08 January 2021
Kate Freeman is a Speech and Language Advisor, leading on I CAN’s work with the Early Years SEND Partnership. Below she discusses virtual training opportunities in the time of Covid-19
Like many organisations, I CAN has had to be agile in finding new ways to ensure that our quality offer remains available to practitioners and parents across the UK (and beyond). All with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of speech, language and communication and building skills and strategies to better support children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), and their families.
We had a very steep learning-curve and very quickly had to become experts in managing and delivering on-line training. Zoom, GoTo Meeting and Microsoft Teams are all making a bid for the most used and best functioning platform from which to run training and meetings.
When coronavirus first hit , the Early Years Special Educational Needs and Disability (EYSEND) Partnership programme had just provided funding for another year of activity from I CAN. This was based on the success of the work in the previous 18 months when four local authorities were enabled to look at their strategies for supporting children with SLCN in early years settings and an additional thousand early years practitioners, SENCOs and managers took part in core and in-depth training to build their skills in this area of work.
The training and specialist support, which took place in pre-COVID-19 times i.e. between October 2018 and March 2020, was delivered face to face, from Hereford to Skegness and Birmingham to Durham.
The new targets for 2020 – 2021 were extended to include all local authorities within England, reaching right down to the tip of Cornwall and up to the top of Northumberland. Once clear about the widespread geographical locations, I started to prepare for many long train journeys, early starts, late evenings and overnight stays….Then came COVID-19 restrictions!
To begin with, my planning for EYSEND 3 focused on the first set of training (core training) which we identified would need to be delivered on-line. The expectations, at that point, were that the second set (in-depth training) could be delivered face to face. So, I set about re-designing the core training to be offered through two 90-minute webcasts with opportunities for self-reflection, plus a follow up coaching webinar to enable participants to ask questions and find solutions for particular challenges that they face.
Next came the scripting, filming and editing, which is a significant process in itself! I learnt how to use an autocue, how many lights are actually needed to deliver clear faces without shadows, how a bedroom can become a studio and what impact last minute changes to slides have on the filming and editing process. I must say this was all helped significantly by sharing my home with my son who was on lockdown from a degree in television!
I am pleased to say that we now have the two core training webcasts available to view on-line. These can be viewed at any time, at home or at work, by individuals or in groups. So far, the take-up has been very positive and many people have booked for the follow up coaching webinars too. Visit www.ican.org.uk/eysend-partnership to access these webcasts.
The second part of the EYSEND training this year was planned to be face to face. However, by the time the end of the summer was looming, it was apparent that this was not going to be possible. So, again, re-working was needed so that this full day training session could be translated into two shorter sessions that can be accessed on-line. So far, we have delivered three sets of the two-session in-depth webinars with more sessions available into the spring term. To book, visit the above webpage and scroll down to ‘in-depth webinars’.
I have learnt a lot through the process of ‘pivoting’ to deliver training on-line and very occasionally the tech still gets the better of me. But, in general, there are lots of advantages to running courses virtually, both for the participants and for me. There is less time spent travelling and more available for learning. The webcasts and webinars can easily be accessed at any time of the day and we are still able to get the message out about the importance of speech, language and communication and how to support children with SLCN in early years settings. What’s not to like?
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