Caroline Mytonn (Senior Lecturer and Subject Lead for Professional Studies and SEND) and Miranda Barker (Lecturer and SEND Strategic Adviser), Birmingham City University

Focus on ITE SEN Specialist Route – PGCE Primary QTS with SEN(D) Specialism – 2020/2021


48 PGCE Primary trainees with a mixed breadth of prior knowledge and skills relating to working with and supporting children with SEND, ranging from novice trainees to more experienced trainees.


1 year PGCE Primary (QTS) Initial Teacher Education (ITE) teaching programme.

Trainees were out on initial school placements, from mid Autumn, in a variety of settings including mainstream, specialist provision and some specialist units attached to mainstream settings.

During lockdown, trainees were on school site during the day and/or involved in online planning and teaching.

How did w respond?

This SEND specialism module was delivered during Spring lockdown (2021). As such, it was necessary to adapt what had previously been a practical face to face module to support online delivery only, drawing upon the SEND expertise from the University staff and partner colleagues in external SEND provision.

Online Delivery Approaches

Blended Approach:

  • Whole cohort teaching by specialist tutors/partner specialists – engagement of trainees during online taught sessions through chat bar/verbal contributions to support interaction throughout the sessions(including modelling by staff/partners).
  • Emphasis upon and encouragement of interaction between trainees and staff resulted in online delivery being brought alive – this facilitated the building upon, sharing and developing of trainees’ individual SEND knowledge, understanding and practical skills.
  • Seminar Groups (cohort divided in half, each group with allocated tutor support) to facilitate greater online discussion and depth of exploration of key issues as well as providing support relating to set individual research tasks.
  • Peer Group online opportunities facilitated and timetabled for research and collaborative INSET activities (maximum 4 trainees per group from a range of settings/experiences).
  • Highly structured and visually engaging Moodle page modelling inclusive strategies, practical online learning approaches and resources, wider current research and reading and designated individual additional research tasks.

Our programme provides in-depth specialist training within SEND by building upon existing SEND knowledge and skills and exploring relevant new SEND research, knowledge and skills whilst also encouraging high levels of individual trainee participation, reflection and analysis.

ITE providers have a crucial role in engaging in and drawing upon relevant research within SEND/disadvantaged/vulnerable pupils/barriers to learning and development, particularly in light of COVID-19.

ITE providers are also a key component in supporting the development of trainee teachers’ breadth of understanding, knowledge and skills within SEND through the use of creative blended approaches. The use of these has been necessitated, but also developed and enhanced (and the value recognised) due to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic upon traditional face to face training approaches.

Feedback that reflects the role of specialist training (received 2020-2021 – trainees/external specialist )

Victoria Mulligan (PGCE trainee – PGCE QTS with SEN Specialism – 2020 -21)

“I chose BCU for my PGCE for the opportunity to have SEND as my specialism when entering the teaching profession. Caroline and Miranda did not disappoint! Every single session has been incredibly interesting, engaging, knowledgeable, personalised and interactive. All sessions have been enriched with facts, information, case studies, personal experience and Q&A opportunities.

I feel the resources and experiences shared have been invaluable in preparing me for any SEND need present in my classroom in the future. I feel my teaching during placement has greatly improved in SEND support, ability to differentiate and using alternative methods to create a safe and homely classroom environment. This has been particularly important in a year of anxiety and change for the children in school and at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This module has greatly impacted not only on my teaching but also my own worldview. I now feel confident that every single child who enters my classroom will be included and their academic needs will be cared for in the best way through my ability to personalise teaching to their strengths and needs.”

Lauren Kruzewski (PGCE trainee – PGCE QTS with SEN Specialism – 2020 -21)

“The SEND module has been really fantastic. I can’t thank Caroline and Miranda enough for their hard work and dedication. They are both so enthusiastic and have so much passion for what they teach. I have learnt so much, especially when going into peer groups and researching a specific disorder. I have thoroughly enjoyed this course and want to thank the team leaders. It really opens your eyes to the in-depth knowledge…..teachers need to have to ensure children are getting the best support possible for their education. I have learnt a lot from peers in the course and understanding how they approach difficult situations.  This really has been fantastic, eye opening and engaging.”

Alistair Crawford (Director of Teaching Schools – St Martin’s and St Andrew’s)

“The students are an absolute credit to you and BCU…..their engagement and in particular the observations on the intensive interaction session were way beyond what I see from colleagues with years of experience behind them.” (16/1/21)

“What an absolute pleasure it’s been working with Caroline and your amazing students over the last 18 months. We are incredibly proud to support the amazing ITT routes you have and place great value on our partnership with BCU.” (20/10/20)

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with a fantastic group of students…..they are a real credit to you and the great work BCU is leading with the enhanced SEND route…..please share with them that I came away feeling really energised and optimistic that so many quality SEND practitioners are entering the profession! Very impressed with the setup at BCU and your amazing SEND offer for students…..inspiring! “(13/1/20)

As evident from the above examples, trainee and external specialist feedback has been utilised, year on year, to measure the impact, value and relevance of the SEND specialist training and to inform ongoing SEND specialist training content and delivery.

The additional positive feedback upon this year’s blended approach indicates that ITE could be embedding this practice across the sector, whilst also recognising the considerable value of a variety of training methods and approaches, combined with effective training partnerships and practical experiences as shared between University ITE Providers and School Specialist colleagues and settings.