Meeting 9 of the Inclusive Science Education group (ideas to take away and try)


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. You can join by filling in the form at

Meeting 9

This meeting was first of two meetings on the same theme. The first meeting was intended to share good practice that could be taken away and tried in your own setting. The follow-up meeting will ask teachers to share how that went.

Rob opened the meeting by reminding those present of the importance of consistency in all aspects of teaching. Consistency in dealing with behaviour, either in the way you deal with it or by using a seating plan (seating plans can change for different activities) so that learners consistently sit in the same places (or the places you want them to sit in) Teachers who aren’t consistent often have trouble with behaviour, but also more anxious and neurodiverse learners know what to expect rather than experiencing anxiety where the teacher is not consistent.

Routines and organisation are a part of a consistent approach. Having a routine for practical activities is good for all learners and removes anxieties/ambiguities over who does what when getting things out or putting equipment away. Organisation is keeping your equipment in clearly defined places (maybe labelled) so that learners know where to find them)

Many learners don’t like uncertainty and familiar, predictable routines remove some of their worries about science. One of the participants went on to explain how she structured her lessons to have three familiar components with a corresponding symbol on the screen. Clear signposting within lessons, maybe with timing (when transitions happen, for example from talking to doing) so that learners know what is coming and when an activity/lesson will end.

Jane reminded us that we can learn from our learners if we are open. We can all feel anxiety on occasion and can help us understand how they feel. Jane put together guidance for her colleagues at Strathclyde which she is willing to share if you get in touch. Academics, who weren’t used to working with learners with additional support needs, learned a lot about teaching and several have changed the way they teach as a consequence. Attendees reminded the group that listening to learners about what works is never a waste of time (many schools include this in pupil profiles).

Another delegate shared a technique that worked with dyslexic learners. Introducing the BBC Bitesize video on monoclonal antibodies which contains a lot of information and terminology that can be difficult to assimilate. The teacher wrote key points on a mini whiteboard and asked the learners to draw pictures to show the key facts but the learners still didn’t get it (but was nearly there) The next stage was to use a physical model to act out the stages of injecting a mouse to get antibodies produced.  To complete the learning cycle, our teacher played the video into Google Docs (works with Microsoft Office too) to get a transcript of the video, and then highlighted the key words in bold and asked the learner to read through the text. The learner was asked to summarise the key points into a revision card. From being unable to understand the video at the start, the learner had a good grasp of key points. This helped removed the barriers associated with auditory processing. Having two devices makes the process simpler, and although it might sound relatively low tech you get better results by playing on one device and recording on the other. Another teacher had experienced success using voice memos on devices can help capture student thoughts and ideas when they have difficulty writing. 

The same tools can be used by learners to dictate text when they have difficulty writing (they can even dictate punction, for example full stop) There is another useful feature in Word if you go to review and read aloud, word will read back what you have written which can be useful when proof-reading or preparing a talk. 

Practical work was discussed, one attendee told the group that you need to be brave and do lots of practical work, but be aware as it takes a while to get used to doing, or for the teacher to learn the adaptations needed, but it did lead to better learner with their learners. Sensory gardens with scented herbs and bee-friendly plants were good for outdoor learning.

One teacher spoke about her learners not being able to picture themselves doing practical activities. The teacher gets them to tell her what to do and she acts these things out, sometimes exaggerating the things are wrong, and this seems to have helped learners to picture what to do and iron out mistakes.

One of our delegates couldn’t be there in person but sent several resources and ideas including a video on Makaton for all learners, a simple symbolised worksheet for recording findings and an open invitation to engage and share on Twitter (link below)

One delegate spoke about a family member who struggled with uncertainty and knowing what is going to happen can help our neurodiverse learners. Resources like Books Beyond Words can help with engagement. There are lots of good resources linking stories to science including those on the Ogden Trust website and story books written by Jules Pottle (the Molliebird and Jasper the Spider)

Learners in one of the schools had difficulty accessing the science lab because it is different to the other classrooms, both in terms of what it looks like, what it’s like to be in there and how it smells. Trying to make the science lab more like the other classrooms in the school has only had limited success. One teacher suggested putting sensory activities in tuff-trays that will engage and entice them in, so they feel comfortable in the room (ideas include water play, magnets, connecting things, Duplo) Another teacher did something similar with a friction ramp and different surfaces for learners to engage in science play. Photo frames that let you record sound clips could also get them in to the room and starting to engage in learning.

The next meeting

The next meeting will be a chance to discuss some of the things you have tried and how these went in a supportive group. A reminder will be sent out closer to the time – so get experimenting with your classes.


