Set up a SEND friendly classroom

What do you need to consider in order to ensure that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are comfortable learning in your classroom? Get some top tips here.

Get the new term off to a good start with this essential advice

Know your students

Every child is different, and every child with SEND is different, so take the time to look at the individual needs of the children in your class. Who has visual or hearing issues? Which students struggle with concentration or staying in their seat? Who has sensory issues and may easily become over or under-stimulated? Understanding the individual needs of your students is the first, and most important step to setting up a SEND friendly classroom.

Plan seating accordingly

Once you understand the needs of your class in more detail, it’s time to devise a suitable seating plan. Perhaps those with visual or hearing impairments need to sit close to the front? Maybe those who become distracted easily shouldn’t sit close to the window, sink, resources trays or anything else which may present an easy diversion from the task at hand. When considering sensory needs, students who may become upset by noise could be sat on the periphery of the classroom so that they are not surrounded on all sides by other noisy children during group or whole-class activities. Children with ADHD, for example, may not do well when sat together. You may choose to seat these children next to peers who will help them to stay settled rather than close to other students with similar needs. A good seating plan is a great starting point for a SEND friendly classroom.

Consider sensory input

Do you have children in your class who are easily over-stimulated? If so, what by? If bright colours and busy images are difficult for them, consider having pared-back displays on your classroom walls. Or if noise is a trigger, having a “quiet corner” they can retreat to when they need 5 minutes to themselves could be a valuable addition to your classroom. Similarly, children who crave stimulation may benefit from a box of sensory toys they can dip into and use for a few minutes when you can see they are struggling to sit still and stay on-task. This might include stress balls, fidget cubes/spinners etc. Lighting can also be a useful consideration – do you have bright lights? Flickering lights? These things can be stressful for some children so are worth thinking about, too.

Keeping tasks clear

It goes without saying that if a student doesn’t understand what they are meant to be doing during your lesson, that can be a key trigger for stress, distraction and resultant poor behaviour. However, many children with SEND may struggle to follow long and complicated explanations or lists of tasks. So how can you overcome this issue? Visual timetables or “now and next” boards can be brilliant for this. They give a clear and concise outline of what your class are meant to be doing at any one time. Now and next boards can also be really useful for children on the autism spectrum because these individuals may require more processing time – and having the opportunity to see the lesson as a whole rather than one discrete task at a time can be helpful for them in mentally preparing for what is coming next.

“You Clever Monkey” has a great article and some free downloads for helping you to create visual timetables.

What else?

How do you set up your SEND friendly classroom? Is there anything you do which we have not covered in this article? If so, we’d love to hear your ideas so why not add them in the comments section at the end of this blog?

Need a SEND job or SEND staff?

If you’re looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?

Back to school resources – SEND information, worksheets and other materials from Axcis – summary

Support and professional development is important to us here at Axcis – that’s why we  work hard to bring you useful resources and training guides to support your professional practice. Here is a summary of our SEND resources – all completely FREE for you to use.

SEND resources Axcis training

Your professional development is important to us – find our what SEND resources we have for you here.


Autism (ASD) resources

Down’s Syndrome resources

General SEND resources

Guest articles





Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) resources

Specific learning difficulties resources

Are you looking for SEND work?

If you are seeking work in a specialist or mainstream school and you’re not already registered with Axcis, why not do it today? Registration is free, simple and takes just 5 to 10 mins. Once complete, you will be matched immediately to suitable vacancies in your area. What do you have to lose?

Register with Axcis now!

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How supply work can benefit your education career

Supply work isn’t just a back up option, it can genuinely benefit your career – here’s how.

Credit Flickr

1 – It can significantly broaden your experience

Working on a supply basis means you that you may be in a different school every day, week, month or year. While this may sound stressful and unsettled to some, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the benefits. You’ll be exposed to different age groups and socio-economic cohorts which will offer you a broad range of experience. Supply work can therefore deepen your understanding of how to effectively cater for students of all ages and backgrounds. When you add special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into the mix, this can be even more impactful. Teachers (and indeed members of school support staff) who have the opportunity to work in schools for a range of different needs can gain some really meaningful professional development as a result.

