Nasen workshop held for Bright Heart tutors

SEMH training with nasen

        

Bright Heart Owl Logo

Our annual in-person workshop with nasen was very informative on the topics of SEMH needs and dyscalculia. 

Nasen tutor workshop: SEMH and dyscalculia

Annually, Bright Heart and nasen run an in-person workshop providing further training for our tutors. This allows sharing of the latest in special educational needs (SEN), along with strategies and tips for providing effective tutoring. It is also a time for social interaction – often tutors are spending a significant time working 1:1 with young people and can have less engagement with their peers.

The workshop was presented by nasen Education Officer, Anna Speke. Anna is a former SENCo and brought her experience to bear. There were two key topics which were explored, along with refreshers on safeguarding provided by Designated Safeguarding Lead, John Salmon.

It was shared that 1 in 5 children are unhappy with their mental health and 95% of education professionals reported increasing levels of anxiety among their students. It was noted the importance of trust and relationship with children, which is also key to our approach at Bright Heart. One key aspect where children are often misunderstood is understanding their behaviour as communication of need.

What might learners be communicating? Some reasons may be below:

Working with children with anxiety was also covered. Keeping activities light without any pressure was key for this environment. Breaking the anxiety feedback loop was discussed and practical strategies for helping emotional regulation.

SEMH training with nasen
Bright Heart tutors focused on the nasen workshop.

The second session examined the definition of dyscalculia, identifying it in children and what strategies are best. Sometimes people may consider this SEN as simply being poor at maths. A definition was provided by Anna as

”Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire mathematical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have a difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.’’

Everyone with dyscalculia will have a unique combination of characteristics. We then discussed some tutoring strategies for this need. 

Safeguarding refresher

Director John Salmon provided an SEMH case study to highlight safeguarding. In this study, the effects of vicarious trauma were also highlighted, which became an active discussion point for tutors.

The British Medical Association notes that vicarious trauma is

a process of change resulting from empathetic engagement with trauma survivors. Anyone who engages empathetically with survivors of traumatic incidents, torture, and material relating to their trauma, is potentially affected, including doctors and other health professionals.’

This is something for tutors to bear in mind for more complex cases, as well as to share with Bright Heart if this is something they may be experiencing.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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The numeracy and literacy crisis – insights from the front line

2021 nasen connect article by Bright Heart Education

A director discusses the literacy and numeracy crisis following lockdown in an article published in the nasen Connect magazine.           

SEN Agency Director & Co-founder

Ryan Stevenson

Dr Ryan Stevenson writes about the current literacy and numeracy crisis following lockdown.

This was published in nasen Connect magazine (Sep 21)

Dr Ryan Stevenson, Co-founder & Director at Bright Heart Education, reflects on how lockdown has negatively impacted children’s numeracy and literacy. This has been especially the case for children with SEND.  He also considers potential approaches for meeting this crisis. 

This article was published in the nasen Connect magazine – September 2021 edition.

2021 nasen connect article by Bright Heart Education
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

The numeracy and literacy crisis – insights from the front line

As children start a new year with excitement and trepidation, we can now look at the 2020/1 year with greater perspective. It was a trying time to teach while managing class bubbles and quarantine. This has presented its own challenges as a SEN tutoring agency, with students and tutors spending time in isolation. Emerging through these clouds, we have a better sense of the lost time students have experienced, but are less clear regarding this impact and how much children have retained. The emotional impact of this period must also be acknowledged and much less is known on the impact of children with special educational needs.

Studies were conducted by McKinsey on the effectiveness of remote learning during the pandemic with scores provided by global teachers. While schools, parents and tutoring agencies adapted innovatively, the study gave the UK a score of 4.9 out of 10 for online effectiveness of remote learning, with 2.8 learning months lost. By comparison, Germany, a top performer, still suffered a loss of 1.7 months of learning.

