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Spring week 7

Mentor materials

Understanding the role of key professionals in helping to meeting the needs of all learners

Learning intentions

Your ECT will learn how to:

Develop an understanding of different pupil needs, by:

  • identifying pupils who need new content further broken down
  • working closely with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) and special educational professionals and the Designated Safeguarding Lead
  • using the SEND Code of Practice, which provides additional guidance on supporting pupils with SEND effectively

And provide opportunity for all pupils to experience success, by:

  • making effective use of teaching assistants

Topic introduction

So far in this module, your mentee has focused on planning well-structured lessons. In your last meeting, you will have discussed with them their degree of competence (unconscious or conscious) in relation to planning and teaching well-structured lessons.

In this session, you will help your mentee build on their understanding of planning, focusing in more detail on how to break content down for different pupils. You will focus on the need to locate the education of children with SEND within inclusive policy and practice, with an emphasis on improving the whole learning environment and the combination of teaching and learning processes applicable to all children. This is an approach that should serve to prevent some children from needing to be identified as having special educational needs.

Research and practice summary

Sarah had carefully planned a lesson for her English class, which leads to an extended writing task for her Year 5 pupils to work on independently. When the time came for the class to begin independent planning of this writing task, the majority of pupils were focused and fully capable of working without additional help. One pupil, Jordan, could not get started on the task, even after the teacher provided one to one explanation of the task itself and a scaffolding sheet with sentence starters on it. Sarah was aware that Jordan was diagnosed as having ADHD; although this didn’t present itself for the majority of the lesson, he seemed to struggle to focus at all during the independent task – never concentrating for long enough to even begin to generate any of his own ideas. His constant complaint was ‘I can’t do it’.

How could Sarah have prepared herself for the individual learning needs of this child prior to the lesson?

Motivation is usually defined as a kind of driving force that accounts for the selection, direction and continuation or discontinuation of behaviours. Many factors determine the extent to which pupils feel motivated to learn.

Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyse one’s capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge. It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in a goal or task and derives from the individual rather than relying on external implementation. Pupils who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in learning willingly, as well as work to improve their knowledge, skills and performance. Conversely, extrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that is driven by external factors such as grades, praise or the avoidance of punishment.

To help you to improve the motivation of your pupils, you could:

  • adopt what some describe as a ‘tight but loose’ approach to short-, medium- and long-term goal-setting (e.g. the broad direction of travel is set by the teacher (the tight component), but pupils are also given some say in determining how those goals are realised (the loose component))
  • help pupils to move from needing to be extrinsically motivated to being motivated to work intrinsically by appealing to the values and identity of your pupils (e.g. by reminding them of the personal qualities that they have that enable them to learn)

Sarah could use these strategies by inviting her pupils to choose how to chunk down the task into more manageable parts, allowing pupils to move from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation.

Teaching Assistants (TAs) are more able to support pupils’ learning effectively where they work with individual pupils or small groups and where teachers and TAs work together effectively. If you are lucky enough to work with them, support from TAs should be used to supplement, rather than substitute for, teaching by the class teacher.

To help you to make the best use of TAs to support learning, you should make time available before and after lessons to:

  • discuss effective working approaches – how you and the TA will work together in class and how you will together support different groups of pupils
  • prepare the TA for lessons, including sharing intended lesson outcomes
  • reflect on progress so far and plan ahead

In this scenario, Sarah could speak to other colleagues who work closely with this particular pupil to discuss possible reasons for reluctance or apprehension to work independently for extended periods of time. The TA could prepare strategies for the lesson if they are aware of what is planned in advance.

What did Sarah do? Identifying Jordan’s needs and strategies to support him

Having looked over the pupil’s ‘teacher overview’ provided by the SENCO, it became apparent that the pupil with ADHD responded better to classroom talk – using other pupils as a sounding board for his ideas, before he felt able to focus on writing his ideas down alone. This was recommended in the SEND Code of Practice. Sarah identified an appropriate pupil to ‘buddy up’ with him and gave at least fifteen minutes ‘talk time’ before any task was undertaken independently. She then encouraged his partner to discuss, on a scale of 1-5, how confident he felt about undertaking the task alone.

Jordan was much more focused as a result of being able to verbalise his ideas, using his partner as a ‘mirror’. This allowed the teacher to circulate the classroom and offer more bespoke help to other pupils in her class and broke Jordan’s habit of relying solely on teacher support*.*

Sarah could easily see that Jordan needed extra help, but she relied on her colleague – the SENCO – to give her expert advice and to direct her to appropriate strategies in the SEND Code of Practice. Sarah does not have a TA; she instead identified a buddy who could share ideas orally with Jordan. Sarah knows that it would be better still if she were able to choose different buddies to work with Jordan (so they don’t become stuck themselves).

Meeting activities

Throughout the session, try to refer explicitly to the Learning Intentions and encourage your mentee to record key points in their Learning Log. Tailor your use of the Theory to Practice activities below in response to the Review and Plan section of this session.

Review and Plan 5 mins

Clarify the Learning Intentions for this session with your mentee.

At the start of this module, you looked at all of the ‘learn how to’ statements for Standard 5 and conducted a module audit with your mentee: in some areas they will already be confident and skilled; in others they will want more practice, and support from you and others. Look back at this audit now and use it to help decide how you and your mentee will make the most productive use of the suggested Theory to Practice activities below.

Theory to Practice 40 mins


By now, your mentee will easily identify the pupils they teach who have specific, identified learning needs, but they may not have worked out the strategies that work best for them. Support them to arrange to speak to the SENCO, teaching assistants or other specialist colleagues who work with these pupils to explore strategies that other colleagues use to ensure that teaching takes account of these pupils’ learning needs. These colleagues’ time is very precious, so it is useful to plan a simple protocol around these areas. Rehearse these questions with your mentee:

  • Who is the best person for me to speak to?
  • When and where suits the colleague best? A meeting or an email?
  • Who do I need to talk to them about, and about what specifically?
  • What preparation can I do first? For example, read the pupil’s file or consult the SEND Code of Practice.

Sharing of Practice

Share with your mentee some of the most powerful examples that you use in your practice to help pupils to break down and learn essential concepts and knowledge. Highlight explicitly to your mentee how these examples could be adapted to suit pupils in their own class.

You can refer to the example of Sarah’s Year 5 English lesson for ideas.

Analysing an artefact

With your mentee, read the sections of the SEND Code of Practice which offer specific guidance to help them support the needs of particular pupils in their class. Identify two strategies that they could discuss further with the specialist colleague.

Action planning

If your mentee has a regular TA in their class, discuss with them how they can create mutually convenient opportunities to talk to the TA about the learning needs of pupils in the class or how they can perhaps use email or shared resource areas to exchange ideas.

To support this action planning, you could refer to:

  • how you arrange time and plan with your TA (if you have one) - e.g. you may have PPA time together or collaborate during staff training days
  • protocols your school may already have in place for staff co-working

Next Steps 5 mins

Agree with your mentee how they will now put their learning from this week’s session into practice in their teaching. Help your mentee to clarify:

  1. the action(s) they will take and how these action(s) are expected to contribute to improving pupil learning
  2. what success will ‘look like’ in relation to these action(s)
  3. how they will evaluate their success in taking these action(s)

Note the date of your next mentor meeting, when you will check on your mentee’s progress.