The Inclusive Science Group – Meeting 2 (Remote learning)



The inclusive science group is made of interested educators from all phases and sectors who have an interest in teaching students who have additional support needs or special educational needs. It is organised by Rob Butler from the ASE and Jane Essex (ASE and RSC member) who both have an interest in this area of science education. Membership of this group is open to anyone, and attendance at the meetings is optional. Notes taken during the discussion will be shared with the whole group.

Meeting 1st Feb 2021

Focus – Remote learning for those with SEND/Additional needs

The notes don’t identify the contributions from members of the group unless they specifically request to be identified.

The meeting opened with some bullet points from the National SENCO workforce survey 2020

  • 70% of SENCOs cited that the access children and Young People had to IT hardware at home was a key challenge for schools. 
  • Three-quarters of SENCOs felt that their school experienced challenges with providing virtual support for children and Young People with SEN. 
  • The overall digital literacy of the school also presented an obstacle, with just over half of SENCOs citing this as a problematic. 
  • The provision of appropriately differentiated work online for children and Young People with SEN was a challenge, with nearly three-quarters of SENCOs highlighting this as a concern. 
  • 8 out of 10 secondary colleagues cited providing differentiated learning online for children and Young People with SEN as difficult. 
  • Just over half of SENCOs stated that supporting staff in developing differentiated learning was also difficult during this period. 

Rob moved on to some pen portraits created from interviews that he had carried out prior to the meeting. They also serve as a reminder to teachers that not all learners with additional needs will be lower attainers and that many students are only limited by the way learning is framed and not the content.

“Lucy” ASD KS4

  • Won’t use a webcam and doesn’t like using the mic (this is more common than teachers realise)
  • The pace is important – allow time for learners to reflect. “When teachers go too fast I get lost”
  • Doesn’t like pre-recorded lessons because there is no one to ask questions or seek clarification from (it is easier to make notes though)
  • I usually learn as a combination of what the teacher says and what my friends say. I don’t get this online.
  • Give me plenty of notice of changes (e.g. assessments)
  • The perfect lesson is ½ live lesson and the teacher includes bullet points or a summary at the end. 
  • Ask very targeted questions (‘tell me this’ not ‘discuss ideas around’)
  • Allow time to finish activities at the ends of lessons/activities. Remember some of us need time to process information 

“Jessica” ADHD KS3

  • Favourite lessons are those where I can interact with the teacher. 
  • One teacher goes too fast and I don’t get time to answer.
  • I miss being able to ask my friends for help. We have a WhatsApp group discussion running alongside the online lessons so I can ask “What’s he on about?”
  • Bad lessons go by too quickly and the teacher can’t check on me – and I don’t want to ask for help in the group chat/in front of everyone.
  • I don’t like offline lessons – the teacher can’t give me help and I can’t ask questions
  • Lessons need to be shorter with time to finish tasks. I have lots of tasks to finish at the end of the day
  • It’s hard not having a break and exercise between lessons. No change of scenery either, I’m overwhelmed by the end of the day (and my head is buzzing)
  • Glad my parents have a printer (although it streaks) – too many worksheets.
  • I’ve got files everywhere and I can’t find things (we aren’t taught to manage files at school)

“Dan” ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia KS5

  • Teachers don’t show how solutions are worked out – I can’t follow them and my TA can’t work them out either. 
  • Consistency of support is still important, – Dan still gets different TAs who he doesn’t know.
  • We can’t see facial expressions like in class – hard to communicate and I don’t like to ask in front of the class. 
  • Watching a replay isn’t helpful because I can’t have explanations rephrased or explained differently.
  • Lots of information is presented and I can’t write it down. Lots of the slides are too busy – too much colour/pictures
  • Teachers need to bullet and break things down (doing A-level, the work might be hard) I need simple instructions, bullet points and checklists of what I need to do
  • I’ve got long worksheets full of formulae. I don’t know what is important or what to focus on.  I take screenshots but I have lots of these to work through and pick out what is important
  • I would find worked solutions and notes helpful
  • The teacher can’t look at my working to see where I’ve gone wrong when I’m working online.

Rob also shared Lynn McCann’s ten tips for online learning for autistic students 

The first contributor spoke about screen castify (a screen recording tool) and how they talk through expectations for learners. Whilst they don’t like the Oak National resource, it is repetitive in nature which suits many SEND learners so is shared alongside lesson resources. They don’t do live lessons because they have issues with the number of devices in a household, but they do offer live drop-in sessions for each subject. These are for learners who are struggling or just want to see a friendly face. The teacher also offers a choice in the activities she gives so teachers can do activities their own way – she hates the thought of “Dan” in the pen portraits ending up with lots of screen-captures, this is exactly what they want to avoid as teachers.

The second contributor teaches nurture groups at secondary levels and the school expectation is a 20-minute live lesson followed by 40 minutes for them to do the work. Year 7 are struggling with maintaining attention for 20 minutes, but by a process of trial and error, she has come up with a process that is more effective. The lesson starts with a photo of something simple and a question (retrieval of something they know, like how do we know this is a chemical reaction?) which gives them a ‘quick win’. Then she gives them some information which they will then have in an activity so there is repetition – the activities vary for example word fills or worksheets. The cognitive load is smaller using this technique and as students are becoming more confident their engagement has increased. The teacher stays on the ‘call’ for the lesson and can live feedback on their work. They are struggling at taking information from a PowerPoint and then using it before coming for help. The teacher has had to spend longer on computer skills which have been a barrier to learning before students improved to be able to access the activities.

