The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

New school staff induction: don’t forget SEND!

As with any new job an appropriate induction is vital, especially so in schools, and it is important that SEND features prominently.

Everyone is nervous starting a new job, at whatever level that is.

Knowing where to get a brew, ensuring IT access is facilitated, getting appropriate ID badges, understanding the school dress code, how the fire drill operates etc. all form a list of ‘practicalities’. 

This is often common information for all new starters and should form the basis of the induction processes.

For support staff and teaching staff there will be a few differences as the induction plan develops, but ensuring there is sufficient time to give a proper induction and that it isn’t all loaded into the first INSET of the year is important. 

Colleagues will have lots of new things to take in, even if experienced teachers, all schools work uniquely. Time to build up knowledge is important.

Statutory requirements

Safeguarding and medical updates are part of statutory training, and with the rapidly changing landscape encompassing Prevent Duty and wider safeguarding concerns this is a key part of training for all staff, not only those new to the school or setting.

Weekly induction sessions

Historically, we offered a ten-session induction package for new staff; however over time this has become more streamlined and elements of on-going induction and understanding feed into faculty and department meetings and discussions.

This year the sessions are as follows:

  • School expectations and standards for all.
  • Report writing, assessment and appraisal.
  • Teaching and learning.
  • SEND: supporting language in the classroom and beyond.
  • SEND: complex learners and inclusive teaching strategies.
  • Practicalities: meetings, parent/carer evenings, assemblies etc.

Each session lasts one hour and forms part of a clearly structured package. 

It is very important to ensure school expectations and systems are explained clearly so new staff are confident in how your school operates. Consistent and clear expectations for all minimises potential difficulties later on and give everyone the best opportunity for a positive start to the new academic year.

I have always advocated that around 30-40% of CPD and training should be SEND related; especially with regard to teaching and learning. After all, good strategies for students with specific needs benefit ALL students!

Why is language so important?

For as long as I can remember I have been a strong advocate for the understanding of language being a key element in learning and life.

I think it is also useful to remember that the Lancashire Judgement (1989) makes it explicitly clear that speech & language needs can be educational.

The Judge drew a very clear distinction between a need for speech therapy following surgery on your larynx (medical) and the need for speech therapy due to chromosomal disorder or social cause (educational).

‘To teach an adult who has lost his larynx because of cancer might be considered as treatment rather than education. But to teach a child who has never been able to communicate by language, whether because of some chromosomal disorder ... or because of social cause ... seems to us just as much educational provision as to teach a child to communicate in writing.’

In understanding specific learning differences, alongside language and communication needs we can help teaching and support staff consider language in a broader form and, perhaps most importantly, how this impacts upon learning and preparation for adulthood.

Why SEND needs to be part of a whole-school approach

This year we have the most new staff starting for a number of years; 10 teachers and 5 new support staff have joined us in September. I always see this as a two-way process; we can all learn from each other and inductions should be collaborative.

Our successes have been down to a very clear whole-school approach. In order for new colleagues to work with us, your students, parents/carers and community, we need to share those values and make clear our expectations for all and support developing understanding. 

So far the start to this academic year has been one of the best yet.

After a twilight training session on the Power of Yet (Dweck), coupled with this induction program, I can see us going from strength to strength in developing further as a community and, most importantly, giving the young people the best possible start in life, irrespective of specific need, background or individual starting points. 

More from Optimus

SEND Inclusive Teaching Programme: Develop an inclusive whole-school environment, where the needs of all pupils are carefully considered with this practical training programme. (Optimus Premium and Unlimited members)

NQT inductions are more critical than ever: Download a checklist to ensure all key areas of induction are covered. 

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