2 – It can help you to find your niche in the profession

It took me a long time to understand that education isn’t a “one size fits all” profession. Every child is different, and so is every school. By working in a range of settings while doing supply work, you will gain a fantastic insight into what suits your style, personality and criteria for personal job fulfillment. In fact, I wish I had done this myself. I was offered a role in my second PGCE placement school, didn’t enjoy it and after 2 years, made the difficult decision to leave the profession. Had I taken the time to do some supply work and investigate alternatives more carefully, I may have stuck with teaching. Certainly something worth considering – especially if you’re thinking about leaving the profession yourself…

3 – It can be great for cross-fertilisation of ideas

Imagine this scenario – you’re working in a school and you see a brilliant behaviour management idea, or a new way of delivering maths to students with autism, and you think – “Wow – what a great idea, I’m going to use that!” It happens all the time. Many teachers have brilliant ideas which work fantastically well, but many are so busy that they don’t have time to share this good practise with other settings. By working on supply in a range of different schools, you’ll have the chance to effectively pinch ideas that work well to add to your own toolkit. This can stand you in excellent stead for your future in the profession. You’ll need to be diligent though, and keep a notebook handy for all of these ideas (if you’re anything like me, that is and have a memory like a sieve!)

4 – It can give you a more rounded understanding of the curriculum and assessment methods

By working in a number of different schools, you’ll be dipping in and out of the curriculum, covering different subjects, age ranges and levels of SEND need. In this way, you’ll be constantly exposed to the curriculum in different ways. You’ll also be using assessment methods which vary from school to school. Again, this can be a really useful experience for developing your understanding of the curriculum and how it all fits together, as well as how to effectively assess how well your students are picking it up.

5 – Your confidence will grow

One of the greatest things about supply work is that it will help your confidence to grow enormously. You’ll have been thrown in the deep end so many times that something new or challenging just won’t spike your anxiety levels the way it used to. This in itself can be a good enough reason to undertake a stint of supply work (in my opinion!) Instead of looking up to that unflappable teacher, you’ll have others looking up to you for your ability to take it all in your stride – and who wouldn’t want that?

It’s also worth remembering that all of these reasons are excellent interview fodder. If you find yourself being grilled by a panel of school leaders for a job you are desperate to get, remember to explain to them why you’d be a  brilliant addition to their team by using these five reasons, coupled with some case studies or specific examples from the schools you’ve been working in.

Are you seeking SEND teaching or support work

If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a special needs teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area.

How to memorise names… it’s that time of year again!

Are you a teacher or member of school support staff who is struggling to memorise the names of the children in your class(es)? If so, this blog is for you. Read on for some helpful ideas…

When I was a teacher, I worked in secondary schools as a science specialist. This meant that I saw around 200 different faces each week. It was a nightmare to learn all their names, so I did some research and came up with these simple ideas which might help you, too.

1 – Seating Plans

This is an obvious one which you’ve probably already tried. By asking the children to sit in assigned places, you can simply keep a plan on a sheet of paper in front of you with their names written in the spaces where each child sits. This method works well until you have a room change, or do an activity where the children are not in their usual seats. So it’s a useful tool to help, but is not the answer in the long-run. Plus, building relationships with pupils is about showing them that you want to get to know them and looking down at a sheet of paper because you can never remember their name is probably not sending the right message on that front!

2 – Name Badges

Name badges can be a good starting point for learning names

Again, an obvious idea and one that can be useful for the first few lessons each year. Simply get your students to put their name on sticky labels and wear them while they are in your class. This will also help the children to get to know each other (and you can sell the idea to them in this way!) But after those first few lessons, you’ll be on your own so you need some other tricks up your sleeve to get those names committed to memory.

