Choosing the Right Software for Your School: A Gym Analogy
As a SENCO, you know that finding the right tools and resources to support the needs of your students can be a daunting task. One of the most important tools in your arsenal is the software you use to manage and track students’ progress. From assessment and evaluation software to communication and collaboration tools, a wide variety of software options are available to help you in your role. But, just like choosing the right gym equipment for your workout routine, choosing the right software solution for your school can be tricky. With so many options available, it’s important to take the time to research and try out different options before making a final decision.
As you start your research, it’s important to keep in mind that just like the gym, there are multiple options when it comes to software, each with its own unique features and capabilities. It’s essential to understand the specific needs of your students and how software can support them. From assessment and tracking progress to communication and collaboration, a wide variety of software options can help you in your role as a SENCO. It’s also important to keep in mind that some software may not integrate well with your current systems or may not have all the features you need. It’s important to take the time to test out different options and see how they integrate with your current setup and whether or not they have the features you need to support your students effectively.
Just like trying out different pieces of gym equipment, it’s crucial to try out different software options before making a final decision. You wouldn’t just buy the first exercise machine you see, you would test it out, see how it feels, and decide if it’s the right fit for you. The same goes for software. You need to test out different options, see how they integrate with your current setup and whether or not they have the features you need. It’s also important to consider the software’s user-friendliness and how easy it is for you and your staff to navigate and use it daily. Furthermore, you may want to look into the customer support options, check out the company’s reviews, and gather feedback from other SENCOs or educators who have used the software before. This way, you can be sure that the software you choose is the right fit for your students’ needs and your own and your staff’s.
Just like setting a workout schedule and sticking to it, it’s important to set a schedule for researching and trying out different software solutions. Take the time to thoroughly research different options, test them out and evaluate them based on your needs and the needs of your students. Ensure the software is compatible with your current setup and has the features you need. Also, it’s essential to consider the cost and budget for the software, as well as the long-term sustainability and scalability of the solution. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from other SENCOs or professionals in the field, this way you can gather more information and have a better perspective on which software solution would work best for your school. And most importantly, be prepared to put in the effort to learn how to use it properly, as this will ensure that you and your staff are able to effectively utilize the software to support your students.
In the end, choosing the right software solution can be a great investment in the support and success of your students. It can help you assess and track your students’ progress, communicate and collaborate with staff and parents, and provide targeted support and interventions. But, just like choosing the right gym equipment, it’s important to make sure it’s the right fit and plan to use it before you purchase. Choosing software that aligns with your school’s needs, budget, can be effectively implemented and used by you, your staff and your students. With the right software, you can significantly impact your students’ educational experience and support them to reach their full potential.
It’s important to remember that choosing the right software solution is not a one-time decision, it’s a continuous process. Even after you have chosen the right software and implemented it, it’s essential to regularly evaluate and monitor its effectiveness. You should check if the software is meeting the needs of your students and staff, if it’s being used as intended and if any additional features or support are needed. Additionally, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest advancements in the field and new software options that may be better suited to your needs. By constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the software, you can ensure that you provide the best support for your students and keep up with the constantly evolving educational landscape.
Areas to consider with your school software choices
- Assessment and tracking software – to track and evaluate student progress, set goals and measure outcomes.
- Communication and collaboration tools – to facilitate communication between teachers, parents and students and to support team-working and collaboration.
- Special Educational Needs management software – to help manage and track the progress of students with special educational needs and to support targeted interventions.
- Learning management systems – to provide a centralised platform for student learning, and to support online learning and distance education.
- Behaviour management software – to help manage and track student behaviour and to support the implementation of positive behaviour support strategies.
- Curriculum planning and delivery software – to support the planning, delivery and evaluation of curriculum and to help align instruction with standards.
- Data analysis and reporting software – to analyse student data and to generate reports to support decision-making and accountability.
- Digital portfolios – to support student work collection and sharing and facilitate student self-reflection and self-assessment.
- Accessibility software – to support students with disabilities and to provide accessibility to digital content and tools.
- Intervention management software – to help manage and track student interventions, set goals, and measure progress.
- Speech and Language therapy software – to support speech and language therapy, assessment and tracking of progress.
- Mindfulness and mental health software – to support mental health and well-being of students through mindfulness, meditation and self-care practices.
- Reading intervention software – to support reading instruction and interventions and to track student progress in reading.
- Math intervention software – to support math instruction and interventions and track student math progress.
- Social-Emotional learning software – to support social-emotional learning and interventions and to track student progress in social-emotional development.
- Study skills software – to support instruction and interventions and track student progress in study skills.
- Dyslexia software – to support dyslexia interventions and to track student progress in reading and writing.
- Behavioural intervention software – to support behavioural interventions and track progress in behaviour management.
Some of these will overlap – for example, software that provides behaviour intervention (18) will likely manage and track issues (5). Any tool that can be used across the whole school and by multiple areas is much more likely to be used well (and funded in future years), than something only the SEN department uses.
When it comes to purchasing new software to support your role as a SENCO, there are a few key things you’ll want to consider to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck (or pound, or euro, or whatever currency you use). So, without further ado, here are the top 10 things to consider when shopping for SEN software:
- Does it integrate with existing systems? No one wants to have to manually transfer data from one program to another. Make sure the software you’re considering can play nicely with the systems you already use.
- Is it user-friendly? You don’t want to spend all your time figuring out how to use the software instead of using it to support students. Look for software with a clean, intuitive interface.
- Does it have robust reporting capabilities? As a SENCO, you’ll need to be able to generate reports on student progress, support plans, and more. Make sure the software you’re considering can handle all your reporting needs.
- Is it accessible? Students with disabilities may need to use the software, so it’s important to make sure it’s accessible to all users.
- Can it handle multiple languages? If you work in a school or district with a diverse population, you’ll want to make sure the software can handle multiple languages.
- Is it customisable? Every school and district is different, so you’ll want to make sure the software can be tailored to your specific needs.
- Does it have good customer support? You don’t want to be left high and dry if something goes wrong with the software. Make sure the company has a strong customer support team in place.
- Is it secure? With sensitive student information being stored in the software, it’s important to make sure it’s secure and compliant with relevant laws and regulations.
- How much does it cost? Nobody wants to break the bank, but you want to make sure you’re getting a good value for your money.
- Does it have a good reputation? Before you commit to any software, be sure to read reviews from other users and see what they have to say about it.
In conclusion, purchasing new software for your school role as a SENCO is a big decision, so make sure you take the time to consider all the factors that are important to you and your school or district. And remember, even if you find the perfect software, it won’t do your job for you, so don’t forget to take breaks and enjoy a cup of tea every now and then!
Abigail Hawkins FCCT
Director of SENDCO Solutions
Abigail Hawkins was a SENCO for over 25 years and has worked with pupils with all types of needs. Abigail has worked with Ed-Tech companies on developing their software and also been chair of governors for a multi-academy trust. Abigail now runs SENsible SENCO and SENDCO Solutions, with the aim of working with SENCOs and inclusion leaders across the UK to improve their support for SEND pupils. See our school services for more information.