Accessibility in Focus: Amina’s Story
Addition support needs (ASN) schooling during COVID
As an ASN teacher who has experience of working across primary and secondary there has been a great deal of focus on supporting the health and well-being of our pupils on their return to face to face education. With smaller class sizes in ASN than in mainstream schools and ASNA classroom support it is possible to give pupils more attention and to be more responsive to individual needs.
I noticed many of our young people returned to school at the start of the new term very anxious about the COVID-19 situation. Pupils want to discuss their fears about the virus. They worry about themselves or family members becoming ill or having been ill. Daily check-ins with pupils allow them an opportunity to talk about their feelings and concerns.
By the middle of the first term most young people have settled down into a good routine at school and they are adjusting well. In some cases, our children need more time to adjust than others in the same school setting as they may find the ‘new normal’ a huge disruption to previously familiar routines. Fortunately, I have seen the majority of our children, including very young children, adapting well to mask wearing and hand sanitising and understand the need for it.
Despite efforts to discourage them, some pupils continue to share items such as stationary, personal belongings or food, and are unable to maintain social distance from each other or staff. Teachers are constantly trying to manage and limit the possible transfer of the virus and this requires repeated reminders.
It can be hard to communicate clearly through a mask but hand signals/ gestures or using Makaton – a language programme that uses symbols, signs, and speech to support non-verbal communication – certainly help in overcoming this to some degree.
Covid-19 hygiene restrictions have limited the use of certain resources and the range of learning experiences that are normally offered. For example, group activities such as assemblies, singing, dancing, swimming, sand, and water play cannot take place. PE and music are offered in a far limited way than before the Covid-19 restrictions. Ideally, children would experience some of these activities at home, but this is not always possible and depends heavily on their home environments. Quarantining pupil’s work, classroom equipment and resources are a necessary but very time consuming ways to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines.
What has worked well has been incorporating a greater degree of outdoor learning and outdoor play opportunities. This has supported Health and Wellbeing (HWB) goals as well as learning in many other curricular areas. The recent good weather has certainly helped although it will hopefully continue through more inclement weather too. The children are also able to take part in their daily mile activities which is a valuable HWB aspect to their day. Supporting pupils to express their creativity through all aspects of their daily learning has shown positive results and it builds their confidence and self-esteem.