3 – Visual Associations

This article gives some useful hints and tips to learn names. One of which is from a teacher called James Paterson, psychology teacher at LVS Ascot, and finalist in the World Memory Championships. He explains that:

“My top advice for recalling names is to create a visual association between the student’s name and their face, no matter how weird or illogical it might seem,” he says. “If your student is called Oliver for example, you could imagine him begging for more marks, like Oliver Twist – it’s incredible how easily the full name can be recalled with only the most tenuous of associations.”

This method may take a little time to implement but should help you to remember many of the names of your students.

4 – Flash Cards

Memorising names isn’t just going to happen by itself. Much like learning information for an exam, you’ll need to invest a little time and energy into learning the names of the children in your classes. Another simple method is to make some flash cards and practice at home. Many schools can provide you with a visual register of your class. This should include a photograph alongside the names of the students. Use this to create a set of flashcards with the children’s names on one side and their photo on the other. You can then test yourself, or get someone else to do it with you until you know all of their names. This method could also be combined with the visual association method to speed up the process.

5 – Use their name labels for help

The vast majority of students will have something with their name on – it may be their bag or it may be their pencil case/books etc. Identify a time in your routine when you can see such items and use it to practice the names of your students. For example, if your class come in every morning with a book bag, you could stand by the door and greet them each by name as they come in, using their bag as a cue if you get stuck. If you repeat this every day, you’ll know their names in no time. Alternatively, you could insist that each lesson is started with exercise books/diaries etc on desks and whenever you walk around the room, have a quick peek at it for a reminder of the names as you speak to the children. The more you say it out loud while looking at them, the faster you’ll commit those names to memory.

Do you have any other methods?

If you have any useful tricks to learn the names of your students, why not share them with us in the comments section below? We’d love to hear how you manage to learn all the names of your students each year, and it might help other people, too!

Are you seeking SEND work?

Register with Axcis and become connected to a range of specialist and mainstream schools in your area for work.

If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with us today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area, so if you need work, why not register now?

5 activities to encourage friendships in your class

The first days in a new school or class can be daunting for many children. Surrounded by people you don’t know, in an environment you’re not familiar with. Imagine how this experience can be magnified by many children with SEND. As a teacher or member of school support staff, you will want to establish a friendly, supportive classroom environment on your first day back, and here are some lovely activities for doing just that!

1 – Sticker Match-Up

Sticker match up can be a fun ice breaker game for students at the start of term

As each child comes into your class, give them a sticker each. Don’t tell them why or what it’s for, just that they need to keep it where others can see it. Then, ask the class to walk around and find other children with the same sticker as them (this works well in pairs, so ensuring that there are two of each sticker is good). Once they find their partner, they have to show each other their silliest face and then find out 3 things about each other to report back to the class.

2 – What’s in a name?

Put your class into pairs and ask them to design a name badge which they will wear for the rest of the day. The twist on this is that they will make the name badge for their partners – not for themselves. Encourage children to decorate the badges with things that interest their new friend. For example, if Sarah has a pet dog, you might encourage her partner to make her badge doggy themed. This helps to ensure that the children are focusing some of their energy on another person and asking questions/making a new friend rather than their own solo activity.

3 – Get to know you interviews

For older children who might find making name badges to be a little bit beneath them (and let’s admit it – that includes most secondary aged students), you could try using the concept of speed dating and adapting it for your class. Make two lines of chairs, ensuring that all chairs face another one. split the class in half (not boy/girl as this makes it feel a little TOO much like speed dating!) Then tell the group that they need to find out 3 things about each other (these could be put on the board as a prompt – something like 1 – name, 2 – a favourite food/item/hobby and 3 – Something surprising about themselves). You could even add a twist to the activity by giving 5 false facts for the class to try and discover. You’ll need 5 students on board with helping to plant these facts, but it can add a fun twist to the activity and provide a good way to keep the students engaged. Give each “interview” a time of 1 or 2 minutes and then get one side of the line to move on one chair until everyone has interviewed each person in the opposite line. At the end of the game, you can ask the class to suggest what the 5 fake facts were.

