Special Educational Needs in the Mainstream Classroom-EEF recommendations (2020)

Essential reading for educators-‘This report presents five recommendations for mainstream primary and secondary schools seeking to improve their provision for pupils with SEND. Some of the recommendations included here will also be helpful for pupils in special schools.’
Recommendation 1 Create a positive and supportive environment for all pupils,
without exception. Recommendation 2 Build an ongoing, holistic understanding of your pupils and
their needs. Recommendation 3 Ensure all pupils have access to high quality teaching.
Recommendation 4 Complement high quality teaching with carefully selected
small-group and one-to-one interventions. Recommendation 5 Work effectively with teaching assistants.

Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools | EEF (educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk)

Download the poster summary here-Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools—Recommendations (d2tic4wvo1iusb.cloudfront.net)

Educating your Child at Home- Key Stage 3/4 The Basics

Josie worked as a Careers Advisor and librarian before starting the Home Ed Life blog. Her website is full of current advice, unpicks the legal requirements and points you in the direction of free resources to teach the way you want to, enrich your child’s learning but also prepare them for statutory examinations.

Homeschool Life Archives (homeedlife.co.uk)

Becoming Word Aware at Osmani Primary School

Linda Hall and Tracey Grant from the Language, Literacy and Communication Team led training on Word Aware, a structured whole school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all children. Focused on whole class learning, the resource is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language, but it will extend the word learning of all students.

Practical, inspiring and fun ideas were explored that can be easily applied by busy classroom practitioners to develop both spoken and written vocabulary.

Remi Atoyebi (Headteacher), Helen Vail and Tracey Grant (Language, Literacy and Communication Team Learning Advisory Service Advisory teacher for inclusion).

Contact linda.hall@towerhamlets.gov.uk for further information if you are interested in booking this training for your school.

Educating your child at home

Climate change and Environmental Science

Enjoy a light-hearted illustrated children’s book about climate change and caring for our animals that is perfect for inspiring the next Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough.

Listen to the author read it aloud- https://youtu.be/ZEn-6ZiAUNM

Climate Change resources

Climate change resources for schools | WWF

Climate Change for Kids – Science Experiments for Kids (science-sparks.com)

17 Weather Science Projects and Lessons | Science Buddies Blog

Classroom Strategies to Support Pupils with Literacy KS2

Great learning at Arnhem Wharf Primary School led by LLC advisors Alison Haines and Tracey Grant. Staff delved into current theory and innovative practice leading to classroom success!

See Dyslexia Differently- video from BDA

Click the image  above to see this short YouTube video from the British Dyslexia Association. It explores the possible difficulties and strengths of young people with dyslexia. It is three minutes long.

The video could be used pupils, parents, teachers and teaching assistants.

Dyslexia Awareness Week is:

October 4th-8th October 2021

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Almost all schools now offer a literacy curriculum based on systematic synthetic phonics which most children respond really well to. But, there is a small group of pupils that don’t make the progress that we expect.

The building blocks to good phonic skills include really strong phonological awareness skills (the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in spoken language e.g. syllables, rhyme etc.) and phoneme awareness  (manipulating individual sounds).  Research shows that the majority of pupils that go on to struggle with spelling, reading and writing have a relative difficulty with their phoneme awareness and other phonological skills.  This group need extra time and attention.

Early Years settings are brilliant at developing phonological awareness skills, but as children move up into Key Stage 1 and beyond, it becomes harder for class teachers to find time to spend time on this.

One useful resource, available to all schools with access to the London Grid for Learning is Busy Things.  We found their phonic games very helpful when supporting children during lockdown, as they develop phonological awareness as well as phonics.

They updated a lot of the materials in May 2021.  We like the way you can customize the games to concentrate on specific grapheme phoneme correspondences.


Our pupils loved the games. There are games to support rhyming skills such as Topple the Tower and Robert Robot:

As well as games like Feed the Monster and Build the Word which focus on oral blending and segmenting:

The software allows you to choose which scheme you want to follow, as well as your regional accent preference (north or south of England):

Once pupils are confident at using the games online, you can also produce pdf’s of specific patterns to reinforce areas that they are working on. This was useful to set as targeted homework.

Busy things does not replace the work we need to do to help strengthen phonological awareness skills but it is a really useful tool. Children can independently use the game on laptops during class reading time or other pockets of the school day.

Teachers can set up class profiles and monitor how their pupils are doing.

For more information, there are youtube videos on how to get started, as well as tutorials online. Alternatively, do contact us for more information. While not experts,  we are  happy to share what we have learnt!

Tower Hamlets Language, Literacy and Communication Team

September 2021






The link between touch-typing and spelling

Motor-memory can often be overlooked when we are thinking of helping children and young people to spell accurately. We will work on visual activities directly intended to embed words in their memories – such as ‘look, cover, write, check,’ where pupils memorise a word, cover it up, write it out and then check their spelling – and ask questions such as, “Does it look right?” But we don’t often ask if it ‘feels’ right.

When children are first learning to read we focus on phonics for decoding, isolating the separate sounds that make up a word. We then reverse that approach to build words, often sounding out the segments and asking them how we will express that on the page. The word ‘Church,’ for instance, will become, ‘Chu, er, chu.’

So we have approaches that focus on the visual memory, and others on  the aural memory, but we often neglect to focus on the motor-memory. How a word feels as we inscribe it. It is one of the reasons for encouraging those who are struggling with spelling to use cursive – ‘joined up’ – handwriting. The theory is that instead of the word being a series of separate letters the brain needs to recollect and reproduce, it becomes one, fluent, movement. For instance, ‘heavy,’ is no longer, ‘H, E, A, V, Y’ – five elements to remember how to scribe, but ‘heavy’ one, continuous, sweep along the line.

This theory has been built in to programs that teach touch-typing, so that by employing the frequent repetition necessary to learn to use the keyboard without looking at it, learners begin to put down words on the screen without having to think about the letters in them. They spell by using the memory in their movements.

One of the earliest resources to use this was Touch, Type, Read and Spell (TTRS). Originally it was a standard touch-typing course involving copying from books that differed from offerings such as those from City and Guilds, by using real words in its exercises instead of drills focused on letter groupings on the keyboard.

Then along came personal computers and approaches like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Whilst it took its time, TTRS eventually went online to become www.readandspell.com . Now available for individuals to use at home, or for whole tranches of pupils to use at school, it still uses as its core vocabulary list the ever influential ‘Alpha to Omega’ spelling course, originally devised to teach dyslexic learners in the 1980s.

It is not the only program to do this. Kaz (www.kaz-type.com)  is a system structured i   n a similar way. Although originally targeted at general learners, it has adapted to include more specialist elements, with features such as the ability to change the font and its size, and or to select a colour scheme that a user might find easier to read on screen.

The important element of this approach to spelling, however, is keyboard fluency. As Kaz point out on their website, “Typing with 2 fingers uses the conscious mind but when you touch type with all your fingers and thumbs, the skill is transferred to the subconscious – leaving the conscious mind free for creative writing and the task at hand.”

There are compelling arguments for all children and young people to learn to touch-type. Removing barriers to their creativity, and helping them too become more productive, is just one more.