These resources are for staff working remotely to support students with SEND in their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. They should help practitioners work with families (supporters) so that they can play an effective role in home learning. Relationships with these supporters are critical to the success of home learning. Without their support it is difficult to effectively plan, deliver and monitor the effectiveness of home learning.
Given the highly individual needs of our students and their differing home environments, it may not be possible for colleges to use the exemplar materials shared here straight “off the shelf”. However, using their knowledge of individual students and their key supporters, staff should able to tailor the materials accordingly.
The material includes:
- a key principles self-audit tool
- tips on establishing and maintaining the relationship with parents supporting home learning
- a planning, providing, and monitoring progress checklist
- information about the different types of home learning support parents are providing
- parent feedback on how colleges are helping them with home learning support
- advice from parents to other parents supporting home learning
- illustrative case studies and examples of materials and resources to support home learning
- useful links to support parents with home learning.
The pack has been developed by Natspec working with a group of colleagues from a range of member colleges. Contributors include:
- Michael Davern, Quality & Training Officer, The Orpheus Centre
- Stephen Hogarth, Teacher, LEAP College
- Geoff Lively, Deputy Head of College, The Sheiling College
- Sarah Mole, Occupational Therapy Lead, St John’s College
- Katie Simpson Safeguarding & IAG Manager, Landmarks Specialist College
- Richard Vincent, Senior Tutor, Argent College – Ruskin Mill Trust
- Joanne Waite, Manager, Personal Learning Co-ordinator, National Star College.
We are very grateful to them for sharing their expertise.
A note on safeguarding
It is the responsibility of everyone working within education to protect children and vulnerable adults. These responsibilities remain whilst students learn at home. It is important for staff to:
- carefully consider the situation at each home before starting any home learning with a parent/carer; a well-meaning educator could place undue pressure on parents/carers in an already very difficult situation
- work in a way that is consistent with relevant policy and procedures to keep students and staff safe, paying particular attention to any new policies or additions to existing policies introduced in response to COVID-19
- inform parents and carers of relevant policies and procedures
- continue to be alert to signs that a student may be at risk of harm and act on any concerns immediately, following the standard safeguarding policy and procedures.
Working with family supporters: key principles
The following principles provide a useful foundation for establishing high quality, effective practice when working with families or other supporters who are involved in home learning.
- Education staff have clear grasp of the capacity parents / carers have to be involved in home learning, and are not putting undue stress on parents/carers.
- Expectations are understood by parents / carers including those for whom English is not a first language or who have additional needs.
- There is a clear plan in place for all students who are not able to access home learning at this time.
- Parents/carers are aware of who they can contact if they need additional support.
Learning at home
- Work being given is specific – based on individualised need of that student, aims that are prioritised, differentiated, and agreed with parents and carers.
- Learning at home is measurable – progress can be seen, and feedback can be given.
- Tasks/activities are attainable in the home environment. (Education know that parents/carers have tools and resources to achieve the tasks/activities)
- Targets/aims are clear and relevant for the environment and future of the student.
- Work set is time-bound so it can ether provide structure of fit around a student or family’s day.
- There is an agreed method and frequency of contact in place for parents / carers. This is tracked and concerns about infrequent / lack of contact is escalated to safeguarding / LA representatives.
- All staff are aware of basic online safety principles when interacting with learners and their parent/carers online. Efforts have been made to make parent/carers aware of online safety principles.
- All parent / carers and staff are aware of the procedure to follow during an online session and what to do if concerns are raised.
You can download the Working with families self-audit checklist, developed by The Sheiling College, for use in your own organisation. Information on how to score your provision is available in this self-audit guidance document.
Working with family supporters
The following checklist sets out some core elements of effective practice when working with family supporters in the home learning situation. It includes links to case studies and useful resources.
When planning help for family supporters who are working with learners at home, staff should:
- contact parents / carers to establish a rapport and gain an understanding of what the expectations and parameters are of their role in home learning
- establish a communications protocol so parents have one key contact and staff are clear who they need to liaise with concerning contact with parent supporters
- find out what kind of environment, usable spaces and resources are available for the parent supporter to use when supporting their young person with home learning
- consider the capabilities of parents and their availability for providing support. Be aware of other demands on the parent supporter such as working from home, other caring responsibilities and whether they have support from another adult
- gain consent from learners (with capacity) about how parents / carers will support them with home learning
- decide how health and well-being and education / accredited learning is prioritised given the home circumstances and the student’s adaptation to their new learning environment
- consult with parent supporters about the best format for learning materials, e.g. checking if they have access to the internet or a printer, or if the internet speed is OK for videos
- discuss a timetable for remote learning – let parents / carers know there will be guidelines sent in advance to safeguard their young person
- ensure work is individualised not only to the student’s educational requirements but in regard to the family’s circumstances and wishes; the welfare of the family as a whole is important.