4 – Fact-finding mission

Put your group into pairs or small teams. Give each team the same list of questions and start a timer – whichever team is standing at the front of the class with the right answers first will win, so there is incentive to stay on task and find the answers quickly! Questions might include things like:

  • How many students in the class have blue eyes?
  • How many students in the class have a name that starts with the letter S?
  • What is the weirdest thing anyone in the class has eaten?
  • Who went the furthest for their summer holiday this year?
  • How many people in the class have a pet dog?

5 – Desert Island

This is a classic game which is a fantastic ice breaker and needs no additional resources. Simply put your class into pairs or small teams and tell them they need to come up with 3 things they would take to a desert island. This could be favourite food items, books or practical things. Once each team has come up with their list, get them to feed back to the group. Very simple, but an effective way of encouraging students to get to know each other a bit better.

Are you seeking teaching or support work?

Find your next SEND job with Axcis

If you are looking for school based work and are not already registered with Axcis, why not get in touch or register today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area, so if you need work, why not register now? It’s free and takes just a few minutes – what do you have to lose?

Axcis September Giveaway: Stationery and Craft Gear

This month, we are giving away a mega craft bucket along with a bundle of useful stationery items. We are sure this will be helpful to any teacher or member of school support staff in the coming term – find out more about the prize and how to enter here.

About the Prize

This mega craft jar contains all the things you need to get creative with your students. From pom poms, foam letters, lolly sticks, googly eyes and much, much more – it’s sure to be useful in any classroom.
All classroom staff need a good supply of stationery – this handy kit will be great for supply or permanent staff alike!

How to enter the Axcis September Giveaway

Our giveaways are always free to enter, no strings attached! We offer several entry methods so you can either take a quick peek at our Facebook page, Tweet us or sign up on our website for work and you’ll be in with a chance to win. Follow the link below and you’ll be sent to our third party giveaway page (run on there to keep things fair and square) – where you can choose your method of entry and get your name in the hat for this great prize!


If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with Axcis today and find out how we can assist you? Alternatively, if you are seeking SEND staff for your school or provision, or would like to refer a friend to us, pop us and email – we’d be happy to help!

Are you ready for the new term? Checklist for supply staff.

Are you ready for the new term? Why not take a look through our handy checklist to be sure you have everything in hand before the new term starts?

1. Make sure you have everything up to date.

Keep us up to date with your latest details – it will help us to find you work more quickly.

If you don’t have an assignment already, then you’ll need to make sure there are no delays getting work at the start of a new term. The things you should check are up to date are:

  • CV – Make sure you have sent an up to date CV to your consultant. If you need help to improve/enhance your CV, you could check out our article on writing a good CV.
  • Referees – One of the key things which prevents us from offering assignments to our contractors is out of date paperwork, and in particular – references! So, make sure that you have these completely up to date by putting a call into your consultant and checking whether any more recent ones are needed.
  • DBS – Make sure that your DBS check is still valid and up to date – without one, you simply can’t work in a school
  • Availability – Does your consultant know which days of the week you are available? Axcis contractors can update their availability by using our simple online diary– make sure yours has been filled in for the new term!

2. Be proactive

Many agency workers who have yet to accept an assignment for the coming term fall into the trap of assuming that they don’t need to do anything except sit and wait for the phone to ring with an offer of work. Although this is not strictly untrue, you might find that you secure work more quickly if you are proactive. Things you can do include:

  • Apply for jobs – at Axcis, all of our jobs are advertised on our website. By applying, your consultant will receive a notification, and you will proceed directly to the shortlisted candidates who are being considered for the role. So get onto our jobs page today and start to apply for positions which appeal to you.
  • Follow up with a call – once you’ve applied online for jobs, if there are any for which you feel you are particularly suitable, follow it up with a phone call. There could have been lots of applications for the position, and you’ll want to make sure you stand out. So give the consultant mentioned on the job advert a ring and talk to them about the role and why you feel you are suitable. They may give you advice to tweak your CV or do other things which will help you to secure it, so it’s well worth the time spent picking up the phone.
  • Encourage your consultant to market your details – agencies will sometimes contact suitable schools on your behalf to let them know you are available for work. If you’d be keen for this to happen, it may be worth talking to your consultant and making sure they know how far you’d travel and what sort of schools you are keen on so that they can approach them on your behalf to seek out upcoming vacancies.