Jane told of a classroom-based lesson she watched before lockdown in which a student wouldn’t answer a question (even with 1:1 support from an adult) without confirmation of the answer from a peer. The social verification from another learner was important and this won’t happen with remote learning. Jane asked if students could finish lockdown with more transferable skills and less science content? There was the possibility that they could.

The next contributor wasn’t a teacher but does work with teachers to improve access to STEM for learners with disabilities and SEND. Since lockdown, they have been running virtual labs and they provide equipment and only rely on households providing simple equipment like salt. There is a focus on actual practical skills like measuring a liquid. The virtual lab uses parents as a technician who isn’t allowed to do the experiments but is allowed to mop up spills (and help with technical issues)

The next teacher lives in a remote area with poor connectivity (and no learning platform at the moment) Remote learning has been by post, phone, email and an occasional Zoom call when it works. Bandwidth limitations make it difficult to share files larger than a PDF so this poses limitations. The school is residential but has day learners. Trying to match up learning between those on-site and those at home is a challenge. 

The next contribution came from an inclusion lead at a primary school. One game-changer for them was to send home science vocabulary on a sheet with Widgits, and parents have been able to help the parents with the vocabulary so they can help their children. “Help us to help you”

RB asked how teachers were facing issues like busy worksheets and the issue of cognitive overload. One teacher had colour coded resources so learners know you must do this, you should do that, you could do this which helped alongside reducing the number of lessons and moving to projects (which also helped staff workload too) One school was providing different activities – this lesson we’ll do this and next lesson we’ll do something else (for example some students loved Seneca learning and others don’t) A typical activity would be to go out in the garden and build a model of an animal cell using natural materials and it gets the learners outside and thinking about a model. It can be hard to evidence as some learners struggle uploading photos to their work.

Jane asks how you identify learners who are struggling. Students (even the adults she works with) appear to get overloaded much more easily and it’s harder to work with resources (can’t just ask them to find the worksheet with a picture of a shell in the corner for example)

One teacher shared how they laid out worksheets to minimise the amount of writing required and that any writing serves a purpose rather than writing for the sake of it. Another secondary teacher had classes that have had extensive experience of a split-delivery model – the challenge is to stretch the ones that need it and to manage the group that has a teaching assistant. One successful strategy was to use Google Jamboard. Students were given Jamboards with keywords and asked them to link them together, which provided an open-ended task and allowed the teacher to identify misconceptions. Students didn’t like using the words online in front of their parents (the topic was reproduction) so this was a way to check their understanding of the vocabulary. Some of her colleagues used Google docs but Jamboard is a nice simple platform. It can be used for Pictionary on screen too.  It takes some time to get the results back which slows down the pace, but using allowed the teacher to get immediate feedback from the students (they enjoyed using it and they can’t see each other’s boards) It is hard to identify the barrier to engagement – 100% attendance isn’t translating to 100% in assignments (nearly half of that) so trying different techniques and trying different IT skills. The teacher had used Phet resources for some topics like building compounds so they learned some of the key ideas. 

Twitter is a good source of information, one teacher posted a photo of a skeleton model which a student had laid out on the bed and used cutlery for the bones. 

Quizzes (Google quizzes or similar) are good for checking progress and doing reviews and give you an idea of what learners have got and what they haven’t got. Lots of recapping of the previous lesson – ‘do you remember we were doing this?’ It is harder to get their attention than in class. Students are also reluctant to read instructions (or struggle with reading). This provides a quick win for the learners who experience some success. Jane suggested writing a note at the end of the week of what they’ve learned over the week (perhaps with screengrabs) ready for the coming week. Writing a note could also provide a check on learning for the teacher (and it could be interesting to see what learners identify as the most important points)


RB shared a suggestion from Twitter of using the feedback emojis on the Teams chat so students can get immediate feedback on questions or comments. For students who don’t like to communicate, this can be very useful.


Closing thoughts

  • Consider the pace and structure of the lesson
  • Have you allowed processing time? Time to complete the actual task during the remote lesson?
  • Keep it simple (you aren’t paid by the word!) – don’t over clutter resources
  • Explanations need to be clear and concise
  • Use summaries and bullet lists
  • Consider cognitive load (flicking between multiple sources)
  • Make sure students have a way to ask for help
  • How do you check your students have learnt what you intended?
  • Can you use breakout rooms/parallel rooms for learners who have different requirements or to talk to them away from the class?


Useful links:

Mote voice notes 

Who are the ASE

The Association for Science Education (ASE) is one of the largest subject associations in the UK. We are an active membership body that has been supporting all those involved in science education from pre-school to higher education for over 100 years; members include teachers, technicians, tutors and advisers.  We are a Registered Charity with a Royal Charter, owned by our members and independent of government. We seek to create a powerful voice for science education professionals in order to make a positive and influential difference to the teaching and learning of science throughout the UK and further afield.

Support us and help us make science education better for all by becoming a member. More details at


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