In June this year, the Renaissance Learning, Education and Policy Institute released a report tracking 375,000 students in England in the first half of the autumn term and 185,000 students in the second half. The study indicated that primary students lagged by 1.7 months in literacy and by 3.7 months in mathematics. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds (receiving free school meals), these figures were 2.2 and 4.5 months respectively. While there was some catchup in the second half of the autumn term (an average of 0.6 months for literacy and 1 month for maths), this still resulted in an unfortunate net learning loss. Catchup was lower for SEN students. 

In general, conceptual understanding in maths has suffered greatly, and it is clear there is no easy substitute for a teacher building the foundations in person. The extra attention that students with SEN require for literacy has also come at a cost. So now that there is a better idea of what is lost, how do children catch up?

Next steps

One option is to raise the lesson tempo and volume of homework. However, as Harris, one of our maths tutors on the front line, notes:

‘…many students have become overwhelmed with the workload from school. Students during the lockdown/online teaching phase found it difficult to cope and would not pay much attention in lessons, when coming back to school there seems to be an influx of work which has raised anxiety for many students as the pressure and overload of work rises. I think students are still transitioning in this period and I have to say I do feel for them.’ 

While there is pressure on teachers, caution should be advised against tackling a large problem with a larger hammer. Many students with special needs already struggled with social and emotional challenges prior to the pandemic. One needs to be careful not to have attitudes towards learning steer towards the negative as increasing pressure is shifted on to students.

The government has proposed longer school days and shorter holidays. However, as pointed out by some already, the quality of attention by students is not sustained for longer duration, and over-tired primary students tend to create low-level classroom disruption. Shorter holidays may sound attractive to parents, but UK teachers currently have one of the highest workloads in the world. Workload is often cited as the chief cause for schools struggling with staff retention.

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was launched to address the loss in learning time, with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged students. The idea is admirable in principle; however, the allocation of resources has been a challenge and seeking larger budgets for school recovery programmes has taken its toll with the departure of Sir Kevan Collins. The effectiveness of one-to-one and small group tuition is uncontested for helping students; it is hoped the government sees the importance of this avenue of delivery. As a tutoring agency, we’ve looked to help where possible, providing free tutoring at a school for small groups of disadvantaged students. Many of these students had learning challenges and English as a second language. With many of the students having had no access to remote learning or the right support during lockdown, it took time to put them at ease and for them to reengage with learning. However, with patience, encouragement and appropriate support, the students have made good progress.

Another solution seen in action, which worked effectively and at low cost, was a school paying their own senior students to tutor those younger and falling behind. While not in the same league as professional tutors, there was a gain by the senior students (if you want to master something, teach it – Feynman), a noticeable gain by the tutees and all within the school budget. This may not be the specialised help that some students need, but would go some way towards alleviating the current crisis.

The last 18 months cannot be quickly overcome nor glibly dismissed. But along with planned teaching, creative and collaborative approaches can really help children catch up lost learning.

Contact us

If this article rings true for you, then please get in touch and let us know how best we can help.


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Challenges of remote learning: a tutoring agency’s perspective​

nasen Connect September 2020

A director discusses tutoring under lockdown in an article published in nasen Connect magazine Sep 20.               

SEN agency director & education specialist

John Salmon

Director John Salmon, M. Ed,  examines how tutoring evolved during lockdown and how tutees responded.

nasen Connect magazine (Sep 20)

John Salmon, director at Bright Heart Education, reflects on how support for tutees had to be adapted during lockdown and how tutees responded to a new way of working. This article was published in the nasen Connect September 2020 edition.

nasen Connect September 2020
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

Challenges of remote learning: a tutoring agency’s perspective

Unlike schools, tutoring agencies arguably experience closer contact with the everyday reality of many households as they directly partake in both the academic and emotional vicissitudes of families. Our first-hand knowledge has shown that adapting to online schooling has been an onerous challenge for families (as well as schools), but at the same time it has offered a more personalised learning opportunity for many
students, especially those with SEN.

As a tutoring agency that supports many students with SEN, we have naturally been concerned about the emotional and academic impact of lockdown. Lately, we have received a number of calls for help from concerned parents, which shared a common pattern: their child had lost interest in writing, reading and numeracy and no longer tried to fulfil school expectations. Parents reported unattainable assignments
amidst mounting levels of frustration, anxiety and disengagement. The lack of structure left children fending for themselves, with minimal assistance, save for that provided by their parents – who cannot be expected to play the role of trained teachers. Traditionally, our agency had focused on in-person tuition, so we had to transition to online tutoring to adapt to the lockdown.