3. Understand the types of SEND you’ll be supporting

When working with special educational needs and disabilities, it’s essential that you have a good idea of the types of SEND you’ll be supporting. If you have children with needs or conditions that you’ve not come across before, then it may be a good idea to undertake some training or do some research. Check out the Axcis events diary to see if we are running any courses which are useful to you. And remember that we also have some discounted online offerings as well as an extensive SEND resources section on our blog to help you on your way.

4. Prep your lesson plans and support materials

If you have already secured a role for the coming term, it’s a good idea to have some lesson plans and materials in hand ready to kick-start the new term and get your class off to a good start. Even if you don’t have a full timetable yet, or are waiting to secure some supply work, you can still do some prep. It never hurts to have some basic activities ready so you don’t get caught out unprepared!

Refer a friend for some extra cash!

If you could do with some extra cash (and let’s face it – who couldn’t?) then it might be worth wracking your brains to see if you have any friends, colleagues or family who would be suitable for special needs teaching or support work – we offer up to £250 in vouchers for a successful referral*, so get your thinking cap on!

*Terms apply – contact your consultant for details.

Teaching is About Relationships: Be an Ideal Friend (Guest Post)

In this guest post, Journalist Cheryl Hearts discusses the qualities of an ideal friend and the importance of teachers including these qualities into their everyday practice.

Andy and Lionel agree that being a good friend is important!

There is a belief that every person that we cross paths with during our life comes into our life for a reason. Some are there to show us our worth, and some are for us to show them theirs. Either way, every single soul we interact with teaches us a lesson. However, some people do not only help us with our personal dilemmas but also educate us on various other matters. So we would call those people “teachers.”

Being a teacher is a very respectful position. You have the power to pass the knowledge you possess to other people, shape them as individuals, and even predetermine what is that they would be doing further in life. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Teachers are often intermediaries between students and their goals. Therefore, for both parties to fulfill their roles and achieve their aims, a strong — virtually infallible — connection needs to be established. As well as that, boundaries need to be set beforehand so that nothing would distract neither sides from getting to their final destination.

Teacher-Student Tandem

However, while it is commonly agreed that the relationship the teacher has with their students is one of a kind, a lot of people argue as to what it should look like. There are different viewpoints on how close this relationship can be both potentially and in practice. Some people say that the results of the educational process tend to be significantly better when the relationship between teacher and their student is formal and somewhat detached. The reasoning behind this idea is that public relationships which include a clearly outlined authority figure that a teacher is to help students not to get too comfortable and try to show their best side by working hard. At the same time, private relationships usually encompass those within a family or among friends, the environments that are thought to be more accepting and understanding of flaws, which eventually hinders progress. This is why it is commonly believed that despite being friendly, teachers should still keep a certain distance from their students.

Another point of view, however, is that without creating a real bond, teaching will not be effective no matter how advanced the practices and methods a given teacher uses. The explanation to this lies in basic human nature as we are usually much more susceptible to the people we like and trust. Therefore, to maximize the amount of information we absorb and the skills we learn from our teachers, it is important for us to build a trusting relationship with them. One of the patterns such a relationship can follow is for the teacher to be an ideal friend for their student. Before we go any further into exploring how this could affect the teaching practice, it is important to clarify who an ideal friend is and how a teacher could become one to their students.

