Sunderland College is helping students with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) continue their education through interactive activities and bespoke support to parents during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Anticipating the government’s decision to suspend face to face learning and recognising that staying at home can be more disruptive to the lives and routines of students aged 16-25 years with SEND, the college’s Foundation Learning (Directions) team provided families with online educational resources, tasks, sensory stories and websites to access at home.
There are 102 students on the college’s Foundations Studies programme with a wide range of needs, with 66 learners and their families confidently using IT and actively engaging through online tools on Google Classroom. The remaining 36 learners are using physical packs, with all students being supported by telephone and email.
Students’ individual learning pathways of employability, community engagement or sensory learning are supported with English, maths, personal social development, employability and ICT sessions, with each subject area timetabled throughout the week.
Claire Daly, Foundation Learning Curriculum Manager, said:
“Although the continuation of learning is very important, the main focus of the activities is the supporting of mental health and trying to reduce feelings of isolation so that students continue to feel safe and their parents or carers feel supported.
“At the present time not all of our students can access online learning for a number of reasons, however they are still being engaged by paper-based resources that have been and are continuing to be prepared by the team who are hand delivering these learning packs to students’ homes.
“We are well placed to meet the specific needs of our students and parents just as we would if they were in college.”
As some students are unable to access college campuses during lockdown, the sensory learning pathway is inspiring parents to read recommended sensory stories reinforced by everyday props from around the house.
With a focus on developing practical skills, parents and carers have been encouraged to involve students in household activities such as ironing, washing, sorting and cleaning, while recording progress and providing feedback that meets their needs.
Claire Kemp, whose daughter is benefiting from the sensory sessions at home, said:
“Jessica is enjoying the sensory stories provided by the college using items around the house. We’ve been baking as Jessica enjoys the bakery lessons and wanted to continue that at home.
“We’ve been on walks and in the garden, with Jessica enjoying her sensory lights in the den we’ve made and song time with instruments and hand and foot massages. She is also using her eye gaze.
“I’m trying to do things that I know Jess enjoys at college and I’ve been well supported with regular phone calls and emails from her lecturers Tom and Rebecca and mentor Gillian. Nicola, the speech therapist, is also available should I have any concerns or need help.”
Students with mental health conditions who are especially at risk from social isolation have been given resources to strengthen their emotional resilience with their welfare and wellbeing being monitored closely.
The Foundation Learning team has harnessed the power of social media to communicate and engage families in a fun way, introducing online Makaton sing-alongs, and plans for an online talent show and a closed YouTube channel for a safe video interaction space.
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Our achievement rates are well above the national average.
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(*Top college nationally for BTECs, Pearson 2019)
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(*Destination data, academic year 2016/17, HNC 19+)
We have recently invested £50 million in our facilities.