For some, the physical presence of a facilitator was necessary, but many tutees with SEN embraced online sessions and realised that, with the right guidance and nurturing support, much could be gained. Far from being emotionally affected by the lack of traditional schooling, many felt perfectly at home (no pun intended) with the new situation, as social interaction at school was often a cause of anxiety.

Case study

One such case was a Year 7 tutee with ADHD, who was not affected by feelings of isolation, but by lack of motivation when faced with the sudden prospect of doing all his work without the solid support system provided by school. Worse still, he was being asked to complete assignments using the very electronic devices that distracted him in the first place. Overstimulation led to distraction, which in turn led to frustration and eventually refusal to work.

Our adaptation to remote learning with him proved to be fruitful. First and foremost, as a student with ADHD he was less prone to distractions at home, as opposed to the myriad of stimuli in a school setting. Restricted internet access was necessary, but technology allowed for better differentiation, by addressing individual learning events; one specific topic could be delivered in multiple ways and be adapted to his unique style. Thus, a multimedia history session could include videos, downloadable materials, audio and interactive games. He was also able to work at his own pace, being free to view lessons and materials at his convenience, allowing for maximum flexibility. Since deadlines were relaxed, he had extra time to complete tasks. Additionally, his workspace was adapted to suit his preferences, creating an environment conducive to learning. 

He liked technology because he found it more impersonal and nonthreatening. There were no peers there to judge him, no teachers there to pressure him with impending deadlines. He dreaded the idea of completing mammoth projects under severe time constraints, but smaller chunks no longer seemed insurmountable. His innate curiosity for technology developed into a learning opportunity, as he experimented with the different features in PowerPoint, Word or Google Drive, mastering the subject matter in the process. He learned to be less dependent on text-based learning when using audio books and videos online and felt at ease with no one watching over his shoulder. 

A way forward

This experience has taught us that the value of direct support from well-qualified teachers is irreplaceable. But we also know that online learning is here to stay, not only for children who are home schooled full time, but also as an integral part of school life.

The technology industry takes giant leaps much faster than most industries, to the point where it permeates all human activity, including education. Lockdown prompted an impromptu trial for teachers, tutors, parents and students and learning from this can surely guide us when moving forward, but not by simply replicating lessons in the shape of online lessons, with ensuing workloads that must be completed by students autonomously. When managed appropriately and combined with optimal support in the hands of capable, well-trained instructors, applying technology in a student-centred learning environment can bring forth a wealth of benefits, including for those with SEN, as it provides the flexibility and sense of ownership that can be lacking in traditional classrooms. However, a balance must be struck between digital and screen-free activities and independent and teacher led activities.

With the right support, combining pedagogical and technological expertise, students with SEN can meet learning targets in nonthreatening, customised environments.

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If this article rings true for you, then please get in touch and let us know how best we can help.


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In-person nasen training workshop

In person training with nasen

In this article, we provide some insight about our recently held nasen in-person training event.                  

Bright Heart Owl Logo

Bright Heart

We discuss our recently held in-person training event, which was presented by nasen.

Our training relationship with nasen

A lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies before launching Bright Heart. This was especially concerning when working with students with learning challenges. In launching Bright Heart, we were determined to put this right.

We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help provide training to our tutors, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN (special educational needs) practitioners with training and resources. 

Nasen produced a training course exclusively for Bright Heart, comprising 4 webcasts (see here for topics) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course was to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

We recently complimented the online training course with an in-person training workshop facilitated by Michael Surr, nasen’s educational development officer.

 

In-person training workshop

Nasen in-person training
nasen's Michael Surr illustrating his point

We held our tutor in-person training workshop at a Wimbledon hotel on Saturday 28 September. Following an early start, tutors were welcomed on arrival with tea and coffee, before an opening address by Simon.

