Catalyst SENDCo Network November 2022

Welcome to our latest edition of the Catalyst Courier. This year, our aim is to produce a newsletter following each of our SENDCO Networks, with news and information arising from the monthly SENDCO Network meetings. If you have information to share or topics you’d like us to cover please get in touch ([email protected]) 

The first SENDCO Network of this academic year was held virtually, with information from our Early Years Intervention and Support Service (EYISS) Senior Educational Psychologist Hannah McHugh, and Assistant Psychologist, Grace Stevens. 

Dr Teresa Regan also led a session with an update on the SEND review, a discussion on the Ofsted research paper: ‘Alternative provision for primary-age pupils in England: a long-term ‘destination’ or a ‘temporary solution?’ and signposting a report from the Children's Commissioner.

Updates to our Early Years Intervention and Support Service (EYISS) offer 

For the last 2 years, Catalyst Psychology has offered a successful educational psychology led assessment, intervention and support service for children in the early years with complex needs.Following increased requests from schools, we have identified the need to broaden and extend the offer to meet the needs of as many children as possible in a cost and time efficient way. In this month's SENDCO network we introduced and discussed the updated levels of support to our offer, and gave examples of how this service has been implemented at each level in our current schools.  


Levels of support for children with complex needs



We discussed as a group what factors have been affecting EYFS currently, and a common theme between schools was a high level of need within nursery and reception classrooms, and the challenges associated with supporting their current staff through capacity building and modelling of strategies. SENDCOs who have experienced the EYISS model, in which an Assistant Psychologist models strategies in the classroom, and assists in problem solving with the EYFS team, confirmed that this had been beneficial and supportive to their staff. 

Resources we shared  

Universal level: using visuals in the classroom 

Visuals can help to provide structure and routine, improve understanding, avoid frustration and offer opportunities to interact with others. Visuals are not only useful for people with SLCN. We all rely on visuals to support us in our everyday life e.g. calendars, diaries, signs. Visuals promote inclusion, as they are helpful for everyone!  

During the network we discussed how visuals are often suggested to aid the communication and understanding of children with SEN. We reflected on how the universal level approach can develop this advice, and look at how visuals are used in a specific setting, to help staff co-produce a plan for how visuals can be used to support the communication and understanding of all children. Having this plan can ensure that the visuals are meaningful and motivating for children. This plan can also support a consistent and predictable approach for children. Some children need to see visuals lots of times, across different environments to begin to understand them. It is important that team members use the same visual for the same thing, and in planning you can make them accessible and understandable for everyone supporting the pupil.  

Specialist Strategy: The Bucket 

Attention Autism is an intervention model designed by Gina Davies a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. It aims to develop natural and spontaneous communication using visual motivating activities. The bucket session is the first stage in this model, and aims to gain and engage the child's attention, and focus on the leading adult and their agenda.  

You will need:  

  • Highly engaging toys and items that the children will enjoy watching. This can be anything from chattering teeth, to pop up rockets, balls that light up, or squeezy putty. 
  • A bucket with lid, to put the toys and items in 
  • A pen and whiteboard for you to draw on to show the children what the next activity is 

See videos for an example of what this could look like in a session:  

Early strategies for autism 

Building attention skills in children: THE BUCKET! 


SEND updates

Dr Teresa Regan also led a session with an update on the SEND review, and a discussion on the Ofsted research paper: ‘Alternative provision for primary-age pupils in England: a long-term ‘destination’ or a ‘temporary solution?’ 

PDF Slides available here  

SEND Review  

The SEND review published as a Green Paper in March 2022. This is a discussion paper. There were 22 consultation questions for the public to respond to. The consultation closed in July 2022, and we understand there have been around 7000 responses. Little information has emerged about the responses overall, although the government has said there is little consensus. The current government has said that an SEND improvement plan will still be published before Christmas, although it seems likely this will be postponed until January.

Schools need more specialist help for primary age children with additional needs

This was the conclusion of an Ofsted research study into primary aged pupils and the use of alternative provision:

‘Alternative provision for primary-age pupils in England: a long-term ‘destination’ or a ‘temporary solution?’ 

Ofsted’s study, found that most primary-age pupils only stayed in AP for a few weeks or months, and usually attended part time. However, some children with additional needs stay in AP for years while they wait for a special school place, and AP staff may be unable to meet their needs fully in the meantime. This absence of appropriate teaching and specialist support could have long-term consequences for these vulnerable children. This report states that a high-quality curriculum and high-quality teaching are crucial in preventing pupils’ needs from developing or worsening. Teachers would also benefit from improved access to appropriate external services, and opportunities to develop the right knowledge and skills. This could allow more mainstream schools to support pupils with additional needs, avoiding an AP referral or exclusion. 

Further reading available on this topic:

Two relevant reports have been published in November, both worth a read:

A report by the Children's Commissioner:

  Beyond the labels: a SEND system which works for every child, every time 

A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

What is education like for young people with SEND? 


SENDCo Resource Update: file link 

These resources have been 'curated' by Grace Stevens, assistant psychologist, within the headings on the Resilience Framework. The attached document provides links to recent information and resources in each of the 5 aspects of  Resilience. All links are to our Catalyst website, with information, links and downloadable resources.