03 December 2021

Pastoral Blog: Lifelong Learning

Pastoral Blog: Lifelong Learning

In one of my first blog posts last year, I posted about beginning the National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordination (NASENCO) course. This is a course which is compulsory for SENCOs in state schools, but is not compulsory for those in the independent sector. However, the Principal and I both felt that it was important for me to achieve the Award given the high profile of SEN in the College.

I was very pleased to receive an email telling me that I had passed this course last week. Completing the course wasn’t always easy. Although the content itself was relatively straightforward, it was a real challenge to get back into student mode after so many years had passed after I graduated. The Award is a Masters level qualification, and I had to develop the “Masters mindset” - reading widely, writing within a strict word limit, being critical of sources and using correct referencing protocol. Doing this really did remind me of the challenges faced by students everywhere, including those in the college.

Learning new things is always difficult, but it is ultimately so rewarding. Grades were not issued until the end of the course, although formative feedback is given on one draft of every assignment, allowing for changes to be made before the final submission. Not being able to see the grade until the end of the year did feel a little frustrating at times, and this reminded me of the importance of timely feedback, something which is vital to our students too. However, the comments given on first drafts were very useful, again leading to me spending time reflecting on my own practice and the importance of detailed feedback. For my first assignment, I received a whole host of suggestions for improvement, and I felt a little dispirited as I had tried so hard. By the second assignment, I was more into the swing of things and the comments on my first draft were much more positive. Seeing the improvement felt so satisfying. This process made me think how it must feel for students to receive negative feedback, and it also made me consider how it must feel for students with low levels of academic ability who may not have as many opportunities to see themselves progress. Taking on the role of learner has certainly given me a lot of opportunities for reflection.

My learning journey will continue this year. Not only have I been accepted onto Bellevue’s Heads Designate course, but I am also undertaking the training which will allow me to assess our students to determine whether they are entitled to extra time in their examinations. We currently do this through an external assessor, and we are very keen to bring this in-house so that students can be tested as soon as they join us rather than be assessed in batches. My first assignment was an exam on Statistics, a topic which I have always found challenging. As a result of spending a lot of time over the half term holiday revising, I was very pleased to pass. Again, another opportunity to remind myself how students feel before a test, and how hard work is the best strategy for every learner.

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