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Learning to Learning Walk

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I firmly believe the most impactful thing a SENDCO can do is develop teacher practice. There are many ways to do this, some of which I talk about in The Lone SENDCO.

One way is through regularly dropping into classes. But how do you choose the classes to go to, what do you look for once you get there and how can you make sure your feedback is well-received?

Which classes to visit

You might be ambitious and try to go to all classes. Often though, you’ll need to be more judicious than this on the limited time given to SENDCOs to complete the role. So, where should you go?

1. Look at your data. If attainment in English, behaviour in Year 4 or progress in numeracy are an issue in the data, these should be the classes you visit and support more frequently.

2. Listen to feedback. If colleagues – be they your Headteacher or the TAs – tell you about poor provision in a particular area of the school, let this inform where you spend more time as a SENDCO.

3. Go to the classes where children with SEND are achieving well. This will help you to promote the sharing of best practice and will allow you to share successes. It can also often help you to articulate what excellent teaching for students with SEND looks like.

What should I look for?

Use your limited time well by identifying a focus for your learning walks, rather than just going to see everything. Working in this way can provide you with the information you need around one or two priority areas.

What that focus is will depend on your context and on your priorities. You might choose to ask yourself one or more of the following:

1. Are the whole-school strategies/approaches, which you want to see as part of high-quality teaching, being implemented in the classroom?

2. Are teachers aware of the needs of individual children?

3. Are strategies for specific individuals being enacted in the classroom? These would be strategies that you have already shared with staff, perhaps via students’ pupil profiles.

4. Do certain teachers need additional training or guidance from you?

5. Do seating plans or class groupings need to be reconsidered?

6. Are expectations high enough for children with SEND? Where expectations are high, is scaffolding in place to match these high expectations?

7. Are children working towards their EHCP outcomes/SEN support targets through the things they do in the classroom?

Finally, look at your SEND priorities. If your priority links to something classroom-based (behaviour management for SEND within the school; reasonable adjustments within a particular key stage), it makes sense to be looking at this every time you enter a classroom.

How can I ‘learning walk’ without creating a culture of fear?

1. Consider your balance of positive and ‘even better if’. Where you see a lesson that could have gone better, it is likely that the teacher will know it already. No one develops their practice if they’re told that everything they’re doing is ineffective.

2. Consider how and when you provide feedback. A quick email with 5 bullet pointed improvements gets something off your to do list, but it doesn’t support that colleague to embrace your feedback or to make the change they need to make in the classroom.

3. Plan a supportive next step. Assume that all colleagues are doing their best with the resources (time, knowledge, information, skill, confidence) they have. Consider which of those resources you can support them to develop.

4. Shout loudly about the positives. Colleagues will be less threatened by your presence if they know you shout loudly where you see positive practice.

By completing learning walks regularly and through carefully identifying what it is you’re looking for in classes, you can increase your whole-school impact. You can develop a collective and positive ownership of the SEND provision in your school, which – if managed carefully - will be felt by all staff.