Kerry Walsh has been teaching for over 15 years. She has worked in primary and secondary settings, a Pupil Referral Unit, an American Juvenile Detention Centre, an Adult Medium Secure Prison and finally a SEN Specialist College.
Kerry trained as an Art and Design teacher and has experience of being Head of Department for a number of subjects.
Currently Kerry is Assistant Headteacher and is responsible for whole school teaching and learning, and trying to understand our new world that we now live in due to COVID-19.
During what’s been a difficult time for schools around the world to quickly respond to the new normal, teachers of students with special educational needs have had to face extremely difficult circumstances and figure out ways to overcome them.
As a result of school closures, children with special educational needs and disabilities have faced lots of changes in their day to day lives. Their routines, regular support and the people they see may all be different now.
GSA Ambassador Kerry Walsh, Assistant Headteacher of a SEN school in Liverpool, has shared her personal experience of teaching during COVID-19 as well as an insight into what the future looks like.
During the closed period, the interaction with students, parents and staff on ‘teams’ was really good. The students were really keen to take part in ‘teams’ activities such as quiz’s. We found that students seeing staff as humans allowed them to connect on a personal level. In general, the students were really grateful for being allowed back in school and welcomed learning. The students totally understood the H&S rules and behaviour was outstanding.
Since then students have even developed a variety of new skills. They were encouraged to share their artwork, cooking or written work on Facebook and on teams. Some students became more art-focused, whereas others benefited from the promotion of life skills (gardening or helping an adult with DIY).
- ‘Thrive’ activities helped SEN students
- Ways to improve staff and students general communication
- Staff appreciated daily meetings
- How to run our own online platform ‘SAM Learning’
- Ways to engage the students & families on the school Facebook – an activity timetable with PE to help ADHD students
- Staff were able to step up in a more pastoral duty
Negatives during COVID-19
Although the majority of students were well engaged, we had a very small amount of students disengaged with school. For a number of students, they have seen parents struggling, both mentally and financially. Staff, students and parents have all experienced trauma or bereavement.
Remote teaching barriers:
- Some parents didn’t have the technology at home
- A number of students and parents had ‘tech fear’ and did not know how to use certain equipment or software
- We faced a number of safeguarding issues
- Lack of interest with work packs
- Some parents didn’t want constant daily contact
- Lost learning of various important topics or exams
Moving Forward in September
This has been a difficult period for the whole school community. How we respond post-COVID is detrimental to moving forward in September.
In September we will:
- Have a more flexible approach to learning
- Continue a positive transition from Year 6 into Year 7
- Adopt a remote plan if it’s needed
- Work with students in learning zones/bubbles
- Follow our outstanding risk assessment document and H&S policy procedure
- Implement therapeutic learning for the first term
- Learning how to learn again approach with everyone
- Introduce small goal attitude for students
- Promote links with LCEP and work with other Liverpool schools and cultural organisations – career links with virtual tours showcasing jobs
- Support local Liverpool businesses and artists
- Work with schools around the world and make joint projects
- Introduce an emotional check-in service for staff
- Add a PSHE focus for Mental Health and the new framework
- Keep communication clear at all times
- Introduce a new beekeeping project and gardening enterprise
- Create new PE PT style sessions to promote a healthy mind and body, along with career links
- Create a virtual bank of teaching resources for all students for revision, in the event lockdown returns
- Explore multilanguage, sign language and visual communication
- Encourage fellow peer students to become a coach or buddy system for other vulnerable students in school
- Follow the teaching staff’s innovative SOW and lesson plans