BBC Bitesize on monoclonal antibodies

RSC – making the most of practical videos

Makaton for all learners

Books beyond words

Sarah Bearchell on Twitter

A  great resource highlighting the importance of making Instructions really clear & easy to follow –

British sign language glossary

Lynne Castle works in a special school in London and she has tons of ideas on Twitter. Here is a video of her in action at BeTT

Explorify Zoom in and Zoom out activities


A reminder that by being a member of the ASE that you support our wider advocacy and charitable work. You can find out more about membership by clicking the link


Meeting 8 of the Inclusive Science Education Group (vocabulary)


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. You can join by filling in the form at

Meeting 8

We were fortunate to be joined by Dr Susie Nyman (@DrSusieNyman on Twitter) who teaches at the Sixth Form Collage, Farnborough.  Susie came to share some of the ideas she presented at the ASE’s International day. Susie has put together a toolbox of strategies and resources to help teachers of learners with special educational needs.

Susie opened with pen portraits of her learners. She told us of one learner who needed a giant A1 graph of the menstrual cycle using strawberry laces to help visualise it in his head. Another learner needed to break down words into components and to relate the learning to them and their prior experiences. A whole class activity is playing the weakest link using mini-whiteboards as a show and share activity to test if students have learned. There are lots of ways to teach science, it isn’t just textbooks and classic experiments.

Glossaries of terms are really useful to learners, Susie has them at the start of each student’s book but they need to be actively used. You can use post-it notes with these glossaries to group and self-test words for example.

Science terminology can be quite challenging for learners. We can break down challenging words into prefixes, roots, suffixes which can help learners make sense of complicated words. For example, chloro means green, photo means light, poly means many etc. These can help students understand words, and understanding can also help them select the correct terminology to use  such as hypo/hyperglycaemic.  There are lots of words that can be made easier to understand through the etymology, for example arthro (joints – arthropods, arthritis –osis means process as in osmosis)

When teaching new terminology Susie suggested the following strategies

  1. Speak and use the words out loud
  2. Write words on interactive and mini white boards
  3. Break down words into parts e.g.o-eso-pha-gus and write them down on coloured Post-It notes using different coloured pens.
  4. Repeat the words a few times.
  5. Discuss the etymology of the word for example from the Greek “stoma” which means mouth.
  6. Give an example in a sentence.
  7. Regularly revisit the terminology using games e.g. Bingo or playing the “weakest link”.

Susie refers to ‘onion teaching’ in which you give core information which you add to and let students build layers upon the top. Susie shared strategies she had experienced success such as modelling the structure of leaves with alternative materials. Playdoh is a really good material to model digestive system because it stimulates all of the senses. A typical sequence of activities might look like this

Susie has a giant mat of the heart which can be used in different ways, labelling parts, modelling flow of blood, explaining the vocabulary etc. Using little aids to memory (you try before you buy) can help students remember sequences (tricuspid before bicuspid). Susie has made models of body parts out of clay but you could use foam or similar to help students remember the parts.

Tactile/multisensory strategies included modelling DNA by using double-ended zips (available from John Lewis) to help students understand what is happening during replication. Susie also used card sorts to match circuit symbols to their names so students could remember them and strawberry laces to plot distance-time graphs on pre-created axes. 

Relating science to real-life situations does help learners understand and remember, for example using toys in physics when learning about momentum. Susie extends this theory, relating sand castles to surface tension, using words like cohesion and surface tension (and explaining what they mean in the context of making sand castles)

You can make the periodic table of elements tactile by using large shower curtain or physical pottery models that they can interact with. You can extend this by physically modelling electron configuration using marbles, and model organic compounds using lollipop sticks (useful to show the double bonds). You can make paperchains to link a sequence of alkanes together to help learners remember their names.

Susie reminded teachers that assistive technology is incredibly powerful, whether that is reading/scanning pens or using software like Read & Write Gold or Dolphin Easyreader. 

Exam technique can be important and Susie prepares her learners to complete exam questions (using her Exam question task board) to walk learners through basics like reading the exam question, unpicking what is required and walking the learner through answering the question. These are available from Ooka books.

Susie concluded by reminding those present that learners need to believe in themselves with the phrase “If you can believe, you can achieve”

Take-away messages

  • Some students learn best with a multi-sensory experience. How can we build those into our teaching?
  • How can we relate learning to real life?
  • What strategies can we use to help learners understand and remember?

Links from the workshop

From the British Dyslexia Association

Multisensory teaching –

Susie’s slides

Biology word roots/prefixes/suffixes

Meeting 7 of the Inclusive Science Education Group (systemic instruction for learners with SEND)


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. You can join by filling in the form at

We were fortunate to be joined by Magdalena Apanasionok, a research fellow from the University of Warwick who investigated teaching numeracy and science to children with developmental disabilities for her PhD.  Magda has kindly shared the presentation she shared with the groups and the papers she wrote to help share her findings.

