Keeping up with schoolwork during the Covid-19 crisis has been challenging for all pupils but for young people with sensory and physical difficulties this was potentially even more challenging.
However Oldham Council’s Sensory and Physical Support Service’s Visual Impairment Team have been showing innovation, hard work and kindness to support young people to overcome any challenges.
Pupils like Baily Wharmby, a Year 7 student at The Blue Coat School, Oldham, who is severely sight impaired.
Judith Bates-Lacy is a qualified teacher of the vision impaired (QTVI) for the Sensory and Physical Support Service. Judith, along with Baily’s carers Jade Griffiths and Michael Mills, have been supporting Baily's home learning since the lockdown, offering all the help and encouragement they can and providing him with all the equipment he needs to fulfil his learning.
Mrs Bates-Lacy phones regularly to maintain Baily's reading which Baily enjoys, she has also been helping him with his German over the phone. In school he always has the one to one he needs and the VI team communicate with us on a daily basis keeping us up to date with everything.
Without the phone calls from the VI team I ‘might get behind with my work’ and so I would like to say thank you.
Teacher comments – Judith Bates-Lacy
The sessions have been two or three each week. Baily, his carers and I discuss the work he is being set by each subject teacher at school, and I liaise with his teachers if they feel he needs some extra input with a particular piece. I also support and encourage his carers who are fitting in home learning around their family life.
In the sessions I work directly with Baily over the phone. Today we looked at some German vocabulary work and practised the words for family members. Learning by phone really made us concentrate on having clear pronunciation.
During the sessions he also reads from ‘Eragon’, the Braille book he is currently reading. I am able to work out if he is struggling with a particular Braille short form or contraction and help him to develop his Braille knowledge. He really enjoys discussions arising from the book which help immensely with his wider concept development, and today we talked about the characters using the stars to navigate; we learnt about the North star and its Latin name ‘Polaris’.
I feel very grateful that I am able to make direct contact with my pupils during lockdown and maintain the education we are committed to providing them with. The phone sessions are keeping Baily’s Braille skills fresh and maintaining a learning partnership between myself as a specialist teacher and my pupil.
I hope that having a specialist teacher in regular contact has spurred on our pupils in their learning and helped relieve some of the stress families feel in keeping up their education under difficult circumstances.