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Westminster School collaboration with UCL Centre for Inclusive Education

Supporting pupils with dyslexia in secondary schools through expertise sharing across perspectives and settings.

Westminster School (Cmglee on Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

18 October 2016

The family of an alumni student with dyslexia from Westminster school provided funding for development work on dyslexia. The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) from Westminster School approached the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education to discuss a collaborative project.

Six mainstream secondary schools and six Independent secondary schools joined together for a knowledge exchange event attended by a classroom practitioner and the SENCO from each school.

Session 1 (one day)

What is dyslexia? Theory and research evidence informing practice. Identifying able pupils with dyslexia. One pupil’s experience of being dyslexic. Case study discussion groups.  Action planning – each school identifying 2 or 3 manageable goals.

Session 2 (evening)

Mixed group discussions looking at progress so far as well as barriers and possible solutions. Consideration of steps needed to move forward and how impact might be measured.

Session 3 (evening)

Mixed group discussions: What has been achieved? What still needs to be done? Next steps?

Challenge

The main challenge was to support pupils with dyslexia in secondary schools through sharing expertise across a wide range of perspectives and settings. 

The focus was on young people with high levels of competencies struggling with dyslexia. The independent schools were generally more able to focus on this specific group whereas the state schools were faced with the context and challenges of a much more diverse population.

It was difficult for all participants to find sufficient time back at school to complete the tasks they had set themselves. Initiating systems to determine the impact of changes was also a challenge. 

Gill Brackenbury and Jennifer Donovan from SENJIT meet Westminster School (@WSchoolSEND)

Solution

Below is a summary of some of the solutions developed as a result of the programme:

  • Tried out strategies recommended by colleagues to improve dyslexia friendly teaching e.g. ‘scaffolding’ using images, visualisation and metacognition, and encouraging students to reflect on their learning and barriers.
  • Communication improved between SEN department and the classroom – each Department now has a representative for SEN as an ambassador for teachers.
  • Ensured IEPs/Pupil Profiles are easily available to all teachers.
  • Made available information about types of learning differences and suggested strategies to staff.
  • Departmental audits to ascertain needs of children with dyslexia.
  • Lunchtime INSET for staff to increase understanding and develop better communication with departmental reps. Staff then took this information back to their colleagues.
  • Developmental work to ensure that the pupil and parent voices were always heard.
  • Dyslexia focus as a recurring item on the departmental team agendas.
  • Used ‘Departmental Prefects’ (student advocates) to improve attitudes and culture of a dyslexia friendly school.
  • Simplified referral forms.
  • Better understanding of teacher responsibilities.
  • Teaching observations used as a means to monitor the effectiveness of SEN policy.
  • Observing classes through pupil experiences.
  • Senior teacher ‘walk about’ with different themes – identifying good practice and practice that can be improved.
  • Constant re-evaluation of approaches and collection of evidence.
  • Key information included on notice boards in staff room and weekly bulletins on SEN.

Impact and results

Questionnaire results reported improved confidence of teachers dealing with dyslexia-related issues. There was positive feedback from staff and governors who attended the INSET sessions.

Overall, staff were very keen and engaged in all aspects of the programme, asked questions, completed all of the tasks at each station and reflected on their classes and students.

Following the Westminster sessions, most participants said that they had gained a better understanding of dyslexia. Classroom observations and demonstrated strategies were being used by teachers and increased knowledge of individual pupils was widely reported by participants. Participants felt they had made progress within their own schools and were moving towards developing a more dyslexia friendly environment.

There will be ongoing consideration for schools into the effectiveness of particular dyslexia-friendly approaches, sharing good practice, incorporating pupil and parent voices and future meetings to share good practice.

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