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Identifying students who need extra support

Posted by Bernie Callanan on Monday, 5 August 2019
Bernie Callanan
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Perhaps you’re struggling to remember everyone’s name (I am) and emails may be piling up (mine are), but don't get yourself worked up as every other teacher feels the same!

In these first few lessons with your classes, you’ll be taking in masses of information. Thinking about who the influential students are, which students are finding the work too easy, how the current seating plan is working etc.

If you have a teaching assistant, now is a good time to ask them for their thoughts on the class. Who are they concerned about? Whether or not they have noticed low-level disruption when you’re facing the board?

There may be students who are withdrawn or others who struggle to access the work. Please make a point of checking in with them if you haven’t already. Ask your students to repeat back the task in their own words. This way you’re checking they understand what to do, but they’re not just repeating the words you used!


Student head on table


If the work is seemingly too hard, adapt it and make an informal assessment of where they are at. On occasion you’ll be surprised at the level of work being produced, my advice is to share this information as soon as you can.

This past week, a number of teachers in our wonderful English department have seen me to discuss concerns about different students. There have been problems ranging from poor sentence construction to difficulty reading, agitated behaviour, and unpredictable engagement.

"...ask them what they’re struggling with, reiterating that they will not be told off for being honest with you."

I am not suggesting we have solved all the issues raised, but a dialogue has been started. Strategies have been adopted, and will then be reviewed and tweaked. Some students will end up being added to the Inclusion Register and having small group specialist support, whilst others will manage to cope with regular check-ins and prompting from the teacher.

Whatever the outcome, it is far better to be having discussions with the SENCO or other Learning Support staff at this stage of the year. In six weeks’ time poor engagement may have become the norm and by Christmas, the young person may have decided they dislike the subject.

As always, where a student appears disengaged, unkempt or withdrawn, you may want to consider referring this to safeguarding as a precautionary measure.


About our Community Expert


Bernie Callanan


Over 10 years of SEN experience in a number of settings. Developed whole-school approaches to ensure students with SEN are catered with the support they need.

Placing the student with SEN at the heart of all decisions made regarding their education, whilst liaising with all stakeholders involved.

Bernie is our education expert who provides SEN related content.

Topics: SEND


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