Qualities of a Perfect Friend

Throughout our lives, we encounter thousands of people, many of whom, even if it is for a limited amount of time, we can call friends. But it is rarely that people we let close to us are actually ideal friends as they may lack some qualities intrinsic to a perfect friend:

Someone Who Listens to You 

The teacher needs to be able to be open-minded and susceptible to the suggestions that come through from their students. The best teachers are those who let their students voice their opinion, even if they do not agree with it entirely. It is often that in such arguments, knowledge is born: disagreements, if approached correctly, bring out the truth needed for further development.

Someone Who Would Never Put You down to Hurt Your Feelings

One of the most important things a teacher needs to understand is that due to human nature, it is often that people feel vulnerable and insecure when they are not proficient in something. When learning something, people tend to make a lot of mistakes at first, as it is how they gain experience. So a good teacher must be supportive and considerate of their students. The way in which a teacher treats their students’ errors can define whether a particular student would have the strength to better themselves or would altogether give up learning.

Someone Who Helps You Solve Your Problems

While this point does not particularly focus on personal problems students may have as it is up to the individual to decide whether they would like to get involved or not. There are still plenty of issues a student can have throughout their educational journey. A good teacher is the one who understands the challenges that can potentially startle their students and be ready to help them overcome those.

Someone Who Respects You

Respect is the basis of any human relationship, so it is vital to have mutual deference to ensure your teacher-student relationship is fair and successful. Unless you respect each other, you will not be able to cooperate effectively, which is the key to working towards shared goals.

Someone Trustworthy

Last but not least, trust constitutes a large part of our lives. Hence it cannot be omitted in such an intricate business a student-teacher relationship is.


Overall, all of the features above are what makes a good friend. However, at the same time, they are also crucial to ensuring a trusting relationship, which is vital for a teacher-student tandem. To make the teaching process as fruitful as possible, you need to appeal personally to your students. So that they would be more receptive to the knowledge you have to share. Otherwise, any intention of advancing in your profession will not be successful, and you as a teacher would not be able to reach your full potential. Maintaining a friendly relationship with your students is beneficial for everyone. Moreover, it positively affects the learning process as it not only creates a valuable bond, but it also helps to maintain a positive working atmosphere.

Author’s Bio: Cheryl Hearts is a writer and journalist from Boston, Massachusetts. Her passion for writing started at an early age and evolved during the high school years. She enjoyed creating her own stories, so she decided to make writing her career.  After earning a degree in Journalism, Cheryl started running her own blog where she’s covering topics of great interest to society.

Are you seeking SEND teaching or support work?

If you’re looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?

SEND News Roundup

At Axcis, we are thrilled to be associated with the National Autistic Society and nasen. Each month, we bring you the latest news highlights from our partners, so if you’d like to know what’s been happening with these great organisations and in the world of SEND, read on.

Nasen News

Below you’ll find a list of the latest SEND news from our friends at nasen. Each title is clickable and the link will take you to their website where you can find the full story.

Axcis are proud to sponsor nasen

National Autistic Society News

Below you’ll find a list of some of the latest autism news, compiled by our friends at The National Autistic Society. Each title is clickable and the link will take you to their website where you can find the full story.

Are you looking for a teaching or support job in a school or alternative provision?

If you would be interested in a teaching or support position at a school or alternative provision, why not get in touch or register with Axcis today and find out how we can assist you? Alternatively, if you are seeking staff for your school or provision, or would like to refer a friend to us, pop us and email – we’d be happy to help!

If we want children to make better choices we have to give them better odds of success (guest post)

Graham Chatterley is an SEMH school leader and father to an autistic son along with two other children. He regularly provides guest blogs for Axcis. In this one, he talks about the challenges children face when dealing with difficult situations and how we can help them to make better choices.

In one week we are going on a family holiday to Spain. I remember a time when something like this would be really looked forward to. I’ve always been a “glass half full” kind of guy but I am currently consumed with pessimism. We are at a point where going to the shop is a massive challenge with Daniel’s autism and collection of other needs – so to go abroad seems nuts!

