Remote learning for pupils with SEND: five tips

How can we ensure our remote learning offer caters for pupils with SEND? Natalie Packer offers five top tips for supporting SEND pupils with online learning

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Natalie Packer is an independent education consultant, specialising in school improvement, SEN and outstanding teaching. She delivers a wide range of professional development packages for primary and secondary schools and supports initial teacher...

Now into our third national lockdown, remote learning has once again become the main vehicle for many pupils to access education.

While teachers everywhere are finding innovative ways of supporting pupils’ learning at home, they are also facing several additional challenges. One such challenge is considering how to ensure pupils with SEND continue to access a high-quality education offer.

So what are schools finding works well? Here are five top tips for supporting pupils with SEND to access remote learning effectively.

1. Ensure pupils with SEND have access to remote learning

Find out from pupils and parents what access they have to online learning. Ask what they find helpful and how much support they would like with remote education.

Where access to digital forms of learning is tricky for families, prepare packs of learning that can be posted or delivered to the pupil’s home. Send home physical resources that usually support the pupil in school e.g., practical maths resources, word mats, sentence strips, writing slopes, fidget toys etc.

Not all pupils with SEND will have the same level of adult support at home as they receive in school so include learning tasks that pupils are able to complete independently, such as those involving repetition or revision of prior learning.

Check that the presentation of any online materials, such as PowerPoints or worksheets, is in an accessible form. Use clear language, keep text to a minimum and break information down into small chunks.

Use easy to read fonts and produce resources in an editable format so pupils can choose to increase the text size. Add symbols, images or pictures if this supports the learning.

Find out what accessibility features are available through the platform/tools being used e.g., dictation function, subtitles etc and explicitly teach pupils how to use the features.

Look at some of the online resources available to support further remote learning. SEND Consultant Lorraine Peterson has produced a helpful list of online resources suitable for SEND.

Such resources can be extremely helpful and save time but remember to check them first for suitability of access.

2. Support pupils and parents to establish or continue learning routines at home

Provide guidance on creating a home learning space that will help the pupil to focus e.g., a quiet area free from distractions such as mobile phones.

If a pupil is finding it difficult to transition back to learning at home, try using a social story to help their understanding. Reachout ASC have several helpful examples.

Encourage pupils and parents to set up a learning timetable highlighting check-in times, live lessons and work deadlines. Build in short, frequent breaks to help the pupil maintain focus. Where appropriate, be flexible with the timetabling so the pupil has options over their learning times.

Provide resources for helping pupils organise their learning such as checklists, coloured timetables, Now and Next Boards. Resources can be prepared and sent to the pupil’s home ready to use. Include instructions for the pupil or parents on how to use.

Build routine into online lessons so pupils know what to expect. Perhaps have a short activity for pupils to start when they first enter the learning space, explain how the lesson will run, and recap the main learning points at the end. Ensure pupils understand routines, structures and expectations for participating and provide verbal or visual reminders.

3, Start with the principles of effective teaching and learning for SEND when planning remote teaching

  • Pre-teach vocabulary prior to, or right at the start of, the lesson. Provide flashcards with the word on one side and definition on the other and encourage pupils to practice the words as a follow up to an online lesson.
  • Carefully chunk remote lessons and deliver a small amount of information at a time.
  • Limit teacher input so pupils don’t lose focus and then provide a chance for them to practice independently.
  • Build in opportunities for retrieval practice. Begin live or pre-recorded lessons with a quick recap of prior learning and use low-stakes tests or quizzes that pupils can self-mark.

For pupils who would normally access additional therapy, such as speech therapy or physiotherapy, liaise with the relevant external professionals to find out if, and how, the provision can continue to be delivered in a safe way such as virtually.

4. Consider how effective online pedagogy will benefit SEND pupils

Ensure that instructions are simple, clear and to the point. Provide visuals alongside written instructions where this will support understanding or provide pre-recorded verbal instructions that pupils can replay if they are unable to remember them all at once.

Provide models and scaffolds for new or challenging tasks e.g., support independent writing using resources such as sentence starters shared on the screen or by providing key words or pre-loaded writing frames. 

Encourage pupils to interact in live lessons to support engagement (for many pupils their attention span online will be much less than it is in class). Ask pupils to repeat back instructions to check they have heard them and direct verbal questions at individual pupils to ensure their attention or encourage them to respond using the chat box function.

When using pre-recorded videos, include regular pause points so pupils can stop, reflect and replay parts of the video if they need repetition or reinforcement. Working at their own pace can be a significant benefit of remote learning for some pupils with SEND.

5. Deploy teaching assistants to support remote learning

Teaching Assistants (TAs) can support in the following ways:

  • pre-teaching key vocabulary, concepts or skills
  • producing home learning resources and support packs
  • providing technical support for online learning e.g., logging-on or uploading work
  • joining live lessons to support individuals or small groups within a breakout room
  • following up live lessons by contacting individual pupils to check if they need support with independent work
  • marking work or providing feedback
  • running online one to one or small group interventions
  • keeping in touch with parents and pupils with SEND through regular check-ins. This is crucial to ensure continuity of those all-important relationships between home and school.
Last Updated: 
18 Jan 2021