There is no question that adjusting to remote learning during the current COVID-19 lockdown is affecting all teachers, students and school communities, however, the situation for teachers in schools for specific purposes (SSP) and support units is particularly complex.
Devising lessons that meet the needs of students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, who require 1:1 teacher-led support to engage with their learning, has been the most difficult challenge, report members from the Special Education Restricted Committee.
Teachers, once more, have risen to the challenge, and then some. They are providing engaging lessons for students on school sites and supporting families to help their children with their remote learning.
They are providing hard-copy resources to those that need them and/or digital lessons. Schools have managed the set up and distribution of technology required to support home learning, and families requiring technical support have received it.
Members of the Special Education Restricted Committee have also found communicating the ever-changing lockdown rules to families with language backgrounds other than English difficult. This involves calling each family every time there is a change to the guidelines to check that they understand the latest restrictions.
Managing the welfare of students, families and staff is taking a mammoth effort, especially considering all the challenges described above. Despite all of this, our teachers have shown resilience and professionalism in ensuring that their students, families and colleagues remain safe while learning continues.
On “coming together”, one committee member said that although it sounded counter-intuitive, given we must be physically apart, it seemed every staff member was working to keep the strong connection that they have with each other in their school. Each of us have the needs of our students in mind as we do this, they said.
Another committee member commented on how understanding families have been of the current situation, keeping their children home. They said school communities had been exceptionally thankful and supportive of the staff and their schools.
This comment sums up why it is working as well as it can: “All the staff have supported each other in planning work across classes, sharing resources and coming up with interactive and creative lesson content.”
It is our teachers’ determination to see their students succeed, no matter what they contend with. Student wellbeing and mental health is our priority; schoolwork happens but mental health comes first.
Di Byers is the Officer attached to the Special Education Restricted Committee