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7 things we've learned from the education experts

Published on
July 4, 2024 at 12:00:00 AM PDT July 4, 2024 at 12:00:00 AM PDTth, July 4, 2024 at 12:00:00 AM PDT

Did you catch the Scanning Pens Learning Support Forum last week? We brought together schools, teachers, SEND professionals and reading pen experts for a FREE online afternoon of learning about reading support.

If you missed out on all the fun, or if you have a colleague who couldn’t attend and you want to share all the new ideas you found, you can watch the Scanning Pens Learning Support Forum on demand at On24, totally free of charge!

We know how hard it can be for educators and those working in SEND.

We know how it goes at the end of the term: as much as everyone seems to refer to things ‘winding down for summer’, from where you’re standing, things seem to be getting more stressful than ever. If it’s not the last few course units of the year (you can cram ten weeks of content into the remaining two weeks of lessons, it’ll be fine), it’s all those books you haven’t had time to mark yet. It’s all deeply stressful to see the days ticking by.

And that’s before we’ve even mentioned exams.

In short, anybody who thinks the June to September period is an easy ride for anybody in education likely isn’t a teacher. So ‘prepping for September’ and ‘budget’ and ‘reading support’ are probably the last few phrases you want to hear right now, especially in conjunction with each other – but hear us out.

Supporting student reading needs after the pandemic…

…is like trying to drive coast to coast with only a few millilitres of fuel. You’ve technically got all the skills and the drive you need to succeed, but you’re lacking the resources to even get as far as the end of the road. And the distance has doubled.   

There are more students with identified SEND in our schools than ever before. There are more students who don’t have neurodivergent minds or SEND but have developed large-scale reading needs in the wake of pandemic school closures. Some of these might also have English as an Additional Language, and some will likely have Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs that impact their ability to learn in comfort. Come September you’ll be tasked with supporting them towards a confident and independent reading future so that they can access the curriculum with ease, but budgets are lower than ever in real terms. That means more and more schools are having to go without teaching assistants, reading assistants, and so your bandwidth has more demands on it than ever before if you’re a teacher or a SEND professional.

Across the board it’s a case of having to do more with less, and if you’re anything like any of the educators we’ve spoken to recently, you’re beginning to feel more than a little daunted by the challenge.

But this is why we’re so big on the humble reading pen. 

Chances are, if you’re on this blog you already know a little bit about reading support, what a reading pen is, or at least you’re aware of the increasing need for reading intervention in your school. You also might be looking for ways to stretch the budget you have for SEND provision.

But in case you’ve stumbled across us by accident, we’ll cover the basics.

A reading pen is a small, pocket-sized piece of text-to-speech technology that learners use to scan across the text they’re reading to experience it as audio feedback. They’re a proven support that helps children and young people of all ages and stages build their reading skills and confidence, as well as tackle reading on the go and reading at home – areas where historically, many learners have struggled in silence.

A reading pen is often used to support learners who have dyslexia, or those in the classroom who have come to English as an Additional Language. Recently, however, more and more teachers are also applying a reading pen to organic learner reading needs that have emerged over the pandemic.

The best kinds of reading pen do more than just text-to-speech: the ones available through Scanning Pens, like the C-Pen family, come complete with a full suite of tools to support reading in a holistic way. That’s an award-winning text-to-speech tool and a highly customisable user experience, scan-to-file functionality, definitions, translation and skill-building practice modes… all packed in their pencil case, accessible wherever they are.

You could spend your summer hitting the books.

But we that’s not that high up on your to-do list, especially with everything else you’ve got to do in prep for September. There’s a lot of information out there about how reading pens make reading happen, how to implement them in a way that works for everyone, and how to choose one that works for the learners in your care… but wouldn’t it be easier for you to hear straight from people using a reading pen?

That’s the real beauty of the Scanning Pens Learning Support Forum. We invited schools and colleges from all over the UK to create one easy primer on exactly what it is that reading pens can do for you. All built from their personal experience. And it’s all available on-demand! You can settle in with a brew and learn everything you need to know about reading pens without even having to leave your comfy sofa.

