So, You’re the SENCO!
As she walked across the expanse between the old block and the new or main block, Mrs Nest wondered why every SEN department she had ever had the privilege of visiting either found itself buried at the back down some otherwise unused run down corridor or was the striking centre piece of the school.
The former was generally a pleasant hubbub of myriad characters which was so isolated that when things kicked off you’d need a map and compass to locate it which might explain why SLT have never arrived when called. Often it was missed off on learning walks…although was that a good thing?
The rooms were warm, welcoming, homely and divergent. Okay the paint might be peeling and the lights a bit flickery, but a few charity shop bargains and a row of IKEA Billy bookcases is always made it feel comfortable. As a result, they were often busy and sometimes students didn’t want to leave.
In contrast, those located at the heart of the school, supposedly sending a message of everyone is included, always felt a little draconian and business-like. Operated with a formal and librarian type approach with little opportunity to let students relax or chill. Students seemed reluctant to attend, perhaps because everyone could see them?
Whilst one met the needs of the student, but buried them away, the other sent a clear message of inclusion, but only if you want to be known as different.
It seems that needed to be a happy, medium ground.
Mrs Nest’s SEN space wasn’t either. It wasn’t quite buried down a musty old corridor but it was in the old block. Only SLT, core subjects and the caretaker seem to inhabit the main block. Probably because it didn’t have leaky ceiling tiles, old window casings and a fire alarm or class bell that sounded as if it was on the Titanic [underwater, rusty and drowned out by normal classroom noises]. In fact, whilst the smell of toilets over the summer could be…fragrant, it actually meant students could pop their head in whilst all around would assume they had just dared to brave the bogs.
In many ways, Mrs nest considered herself lucky. It would be great to have a more modern and adapted space in the main building but not at the expense of making her students akin to the elephant enclosure at Chester zoo.
The main block, built with the Building Schools for the Future funding was, in general, accessible. After all, it was built to the minimum standards required not to fall foul of the Equalities Act 2010. But that in itself was a problem. It met minimum requirements, it didn’t go beyond. And like many schools of the era, they were now discovering the rooms were not big enough or adaptable. Mrs Ness didn’t envy the English staff who were unable to put up displays on internal walls or the science department who discovered that the fume cupboard blocked the view of the smart board from one side of the room or the maths department who desperately wanted a whiteboard so they could display content on the smart board but have relevant prompts or support alongside and be able to do worked examples that stayed up when they move to the next slide. Simple, you might think. Put one up, use some Blu tack, move the board or cupboard. Oh no! Not that simple. Apparently, the schools don’t own these buildings and cannot make changes. At least in the old block they could do what they wanted or needed. Knock down a wall, put in a partition, move the boards, use displays, [although they were often strategically placed to hide the rising damp or resident mould stains.] Mrs Nest had taught in the old block for years. She even had a pet fungus who would pop up every so often usually join the school break despite all attempts to obliterate.
On autopilot, Mrs Nest realised she had reached her first destination in the new block. She opened the door of the classroom to a sea of faces looking at her expectantly but no teacher…what’s going on? The students didn’t have a clue. Apparently, their teacher was there, everyone could see their bag by the desk and the door was unlocked, but no teacher. One of the more sensible students had started to register, sending round a piece of paper for everyone to sign. Mrs Nest was confused but with the bell about to sound for first lesson she quickly relayed the message to one of her students about collecting a replacement reader pen and hastily retreated to the door. Fortunately, it was a well-behaved group of students, so the absence of their tutor was not a disaster but was of concern. Mrs Nest quickly weighed up her options knowing she couldn’t just leave them, but she needed to be somewhere else. That’s when she discovered this group had a PSHCE lesson near to her intended destination, so everyone gathered their things. They joined Mrs Nest in the corridor and she locked the door before joining a conga of students to make an early transfer to their next lesson.
The sensible student who had arranged the register re-joined them mid route and said it was really odd, but no one was in the office, so they had left the register with a note on the desk of the head teachers PA.
For a fleeting moment, Mrs Nest fantasised about alien abductions before concluding it was just a normal and chaotic Monday morning. They reached their classrooms as the bell rang and Mrs Nest let herself into the room which was not used as a tutor base.
The story continues…
Come back on the 1st or 15th each month for the next part!