Thursday, August 28, 2014

Preparing for the new year as SENco

A woman's work is never done...
A SENCo's work is never done...
A teacher's work is never done...

I'm sure that there are many more that could be added, but those are the three that are relevant to me at this point in time. I realised last week, to my horror, that the new SEN Code of Practice had been published in July and that this had totally passed me by.  This has implications for all schools as paperwork and practices will need reviewing and updating accordingly. The Guardian has very kindly provided us with 5 things schools need to know about SEN reforms, which is a good starting point.

This evening I have spent time doing the second revision of our school's local offer. It was based on one written by Swingate school, but I have adapted it accordingly and, as was suggested by an ex colleague, tried to think in terms of the questions that parents might ask about provision. I plan to do a third (and hopefully 'final for now') revision during the first full week at school, during my allocated SEN time.

Other jobs that are high on my priority list are adapting the SEN policy and making sure that TA meetings are planned for. I am in the process of updating all our provision maps, whilst trying to find an easier way of presenting them. I also need to investigate the SENco training course and sign up to Norfolk's SEN forum, hosted by Judith Carter. If anyone can recommend a good course, I would be grateful. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Assessing without levels: part 1

From time to time over the holidays I have been thinking about the problem of assessing without levels. I refer to it as a problem, because it is a change that I know will ultimately be for the better, but it is going to be costly in terms of time. Blood, sweat and tears spring to mind - and to be honest the systems I have seen that look like rearranged versions of APP, of which I have never been a fan, are beginning to bring out my ranty side. Why can't anything ever be simple?

I know that what I need to do is dedicate time and find the right space to having a big think, scribble some notes on paper (I have some very sparse notes so far) and then think some more. During my first ponderings I remembered about an assessment for learning website I cobbled together when I was an AST. It was a good way of sharing practice as well as a place for storing my files. It's a bit dated, but the principles remain the same.

Before I dedicate time to my big think, I want to make sure I'm fully informed of what is currently going on in the world. I am assessment co-ordinator at East Harling, but as with everything else at our school it's not a role that I carry out alone. Next Wednesday I have time with my HT to chew over ideas and what it could look like. I'm not one for re-inventing wheels and simple is good. We have recently formed the Acorn Co-operative Learning Alliance with other local schools and, as my HT suggested, it makes sense to work together on this. The only potential problem is that we should be assessing against our curriculum, and we have devised a curriculum that feels very personal to our school (beyond the statutory curriculum). Do we assess the additional knowledge and skills that we feel are important, or stick with the key objectives in the new curriculum?

I believe that the best way to preserve teacher time and make it meaningful is to involve the children wherever and whenever possible; the freedom in the new curriculum should technically give us time to dedicate to self assessment in a purposeful (as opposed to ad hoc) manner. In reality, we run out of time quickly in primary as there are always other demands on our time and recommendations that we spend additional time on this, that and the other. That said, I have always spent time on self assessment and have become much better at allocating marking response time.

The following documents have / will inform my thinking. As always I would be grateful if you have any more that you could add to the list.

Assessing without levels: preliminary reading list (in no particular order)

What others are doing

Classroom monitor: Assessing without levels   Case studies 

Leading curriculum development I include this as it reminds us what makes an outstanding curriculum - a key part of that assessment cycle!

Sue Hackman- assessment and accountability (thanks @10kmk42 for pointing it out)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reading for pleasure

I've just had another one of those enjoyable book chats with my son when we reminisce over the books we have shared and enjoyed - before he berates me for not having read all of the mighty Feist's books (our conversation usually ends thus - I'm saving them for retirement!) As with music, we share the same tastes, although I veer off from fantasy fiction every so often to read books that have been recommended, or have come across accidentally. I've blogged about some of them here. I'm always in awe of Ben's phenomenal memory for detail, especially where Game of Thrones is concerned. Unlike me, he doesn't watch the TV series and gets quite ranty about the discrepancies.

I thought it would be nice to share some of the books we have enjoyed reading over the past few years. I recommend them all to families with teenagers/young adults. They are in a kind of chronological order - though some books we obviously had to wait for the next one to come out. I'm not sure Ben ever read the Northern Lights trilogy, but it ought to be included in a list like this. We also read some teenage fiction (Kate Cann books mostly) in his teenage years.

I've included Amazon links as I'm far too lazy to write synopses, but should point out that Game of Thrones and the second and third books of the Painted Man trilogy have very adult content. Ben is now 26, so quite old enough to read what he likes.

I have tried to get Ben to read more widely than fantasy fiction, forcing books such as Pigeon English and Vernon God Little into his room. He starts them, but doesn't finish. I would like him to read 'We need to talk about Kevin' at the same time as me too as I have had a recommendation from a colleague to read it. I would love any more recommendations for our mother and son reading for pleasure!