Interview with: Jacqueline Bebbington and Natalie Walsh, SENDSCOPE

In the midst of the global pandemic SENDSCOPE was launched. At the time, Jacqueline and Natalie were SENDCo and assistant SENDCo at a mainstream secondary school in Liverpool and whilst they were very happy and loved their roles and the school, the pandemic made them revaluate life and embark on a new journey.

What is educational provision outside of a formal school environment?
Many of the young people who attend SENDSCOPE have not had success in their education elsewhere. Through attendance at SENDSCOPE, pupils rebuild their desire to learn. We ensure that every young person feels valued and respected, we develop self-esteem and positively promote individual abilities and qualities whilst in a calm, caring and nurturing environment.

Our aim is to provide each of our students with an ‘Education for Life’ with transferable skills outside of SENDSCOPE’s environment. SENDSCOPE is a short-term supplementary placement and works in consultation with parents/carers and the young person’s host school. The pupil attends SENDSCOPE and keeps in regular communication with their school. As part of their individual programme, they continue to attend their school setting on agreed days and key adults from their school visit SENDSCOPE.

Why is this needed?
Early intervention is key. Too often, pupil needs are identified late, they escalate and become entrenched. In some cases, a child or young person is incorrectly identified as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) when in fact they have not had sufficient access to high quality teaching or there are learning gaps which need to be filled.

For students with SEND, they need an opportunity to thrive, and with access to the right support, in the right place, and at the right time, they can fulfil their potential and lead happy, healthy, and productive lives.

During our careers, we have encountered many teachers who do not feel equipped with the necessary skills to support students with SEND. Many have voiced how they received very limited training to support neurodiverse children and young people. It is our goal to support school staff and parents/carers so that pupils have the opportunity to reintegrate and have equitable access to the curriculum.

What did you learn most from your teaching careers?
Teaching and learning has changed dramatically since we trained together and began our teaching careers 17 years ago. Initially we were taught to ‘find your own teaching style’ and now we are using evidenced based teaching practice such as Lemov and Rosenshine. Practice is now based on scientific evidence, rather than tradition, personal judgement, or other influences.

Our teaching practice has developed over time and continues to do so. We’re always willing to learn from experienced professionals who are knowledgeable about supporting students with SEND and in turn are willing to share our experiences with others. If there’s one valuable lesson we’ve learnt, it is that co-production and partnership is key to student progress and being experienced classroom practitioners is what makes us credible.

Over recent years we have had the opportunity to become extremely reflective, focusing on our own teaching practice. It made us consider – why this teaching strategy? Why at this point in the lesson? Why planned this way? All questions led to the same conclusion… because it meets the needs of all learners as ‘Good teaching for SEND is good teaching for all’.

What is your vision?
SENDSCOPE puts the individual needs of each pupil at the centre of everything we do, to help them to achieve their best. Our vision is based around SENDSCOPE’s three pillars ‘Diversity, Inclusion, Opportunity.’ We celebrate diversity in order to bring about true inclusion, so all pupils have the opportunity to achieve success. As experienced practitioners we know the challenges teachers and support staff have each day – it’s not always easy but there is nothing more rewarding than knowing and seeing the impact you have made on someone’s life.

Young people need role models, they need support and encouragement, teachers need to show them their true potential and find out how they learn best. The feeling you get when pupils develop a growth mindset and begin to turn statements such as “I don’t get it” into “I did it!” and “I’m so proud of myself” is priceless, there is no better feeling.

How did you find the right location for SENDSCOPE?
This was one of the hardest parts of our journey! We knew what we wanted but finding somewhere in Merseyside that ticked all the boxes was no easy task. We would spend hours trawling the internet and driving around the city searching for properties, we spent one afternoon stood in a shipping container that had just been used for a fire fighting course, pondering if this could be converted into a classroom.

Finding SENDSCOPE’s home happened after we began our consultancy period at St Francis Xavier’s College (SFX). Headteacher David Hayes was passionate about transforming SEND at SFX and whilst working together we discussed the possibility of SENDSCOPE@SFX. After a tour of the school, we came across the upper pavilion which had previously been used as a changing room. From the moment we walked into this space we could see the potential and so the transformation began…

What was managing the project like?
Managing our partners, dads, brothers, and nephews has been no easy task. Paying them with pie and chips was a good deal though!
We could not have done this without the hard work and kindness from our relatives, friends, and friends of friends. We have met some incredible people on this journey and the generosity shown towards us has been overwhelming.

Since you opened how are things going?
SENDSCOPE is growing from strength to strength and every day presents new challenges and new opportunities. We have welcomed young people from across Merseyside and we are working closely with primary and secondary schools to train their staff on ‘The Inclusive Classroom’.

We are also currently working on a project with SupplyWell, an established supply solution service- to coach and train supply staff so that they feel better equipped, and schools are confident that they have current and relevant SEND training.

How are children supported when they come to you?
We provide a tailored curriculum within a safe and nurturing environment, empowering them to reach their full potential. We implement learning opportunities which focus on improving the physical and mental wellbeing of children and young people so that they are equipped to maintain a positive lifestyle approach. As pupils come to understand how to maintain good mental health and wellbeing, their readiness to learn can be maximised as we overcome social and emotional barriers to learning. The experiences they have at SENDSCOPE can then be transferred into their mainstream setting or specialist provision.

SENDSCOPE is a bridging placement for children and young people that offers early intervention. Our ultimate goal is for students to return to their mainstream setting or transition to specialist provision where necessary and be in receipt of the right support at the right time.

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