And if you're watching along on On24, check out the timestamps for more information!

7 things we learned at the Scanning Pens Learning Support Forum!


1.    Taking a toolbox attitude to support is so useful.

Liz Wilcox, a program tutor for dyslexia at Oldham College, helped us understand how important it is to build a toolbox of different equipment and assistive tools. In supporting students with dyslexia at Oldham, the team realised that it wasn’t a case of one-size-fits-all when it comes to dyslexia support, because everybody is different and has different reading struggles that need support in different ways.

▶️ Find out more at 08:12.

2. Human readers don't work for lots of learners.

Liz also highlighted how many learners there are out there today who just don’t seem to vibe with human reading support, and how adult learners just don’t want another person sitting with them whilst they read, even in exams.

▶️ Find out more at 08:38.

It’s a topic that Holly Benson, the Senior Regional Director of SEND for Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield picks up on too, later on in the session: as well as finding it increasingly difficult to source human readers for their classrooms, Outwood Academy were concerned that a human reader wasn’t preparing young learners for adulthood – whereas a reading pen was.

▶️ Find out more at 32:38.

3.  Student tech advocates are a great support!

Laura Stephens, the Learning Support Subject Leader at Barton Peveril College in Hampshire told us all about how having a team of student technology advocates can really expand the support options available to learners. Inspired by how students knowledge-share the wide range of skills they have across different areas of the curriculum, learners at Barton Peveril who use assistive technology for learning were recruited to teach teachers about how they feel assistive tech like reading pens. They covered how they can be best used, and create a consistent feedback climate to help educators apply tech when and where it’s needed the most.

▶️ Find out more at 71:21.

4. Using pens as a normal way of working unlocks exam support.

Laura explained how the process of implementing reading pens is important: by loaning the pen to learners it becomes part of their Normal Way of Working (NWoW) so that on exam day, reading pen use is a regular occurrence, and they can take that support into the exam in the form of an exam-approved reading pen.

▶️ Find out more at 19:46.

5. Reading pens boost those grades!

Keana, a student at Barton Peveril, told us all about the results side of things too, and how she’s moved into able to score a distinction now – something that she couldn’t do before when she wasn’t supported by a reading pen.

▶️ Find out more at 31:08.

6. It's about consistent support across the board, and normalising that for the whole school.

As part of the webinar section of the Learning Support Forum, Scanning Pens’ very own Jim Bowen, our UK Country Manager picked up on one of the most important things about reading pen implementation: it’s not just about being able to walk into the exam hall with confidence. When we put that reading support in student hands for the long term, and support them with assistive tech in the classroom as well as the high-pressure testing scenarios, we’re creating a truly inclusive way to learn and normalising reading support across the whole school.

▶️ Find out more at 56:16.

7.   Having the right supporting resources is everything.

We also heard from Alex Hough, a Lead SENCO for Developing Provisions who outlined just how important learners and educators under her care had found the supporting materials that educators have access to as part of a purchase from Scanning Pens. Implementation support such as passport-style literacy tracker documents, self-esteem questionnaires and guides make it so much easier to track progress and troubleshoot, and ensure that each and every learner is getting the most from their reading pen.

▶️ Find out more at 59:36.

Peer-led reading pen advice and support

This is why we love the Learning Support Forum as a format: it really is as simple as sitting down, tuning in, and taking advantage of an easy-to-digest primer session from folks who have seen all the good that these clever little pens can do. What it’s not just an hour of is us telling you to buy a reading pen – what we really wanted was to create a resource that was peer-led, educator-approved, and that lets students and their teachers do the talking. Because we know that what educators need the most now are provable strategies and reliable results. Budgets don’t allow most schools room for anything less.

If you’d like to find out more about reading pens, any products from the C-Pen family or even just start a conversation about the reading support needs in your school, reach out to us at or give us a call on +44 (0) 207 976 4910.

And if we’ve convinced you, and you’d like to spend one of your hard-earned evenings or break up one of your summer prep sessions with a deep-dive into the reading pen as a support tool, you can catch up with the Scanning Pens Learning Support Forum here, available FREE and on demand via On24.