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Intervention – The Issues.

By 30th November 2016Blog

Intervention Issues


What are the issues with Intervention? On Friday, at the NATE Primary Conference in Birmingham, I was leading a workshop on Intervention. This list above was the one that the delegates and I collated about the issues with Intervention.

Sad Face

Sad Face
  1. Not right for the child

Data and summative assessment is key to avoiding this pitfall. Without the correct type of data or assessment, a child may be placed in the wrong intervention programme for a number of reasons. It may be too easy, too hard or not the correct context or environment. It may be the wrong person, or the wrong tactic, the wrong time of day, or the wrong time of year. Sometimes knowing it is the wrong tactic is more difficult because until an intervention strategy has been tried i.e. some children like having their own separate checklist or lesson or task, but others will find the segregation from others and the fact that they are different very difficult to bear. I think when planning intervention you need to triangulate between data, teacher experience and knowledge of that child and the child’s own opinions. This tactic will minimise any issues of an intervention not being right for a child.

Unhappy child

Unhappy child
  1. Out of context

 

Too often Intervention programmes can be completely divorced from what is happening in the classroom which can make reintegration very difficult. If a pupil knows that they are missing PE, or art, or the fun afternoon stuff, this can also make intervention less successful because the resentment it can breed. The best intervention programmes should complement or add to what is going on in the classroom. Out of context can work, but it needs to be thought through as to the impact that it will have on those children involved. Also, teachers can help contextualise the intervention by using concepts or methods taught in Intervention in lesson. This also helps children to see that whatever they have been taught in intervention is important and not just for intervention.

Follow up
Follow up
  1. Not followed up

 

If you have spent some of your school’s precious resources, why would you not check to see if it is working or not with those children who are on it? The key to this is making the Intervention tactic someone’s responsibility. This means that it is someone’s job to ensure that the Intervention is happening, to the children you want it to happen to, that it is working, by how much and if it’s not working to analyse why. Without that ownership and responsibility, then ineffective Intervention can go on for years without alternatives being explored.

Fixed mindset

Fixed mindset
  1. Emotional – fixed mindset

 

Sometimes the emotional aspect of a pupil’s learning is vastly underestimated. Some pupils will be in intervention programmes from the start of school, right the way through year 11. What subliminal message is this sending? Having a fixed mindset about ability can have a hugely negative effect. If a child believes they are stupid because they are on the bottom table, or are in the bottom set, can have a massively negative impact on their entire school life. Everything they do, say, and act out will be in confirmation of the belief that they are stupid. Everything that happens in the classroom and in school will confirm this. This builds an enormous wall that can need a bulldozer to get through, to show a pupil that it’s about effort rather than always being about ability. These pupils who are trapped in a negative mindset tend to be the most vulnerable with poor self-esteem, from a disadvantaged background and may have very complex needs. Intervention and separate intervention should always be in part about the emotional well-being of a child as well as the actual content of the programmes.

Skill Level

Skill Level
  1. Teaching Assistant Skill Level

 

This was the elephant in the room during the workshop. It was almost as if no one wanted to admit this fact. TAs, when a teacher has one, can make a classroom run smoothly, they can be key to successful learning, however, they are not teachers. There are some inspirational and fabulous TAs, but their level of skill does need to be assessed. They may not have a degree. They may not have A levels. They may not have a C in GCSE English or Maths. They are certainly not paid at the level or a teacher.  We then send them out to run an intervention class of 4 or 5 of the most vulnerable students, who may have very complex needs, may have severe behaviour issues and in a subject, they may not have had any experience in themselves (think about the content of the 2014 SPAG curriculum). Is it even fair that we are asking them to hold this much responsibility? If intervention is the key to accelerating progress, why is it being led by the least qualified staff? The intervention needs to support the TA or be such that it allows the TA to act as a coach and focus on motivational needs.

Behaviour

Behaviour
  1. Behaviour

 

Behaviour is a complex area. There may be external issues as to why a child’s behaviour is poor. It may because of one of the previous things that have been discussed before in this blog. Training a child to be “good” needs time and a bucketful of patience. It is also an exercise in frustration because just as you think you have gone one step forward, something happens and you end up four steps behind again. Intervention can sometimes be a push-point especially if it takes the pupil away from something that they like. That is why having an intervention programme which allows TAs or the adult in the room to shift from teacher to coach and to move from the deliverer to the supporter can help. The intervention programme also needs to start at a comfort level which is suitable for the child to lull them into the belief that they can do it before layering on the difficulty tiny step by tiny step. They may have been supported by a TA for their entire school career and not know how to work independently, this again, needs to be supported in incremental steps. Whatever the behaviour issue is, it needs to be supported by challenge and positive support.

Time

Time
  1. Time

 

No matter what there is never enough time in school. The curriculum is packed at whatever level a child is at. However, time can be utilised from unexpected places and it is why TAs are used to lead intervention. Before school, during tutor time, a rolling half-period a week, after school, during assembly are all places where time gain can be utilised. Wave 1 intervention should happen in class through guided groups or support, however, waves 2 and 3 are usually out of the classroom. Intervention should be short and sweet. A boost. 30 minutes is time enough for a quick skills boost – enough time to deliver and practice the content, but not enough that a child becomes disengaged and divorced from the rest of the class. It would be better to have intervention little and often rather than as a huge block because these vulnerable children often cannot cope and cannot remember. It can be too much.

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If you would like an intervention checklist to help you plan your intervention more effectively click here.