CfESEND blog: curriculum and supporting the sector from the dining room at Derby College Group

Blog by Ben Walkerdine, CfESEND Project Lead at Derby College Group for the Centres for Excellence in SEND programme.

Covid-19 has changed almost everyone’s working life. As an enthusiastic ‘techie’ it’s been amazing to see how colleagues and students have embraced the shift to online delivery, but I’ve got to admit, I miss seeing my co-workers in person. Visiting a colleague’s office and grabbing a quick coffee, while discussing matters arising (or football), is a welcome moment of camaraderie – I love the social side of the job.

Pre-Covid-19, I was part of the “traditional” Centre for Excellence in SEND Project team at Derby College Group (DCG). We had planned with the sector, to meet their identified needs. I delivered lots of face to face sessions/workshops on the multitude of accessibility features available to use online to support students and staff with an inclusion need. During the pandemic our ‘new normal’ has become delivering remotely, highlighting the accessibility tools and features that now prove invaluable to all who use them, regardless of whether they have inclusion needs (SEND). Let’s face it good inclusive virtual practice excludes no one!

There has been a significant increase and uptake of virtual delivery now we are all teaching from home. Interesting elements of practice … why do you have a blurred background option in meeting on Teams? To help Deaf students or people who lip read focus on who is delivering, and what is being said and yes, subtitles can with this too. These accessibility elements are more than just new and nice features, inclusion is the reason these features are being developed in the software we all use.

People have turned to social media to find out what changes are happening across the sector regarding updates on legislation. We have seen a large increase of engagement through our DCG Inclusion page which in turn has had a positive impact on our Community of Practice.  Below are just some stories outlining how we’ve worked with learners during Covid-19 and shared via our Centre for Excellence in SEND:

One of the learners I work with was very disengaged in college, but since learning at home he has attended every session. He’s flourished. The big difference in attitude related to his experience of travelling in and out of college, which caused him such anxiety that the rest of the day was a write-off. Now that barrier’s been taken away he can enjoy his study programme. This message is echoed by other professionals, recognising their “new curriculum offer” is delivering positive outcomes for our learner even within lockdown.

Another learner I work with is unable to leave her house, due to extreme anxiety. Her school education consisted of a teacher visit, one day per week, now she while at college she can participate, via remote access, to a full-time course.  Would that really have been an option before this year? We’ve all had to adjust our lives, but some students are far more receptive to the current way. These changes that circumstances have imposed are the reasonable adjustments that meet their individual needs.

The world is moving increasingly towards remote learning and working. While we continue to support learners for whom working at home is problematic, we mustn’t forget that for others, especially those with inclusion needs, opportunities are on the horizon.

Will the post-16 sector ever plan curriculum in the same way again? I hope not! We need to use the ground we have gained to create blended personalised curriculum as our “new normal”.

Further information on our Centre for Excellence in SEND curriculum support and webinars can be found on the SEND Excellence GatewayFor more information on curriculumn development or to share practice email us at: CfESEND@derby-college.ac.uk

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