When providing support for families working with learners at home, staff should:
- keep in regular contact to check on the welfare of the student, the understanding of the learner packs, how the remote sessions are going, giving parents a chance to say how they are doing as a family
- listen to the learner’s voice to find out how they feel best supported
- check that the student and family are happy with the structure of their day. They want more a more detailed timetable or they may prefer ideas that they can dip into when they feel able.
- support families by reassuring students that they are only expected to do as much as they can and not to worry
- remember remote sessions will not be applicable to all students so keep checking and discussing other ways to help them and their families
- be reactive to parental requests to alleviate any stress or anxieties they may be feeling and be flexible and adaptable in your approach.
- provide training for family supporters.
- allow extra time due to different delivery methods, offer parents time to run through home learning materials and provide support with technology.
- be empathetic, reassuring parents that they should just do what they can, or feel they are able to do
- be aware of privacy and safeguarding issues and ensure data protection principles are adhered to.
When supporting parents with monitoring progress and assessing the impact of home learning, staff should:
- provide a format that is easy to use for parents; these records of progress and achievement can be further annotated by staff. with the potential to adapt current assessment tools where possible this case study from
- provide training to the parents / carers to use assessment tools
- consider carefully the extent to which you involve the student/family in tracking and monitoring progress. Come up with sensitive and easy-to-manage approaches to evidence production, differentiating for different students / families
- decide if the emphasis on maintaining or further developing student’s skills and communicate this clearly to parents / carers.
What home learning support are parents providing?
This short report from Landmarks College summarises the range of home learning support parents are providing, from joining in with starter activities to helping with independent living skills around the house and providing feedback to staff about the welfare of the student.
The parent voice
Some colleges have asked parents what they have found to be the most effective home learning support provided by the college. Parents identified the following as effective
- printable material with symbolised instructions
- a timetable provided by college
- YouTube videos, for example a cookery video/demo provided by an Independent Living Skills tutor.
- variety of worksheets / tasks offered
- learning packs sent by staff
- practical activities (such as craft or horticulture tasks)
- Microsoft Teams group meetings
- online tutor-led sessions with other learners
- adapting resources in response to parental request
- face-to-face contact with staff through video teaching
- phone calls home
- regular contact from familiar staff
- detailed individualised information about targets and areas to work on.
Advice from parents to other parents supporting home learning
Look after yourself:
- don’t be too hard on yourself!
- ask for help if you need to
- make sure that you allow pockets of time in the day where you can switch off as a parent by providing interesting and exciting activities.
- do something that gives you joy preferably early on in the day (ideally exercising in the fresh air)
- the mental wellbeing of the learner and whole family must come first.
Have realistic expectations:
- just do your best, don’t worry about achieving set amounts of work or tasks each day
- you will have bad days and on those days it’s best to do what you can and not to stress about it
- don’t expect too much and don’t feel like you have to have an action-packed day every day
- allow for good, OK, and not so OK days.
Tips for effective home learning:
- share the load amongst different family members where you can
- have some structure – follow the timetables sent by college
- try to set a simple daily routine but be flexible
- have a range of practical projects that can be completed in the garden
- help decrease anxiety wherever possible (for example, through sticking to new routines or using visual timetables)
- be up front about the help you need with professionals who can offer support
- be open and flexible – try different tools / strategies until you find something that works for your family (especially for managing behaviour)
- facilitate relationships with college staff and friends to continue as much as possible.
- home learning goes on all the time without realising it!
Parent support groups
Bringing parents / supporters together as a virtual mutual peer support group may help some families to cope with the pressures they face and help them overcome feelings of isolation.
The following websites may helpful to parents who are supporting young people with SEND with learning at home:
Connecting with other families
Supporting home learning:
- Parents’ Tool Kit: SEND from BBC
- Twinkl Resources
- Learn to sign with a free training handbook
- Audible stories: a collection of free-to-stream books and audio stories for all ages and available in a range of languages.
- Create symbolised resources and schedules at home with a free 21 day trial
- Online safety activity packs designed for Covid-19 situation
- Squidge and Pop, bubbles, yoga, and wellness a channel for people with learning disability
- Cause and effect games for SEND by inclusive technology – reduced cost monthly licence to gain access to lots of games and resources
- Free access to Clicker resources that are commonly used in SEN schools and colleges, available during Covid-19 period