CALL Scotland Annual Report 2019-2020

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Abstract / Description of output

2019-20 was and still is dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent response which has changed Scottish education entirely: children and young people learned at home for the entire summer term; teachers and school leaders rapidly developed pedagogies and teaching practices to address the new situation; SQA examinations were cancelled; education services for children with additional support needs were completely altered.
The impact on children with additional support needs and their families has yet to be fully researched, but there is no doubt many were at an increased risk of social isolation, damage to well-being and reduced attainment .
In school, children and young people with additional support needs are supported by teaching staff and learning assistants, by specialist peripatetic teachers, educational psychologists and Allied Health Professionals, through technology, learning resources in accessible formats, and other reasonable adjustments and auxiliary aids or services.
It seems unlikely that parents/carers were able to provide the same level of support for their children learning at home. Were parents working at home able to find time to read or scribe for a learner who has learned (been taught?) to rely on a reader or scribe to access the curriculum in class? And for learners with significant physical support needs that required full time assistance at school for personal care, physio exercises, eating and drinking as well as to access the curriculum –could parents/carers take on this role at home whilst also home working? While provision of specialised teaching and materials for learners who access learning resources via a medium such as Braille, for example, would have been challenging.
More positively, the CALL team also had contact with some learners who seemed to experience reduced anxiety through not having to be in school or found it easier to manage their learning outside the regimented school day.
The lockdown saw a sharp increase in the use of digital technology to support learners at home, and Inclusive Digital Technologies – such as computer readers and digital learning resources – have even greater potential to enable learners to learn at home more independently without having to rely so much on parents, carers or siblings.
However, for this to happen:
• children and young people with additional support needs who had been using inclusive digital technologies at school needed access to the same or equivalent tools at home;
• children and young people with additional support needs, and their parents/carers needed the digital skills to access learning using these tools;
• children and young people with additional support needs had to be provided with accessible learning resources .
The CALL team, working at home, had to rapidly assess the situation and decide how best to support practitioners, learners and parents/carers. We analysed the questions posed and increased our blog, Twitter and Facebook output in response and created a new online mechanism for parents to get in contact.
Face to face visits in schools were not possible and so we tried to support parents and learners at home using other means.
Our inset and in-CALL training, and the annual two day ASL Technology conference were converted successfully to online delivery.
Guidance on supporting pupils, parents and teachers from Scottish Government (p. 5) advised that:
“All partners in the education system will work together to signpost parents and carers to:
• CALL Scotland which has information on tools that parents can use to support home learning, such as overlays and text to speech.”
We worked with Scottish Government, Education Scotland, SQA, local authorities, Dyslexia Scotland and NPFS to provide online advice and guidance on these and many other topics.
As schools returned, there are still restrictions on visitors to schools and so assessment and support can only be provided where essential, and in-person training is not possible. It seems likely that this situation will persist for some time.
As we move forward, Inclusive Digital Technology is more important than ever for children and young people with additional support needs.
I am extremely grateful to my colleagues in the tight-knit CALL Scotland team who have worked so hard to not only keep the show on the road but have also devised fresh vehicles and tools to navigate this new terrain.
Period covered by the Annual Report
The 2019-20 report covers the period from 1 August 2019 to 31 July 2020 to report on activities over the academic session.
Development Priorities 2020-21
Our priorities for development for 2020-21 are to:
• continue to support local authorities, practitioners, parents and learners;
• work with colleagues and Scottish Government to progress National Strategic Commissioning; implementation of the AAC legislation, and take forward the actions from the ASL Review;
• explore additional sources of recurrent income;
• research options for delivery of the Scottish computer voices on Chromebooks and iOS;
• continue to support colleagues in ATLAS (Assistive Technology for Learning Across Scotland), and raise awareness of the need for Assistive Technology services in areas of Scotland where we believe provision is unsatisfactory;
• develop a research strategy for CALL, to gather and disseminate evidence-based practice in Inclusive Digital Technology.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh
Number of pages81
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2020

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