All the things that could go wrong keep swimming about my head;

Is he going to become aggressive on the plane?

Will he eat in another country?

Am I fit enough to throw a 5 stone child about in the pool all day for 7 days?

Is he going to sleep in a different bed, in a different country, out of routine?

As I forecast the outcomes to these potential problems and get more anxious, I have to stop myself… I need to look at it a different way. We have done this before when we went away three years ago, and there were lots of positive experiences I can draw upon;

The last time he slept on the plane and going fast in the car is literally his favourite thing!

We have back up milk with enough nutrients in. If he doesn’t eat, it isn’t going to harm him!

I am 38 and past my best – but I think I can keep up with him – and I won’t be on my own.

In past experience the only place he has ever slept well was the last holiday in Spain!

So I temporarily come out of my worry cycle and feel a lot less pessimistic. Then I think about how I did it and how often the kids at school are in similar positions and we expect the same from them.

We expect them to employ similar techniques or a growth mindset, or we expect them to trust us when we tell them ‘it will be okay’ or ‘you can do it’ or ‘you don’t have to be scared’. Like the words should overcome every piece of evidence and life experience.

Just because we said it, meant it and believe it – so should they, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter how well meaning we are or how much we believe what we are saying if the overwhelming majority of evidence and experience says otherwise. This is why we have to create an evidence base that provides experiences that back up those statements.

The Experiences Bag

For me, I see it a bit like a lucky dip. All the experiences a child has are in a bag and when faced with a challenging situation they draw a response from the bag. If that bag only has negative experiences in it, then we will get a negative response – as we so often do with some children. This, in turn is often met with more negativity and we add another one to the bag!

It might be that we have previously managed to put some positive experiences in the bag. Maybe we did a good conflict resolution, maybe the child managed their anger well or was a good friend. Despite this, they may still be in a position where the negatives in the bag outweigh the positives, so in a moment of crisis – the odds are still that they will respond in a negative way.

This is the position many of the children we work with at my school are in. They come to us with a very unbalanced bag and are expected to manage complex situations, often very quickly, it stands to reason they pick out unsuitable choices.

So we have to help!


What is the biggest absentee in most difficult situations for both children and adults? Thinking time…

If we ask the child to just grab something immediately at random out of their bag, the odds are stacked against picking a good response. Yet we do it regularly – we put them on the spot, often saying things like; ‘What have you got to say for yourself?’

We create a lucky dip situation when we could be helping more effectively.

Rather than rushing them, could they be encouraged to take a minute to look through the bag? Can they find a situation where this happened before and the outcome was okay? Filtering is a difficult skill that many will struggle with but we can at least make sure they get the opportunity.

Help them locate good responses

We are their guides, their teachers, so let’s teach them how to search their bag! We can ask questions like;

Do you remember what we did last time?

I know how well you can do this because I’ve seen you do it when……

Growth mindset is more than us saying you can do it or you will succeed, it’s about us identifying when they have done it before and all the times they have succeeded and helping to keep them at the top of the bag.

Fill it up!

There is a fabulous video on YouTube about self esteem called ‘poker chips’ and at the end he says that our job as teachers is to make sure that each and every child leaves school at the end of the day with more chips than they started the day with.

This is the same principle. We have to add positive experiences to that bag. Every success goes in – and not just academic ones! We need to point out positive interactions and give jobs they can do well which will boost confidence – but most importantly – we need to carefully manage behavioural mistakes. We will still have to add a negative because they happen and that’s OK – but if we can have a resolution and therefore also add a positive, we can add balance.

If we do this over time we can tip the scales so that even if a situation is rushed, even if it is a lucky dip, the odds of picking out a positive experience and therefore response are far better.

Remember, children know what’s in their bag. For many they head to school rooting through it and all the failures. They play the upcoming day and forecast all of the situations where it is going to go wrong and unless somebody steps in to break this cycle it will repeat. That is where the adults need to come in.

Are you seeking teaching or support work?

If you’re looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?

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