The research is built on the fact we know that attainment of students with SEN in science is of concern and yet there was very little research into using systematic instruction in the United Kingdom. 

Systematic instruction is a teaching method based on behavioural principles focused on breaking down complex skills into smaller steps and promoting generalisation. The curriculum used in the research was evidence informed and designed for learners with learning disabilities. The active components used

  • Guided inquiry – explicitly teaching enquiry skills
  • Teacher scripts
  • Stories to support each lesson
  • Explicit instruction – an active teaching method involving time delay prompting and examples/non-example procedure
  • Task analysis – breaking complex stills into smaller steps
  • Special accommodations – amending tasks to suit the learners

The research focused on a class of nine students with learning disabilities and/or autism and looked at ‘the Five senses’ unit.

Repetition featured heavily in the strategies. Students engaged well and many could remember key concepts several weeks later. 

Teachers found the following useful:

  • Pairing symbols with objects to enhance students’ understanding
  • Using the time-delay strategy (prompt/help for the pupil is delivered following a specific amount of time after the instruction)
  • Using an example/non-example procedure (‘this is…’ or ‘this is not…’)
  • Predictable structure to lessons

It was suggestions that technicians could support this approach by developing activities that can’t fail, that can support this teaching approach.

Evidence to support the approach is limited to smaller scale studies but there is lots of evidence to support the effectiveness of key teaching strategies which include repetition, carefully structed development of concepts, and frequent formative feedback e.g. Essex, 2020; Villanueva, et al., 2012).

Jane offered to link together schools who had an interest in trying out some of the resources should we be able to get hold of them (as many are physical resources) We can link schools who are interested in this.

The group was asked if they had tried any of the strategies mentioned by Magda

Linking pictures/objects to a term was a good strategy and could engage learners. If there is consistency in symbols/pictures used it can be of great benefit to learners. Symbols for prediction (before) and conclusion (after) worked well. Dominoes are one strategy that can work with these learners.

Some of the group said their learners responded to the same structured lesson format, used in across all science lessons. Whilst not all teachers found this strategy useful, the majority of teachers found a predictable approach beneficial. Jane suggested this could also help reduce cognitive load associated with the lesson structure, and teachers saw reduced anxiety when using this approach as there were no surprises to catch learners out.

Some learners didn’t engage in lessons which they felt were the same as previous lessons – this means the teacher has to make the lessons feel noticeably different. Learners at one setting would switch off if they felt they had covered the content before so their teacher has to make sure that whilst lessons are structured, they don’t feel like the same lesson over and over.

Responsive teaching is good, combined with a reflective approach, so the teacher responds to what the learner actually does (or doesn’t do) 

Some students struggle with the application, and need to see the point of what they are learning. Approaches like the Science Capital approach (Aspires project) might be of interest with these learners.

Stories were mentioned as an effective tool for learners (especially ones with no text) and these are available online. One attendee used these successfully during lockdown. Jane spoke of a storytelling approach used with learners in Scotland, which engaged the learners but also helped with assessment of what had been learned. Stories are good safe ways of exploring as they aren’t about if you are right, but you are talking about a character instead.

Concept cartoons are another way of talking about science where you talk about what the person in the cartoon is thinking rather than what you are thinking.

Links from the chat

Commercial scheme of work used in the research

What is systematic instruction

Domino generator

Texts for science

Books without words

Links to research

  • Apanasionok, M. M., Neil, J., Watkins, R. C., Grindle, C. F., & Hastings, R. P. (2020). Teaching Science to Students with Developmental Disabilities Using the Early Science Curriculum. Support for Learning.
  • Essex, J. (2020). Towards truly inclusive science education: A case study of successful curriculum innovation in a special school, Support for Learning, available at:
  • Villanueva, M.G,  Taylor, J.C., Therrien, W. J. and Hand, B. (2012) Science education for students with special needs. Studies in Science Education, 48 (2), 187-215. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2012.737117
  • Watkins, R. M., Apanasionok, M. M., & Neil, J. (2020). Teaching science to pupils with SEND: using an evidence-based approach. Primary Science, 165.

Meeting 6 of the Inclusive Science Education Group

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. You can join by filling in the form at

Meeting 6th December 2021

Focus – Follow-up from previous meetings

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

In the previous meeting we had discussed leaners with visual impairments. Following this meeting, Jane had been sent a resource produced by the technology technician at the University of Strathclyde (who supports trainee teachers of technology) had produced the tactile relief model. 

