.

8. Consider the support that parents need. How regularly should certain parents be called, either to check in on their wellbeing or to talk through some of the tasks the children have to do that day/week?

9. Ask teachers to reflect on the students whom they teach – which students do they provide the most support for in their teaching? Ask them to try and make time to phone these students, to give quick feedback, to provide reassurance and to show that these students are being kept in mind.

10. Stay in touch with pastoral teams. It’ll be important for you to be aware of pastoral issues, so you can work efficiently and deal with issues quickly – perhaps by offering a place in your in-school provision, contacting the parent or child more regularly or providing additional academic or emotional support.

Most of all, make sure you are aware and in the loop of whole-school systems. Sit in on some remote lessons, get feedback from as many people as possible and remember the power of one check-in phone call for a child or family who feel isolated.

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