Michael then proceeded to engage the tutors with a very entertaining and interactive session during the rest of the morning, with the aims being to:

The session included tutors taking part in a number of interesting group exercises and sharing their own tutoring experiences with the group. 

We also watched a very interesting video on the adolescent brain by Dr Andrew Curran, a neurobiologist. This helped to illustrate the science behind the Bright Heart Approach and what makes it so effective for our students.  He explained how the teenage years are characterised by excess dopamine levels (relative to serotonin) and how providing emotional support can help the brain to function optimally (by optimising the levels of dopamine produced). This is because the limbic emotional brain is responsible for 93% of dopamine secretion. Or to put it simply, “if you have someone’s heart, their minds will come with”.

Ryan then concluded the session by emphasising Bright Heart’s vision and the importance of implementing the Bright Heart Approach. He also acknowledged the tutors for their invaluable contributions in successfully putting this into practice.

Tutors then enjoyed a light lunch where they were able to spend time getting to know each other and sharing ideas on how best to implement some of the strategies covered during the morning.

Some tutors then joined Simon and Ryan for a well-earned afternoon beverage at a nearby pub.

The feedback from tutors was all very positive, with everyone thoroughly enjoying the hands-on activities and getting to meet and learn from their peers.

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart’s tutors are all required to complete online training and encouraged to compliment this by actively participating in periodic in-person training workshops and other events.

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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Our nasen tutor training course

student doing online training course

In this article, we provide some insight from our nasen training course, produced exclusively for Bright Heart’s tutors.                  

SEN Agency co-founder

Simon McQueen

We explain why we asked nasen to help train our tutors, discuss the course and provide insight from our tutors’ test answers.

Why did we ask nasen to help train our tutors?

The lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies. This was especially concerning for tutors working with students with learning challenges. 

One of Bright Heart’s main goals is to improve the quality of tuition for students who would benefit most from a more nurturing approach. We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help achieve this, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN practitioners with training and resources.

In meeting nasen’s education team, we were surprised to find that no other tutoring agency had met with them before. We therefore commissioned nasen to produce an online training course exclusively for Bright Heart before even hiring our first tutor

The training course comprises 4 webcasts (as shown below) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course is to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

Webcast 1: The Current Context of SEND

This provides a brief overview of the legislative context of SEND (special educational needs and disability) in England. It considers the key principles of the Code of Practice (2015), followed by the models of disability. The current definition of SEND is also discussed.

The current context of SEND

Webcast 2: The 4 broad areas of need

This covers the four main divisions of SEND according to student need, being:

The webcast also considers how support and provision works, discussing the graduated approach and general strategies to consider for students.

4 broad areas of SEND

Webcast 3: Person-centred working

This defines person-centred working and how it should inform all interaction with students. It also explains how it should be used in conjunction with the Bright Heart Approach. Our heart-based approach focuses on the whole student and building rapport with warmth, before addressing academic needs.

Person-centred working

Webcast 4: Specific needs and strategies

This webcast provides a good examination of some specific SEN, including dyslexia, autism and social, emotional and mental health needs. It explains how understanding a student’s needs and considering related strengths and appropriate strategies helps to improve tutoring. Lastly, it discusses general strategies of engagement to add to a tutor’s tools for effective tuition.

SEND tutoring strategies

The nasen training course test

Bright Heart’s tutors are required to pass a detailed written test covering the nasen training course. The test comprises 20 questions requiring careful consideration from tutors. The focus is on applying the course material to practical learning situations. A selection of the questions posed are:

Interesting insights provided by our tutors

Our tutors demonstrated their full understanding of the course material through their test answers. Reviewing these answers provided some interesting insights into their approach to tuition. Answers took into account the Bright Heart Approach, specific tools and guidance provided by the nasen training, as well as tutors’ own practical experience and other relevant training and qualifications.

A selection of helpful and insightful extracts from tutors’ answers to the questions above included:

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart is pleased that its tutors have embraced their training and demonstrated their thorough understanding of it through their test answers. We plan to complement online training with in-person nasen training. Bright Heart’s directors have already received in-person training from nasen. We will write more about this in a future blog. 

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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