This was created in wood as a trial but they do have the ability to produce in more hard wearing plastics or to produce 3D printed resources. Jane thought these resources could benefit our neurodiverse learners who could benefit from a multisensory approach. Jane made an offer to members of the inclusive science group – if any of the group would like to try this approach with learners, please email Jane and she will pass on to her technician.

Laura Gray shared an article about tactile resources:

Another resource shared by one of the attendees was the “Audio Universe Tour of the Solar System” which the organisation was using in its planetarium. This is free to access and makes the Solar system accessible to a wider range of learners (maybe beyond the original intended audience of visually impaired learners)

The Glasgow Science Centre have had input into a similar initiative in the past which was very popular

Jane shared a technique that came from Bob Worley where charcoal can be used to remove a fragrance (we tend to think of it as a way of removing the colour)

Microscale chemistry

Following on the theme of microscale chemistry, Jane announced that she had been successful in her bid for funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry. For schools without technician support, this could involve sending out resources and experiment instructions to use with learners with SEND/Additional support needs. For schools with technician support this may be sending instructions for schools to make up their own sets of equipment.

The money came from the Inclusion and diversity fund

We chose the microscale chemistry because it is cheaper than traditional chemistry experiments with full sized equipment, it uses smaller quantities of chemicals (so is greener and safer too) and it reduces the cognitive demands of the practical work. Jane mentioned work she has done observing learners with additional support needs, who were much more concerned about the health and safety risks. 

Jane shared evaluation questions and participants gave feedback.

Jane shared the ACE spelling dictionary which is her favourite resource and allows learners to look up a word by knowing how it is pronounced rather than how it might be written (the sounds are used to look up the correct spelling)

Topics for future meetings

  • Literacy in science teaching
  • Lab design (and equipment) 
  • Investigative science
  • Impactful experiments/practical work
  • Kitchen chemistry (and those with low practical requirements)

Links from the chat

Dave Paterson integrated instructions

Salters Science club resources

The slow practical

Slow practical – rates of reaction

Meeting 5 of the Inclusive Science Education group (working with visually impaired learners)

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. You can join by filling in the form at

Meeting 6th October 2021

Focus – Working with visually impaired learners


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

Opening comments

The group had received a request to discuss working with visually impaired learners in science. Jane suggested we expand this description to include learners with sensory difficulties, for example autistic learners who use their peripheral vision to avoid over-stimulation.


Rob opened with some of the strategies he had used (which came from the visual impairment team that supported his learners)

Try to reduce glare by keeping blinds closed and using the classroom lighting (especially if you have modern LED lighting) Rob shared an anecdote about always being praised for closing blinds when the visual impairment team were observing, he didn’t have the heart to tell them he never opened them as his other learners preferred them closed as well (and it stopped distractions from outside as well as his lab was on the ground floor)

Contrast can be important – this can be as simple as putting coloured tape on the end of tubing to help learners find it. Rob often added indicators (or dye) to liquids so that learners could see where they were filling to as colourless liquids can be hard to see. This can be combined with putting an elastic band or dry wipe marker line on a measuring cylinder/beaker to show learners where to fill up to. An attendee at a previous group meeting had recommended loom bands for this purpose, and anyone with young children could have these laying unused around their home. There are also probes that can be used to indicate when a certain amount of liquid has been measured, and digital versions of tools like thermometers could be more accessible for visually impaired learners. A talking balance could be useful to many learners, not just those with visual impairments.

Microscopes were mentioned as an issue. There are several different ways of making microscopy more accessible. Rob used a Wi-Fi microscope which could connect to his laptop (or to a phone/tablet) Not only did all the class see the same image projected from his laptop but it allowed the teacher (or another learner) to provide assistance, sharing a common image. It also allows the teacher to capture images which can be processed to improve the contrast or made into another type of resource like a 3D image. It was also suggested that focusing on the edge of the coverslip and then moving the slide could make microscopy more accessible for some learners. Buying microscopes with a coarse and fine focus will help students with poor motor control focus more easily. It is also possible to buy microscopes with two eyepieces called a demonstration model that could help some learners) USB microscopes can help cut the costs if high magnifications aren’t required and some models can even be connected to a mobile phone. Paul Tyler has shared many examples on Twitter.

If you have a 3D printer there is a library of materials that can be 3D printed. One school had a printer with special ink that would rise of the page allowing learners to feel the impression.

It was also suggested that a reader pen could be useful and to check the models available as some could read and store text for learners. Some of the accessibility features of Google Docs could also support these leaners.

