New report closes the gap around effective distance learning strategies for children with SEND

New report, published by the Chartered College of Teaching, identifies the most effective teaching methods to support children with SEND and others.

A new report, published today by the Chartered College of Teaching, has identified some of the most effective distance learning methods to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and help close the growing attainment gap.

Prior to Covid-19, limited research on distance education in schools had been conducted, making it challenging to effectively adapt pedagogical approaches to the current context. This challenge has been amplified for those teaching students with SEND such as autism, Down Syndrome and dyslexia as well as young students because research in these areas is even more limited, but these learners may have struggled more with the disruption to everyday learning routines and the lack of face-to-face learning.

This report, Education in times of crisis: Effective approaches to distance learning, provides teachers and policymakers with an accessible resource on how to best support students through distance learning, with a particular focus on students where this may be most challenging – including students with SEND and younger students – assembling the latest pedagogical research and analyses from the current crisis from around the world.
Key findings for effective strategies when working with students with SEND during distance learning include:

  • Pedagogical strategies that have been found to be effective with all students during distance learning are also likely to benefit students with SEND. These include effective feedback, metacognitive strategies and collaborative learning
  • Likewise, strategies that support students with SEND during distance learning and that make content and pedagogical approaches more accessible are likely to support all students
  • The importance of considering students’ needs first, their diagnoses second. While students may have the same diagnoses, their individual needs may differ and need to be considered when planning distance learning
  • Focusing on making learning and pedagogy, not just a particular resource or digital platform accessible – although this is crucial too
  • Creating a supportive learning environment with familiar teachers and spending time on re-establishing routines for those students who have been particularly negatively affected by a disruption to their routines
  • Online learning has also seen some positive outcomes for learners with SEND during this period, with the report highlighting that some students with SEND may have benefitted from the ability to access learning from home and at their own pace.

As we approach the one-year anniversary since schools first closed in the UK, and despite the Government’s intention to open schools from 8th March, it is anticipated that distance learning will remain a key part of education. To further support teachers, this landmark report also outlines key recommendations teachers can implement as they look to the future to support all students, including:

  • Making use of technology to provide a combination of automated, peer and teacher feedback to support student learning
  • Providing opportunities for collaborative learning online that take students’ development stage into account
  • Teaching students metacognitive strategies to support independent learning online
  • Considering the level of parental involvement that is needed for different distance learning activities
  • Planning time away from screens into the distance learning school day
  • Re-establishing routines and allowing children time to adapt to their new distance learning environment
  • Designing for accessibility – as the accessible design will benefit all students

“Almost one year into distance learning, teachers and parents are continuing to go above and beyond to support all young people and children during the pandemic. I’m incredibly proud of how teachers have adapted to new remote learning methods and technologies with little practical information and guidance available.

“This report compiles some of the best global research on strategies to help bridge the gap for the most vulnerable children in our society and it is our hope that it becomes a valuable reference point for the sector, easing the strain on teacher workloads so that they can focus on delivering high-quality education and pastoral support to students. Now more than ever, it’s important that we learn from our shared global experiences during this education crisis and plan ahead to improve distance learning for all students in the near and long-term future.”

Dame Alison Peacock, CEO at the Chartered College of Teaching

“It is extremely encouraging to see distance learning approaches with SEND pupils take a central role in this report. Throughout the pandemic this has been a neglected area of study, and shining a spotlight on the research available and providing recommendations to help engage and motivate children with complex learning needs at home will be instrumental in closing the learning gap with non-SEND peers.”

Aretha Banton MCCT Vice Principal at Harris Federation

To support teachers with the best possible insights and practical advice around distance learning, the Chartered College of Teaching will also be launching a global study into the distance learning experiences of teachers from around the world, to help generate more teacher-led best practice in distance learning.