Mobile phones can also help, whether it be through the use of clip on lenses to transform them into microscopes, or through apps that help with accessibility. An app to read and say the name of the colour could be useful to some learners who may not be able to see the colour range of a particular indicator or if they are partially sighted.

Making 3D or tactile models where possible can help, for example model cells. Models (or processed images) could also help learners who find a microscope difficult for other reasons, for example sensory reasons.

Colour blindness (colour vision deficiency) is more common than many teachers realise, and many delegates have experienced learners or family members who can’t see a full range/spectrum of schools. If you have these learners in your group, check which indicators you use so learners can see the start and endpoint of a reaction. It’s also important to consider reactions with a colour change and to try not to use RAGing (red/amber/green highlighting) with these learners. Chromatography can pose a problem for these learners and Jane shared an experiment she had done with learners where she replaced the traditional inks with essential oils and let learners sniff along the chromatogram to see how the smells had separated/moved.

Meeting 4 of the Inclusive Science Group (practical work)

Meeting 20th April 2021

Focus – Practical work for SEND learners (episode 2)

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

Opening comments

Rob opened the meeting with a video from Teachers TV. This was an old recording, but showed a teacher introducing a practical lesson. The purpose of showing the video wasn’t to criticise the video but to consider how learners with SEND might find this introduction and to suggest ways of improving it (including any materials you might use alongside)

Those present were quick to make suggestions

  • Don’t forget to link to prior learning and make clear to learners why they are doing a practical activity. Isn’t just a task – we hope they will learn something.
  • Learners with SEND need precise instructions, so telling them to get inro groups or decide who will test what won’t help them to do the practical work. The roles badges, promoted by the IoP, could help with larger groups
  • If it’s a complicated practical there could be lots to remember – how will students remember the steps?
  • Show the equipment set up rather than just referring to names
  • If you use instructions on paper, think about how you will use them. Don’t just read over the students reading them.
  • Try to be interactive and engage learners in the opening.
  • Learners could miss out on important messages as they could be anxious about the practical or who they will work with.

Rob reminded the group about cognitive science and the summary in the EEF Improving secondary science report.

The split attention effect comes to mind when thinking about practical instructions. We know that integrating labels into a diagram is better than using a separate key (in this diagram of the heart, the diagram on the left is easier to follow because you don’t need to flick between two sources of information). Dave Paterson has written extensively about integrated instructions and others have followed his lead and created/shared resources for key science practical activities.

Integrated instructions work well with primary phase and secondary phase learners

Rob shared this photograph he’d taken at one of Jane’s inclusive science festivals where students were investigating the chemistry behind bath bombs. As an observer, Rob watched learners with SEND work independently and all were able to complete the practical activity (although some got further than others)

Jane explained that her technician (Pam) had taken photographs so that students could see what they should be seeing at each stage of the practical. The equipment was colour coded to stop students mixing up the chemicals and no students used two lots of one chemical. The symbols were to help any students who might be colour blind.

There is also merit in the group working together. Rob has always followed this approach because it is easy to see students who haven’t got things right, for example one blue Bunsen flame stands out in a sea of orange flames. It also can reduce cognitive load as students don’t have to remember lots of instructions and it lets students compare what they are doing to other learners. There are many names for this approach – the slow practical, lock-step practical, guided practical and paced practical work. This approach also allows for deeper discussion and questioning of learners as you go through the practical. This approach can develop self-esteem and build confidence in doing practical work.

Jane reminded the group that we are going to apply for funding to trial microscale practical work for our SEND learners. Anyone who has not expressed an interest can still do so to Rob or Jane.

Other top tips from the group

  • One technician produced pictures showing how the equipment needed to be put away, showing photographs of the equipment fitting neatly in the tray. Others have used a similar approach with shapes cut out in foam or polystyrene so it is obvious where the equipment should be placed.
  • Labels on trays and cupboards showing what’s inside
  • Routines are extremely powerful and can help with setting up and clearing away equipment.
  • Simple tweaks to practical like using indicator to make acid clearer to see, or dry-wipe marker or an elastic band to mark where to fill up to. One top tip was that loom bands work well for this purpose too!
  • One teacher recommended Makaton signs for electricity which are very visual and can help learners when used in science lessons, for example the signs for conductor and insulator could help students grasp the meaning of the keywords.
  • It was suggested that it is possible to make simple adaptations to the equipment used for teaching electricity to make the practical work more accessible. To remove the problem of connecting tiny wires, simple adaptations like a space connector or giant crocodile clips made fiddly equipment easier to use. Rather than using fragile incandescent bulbs, wired LEDs could be used as a replacement (supergluing the contacts makes them more durable) and experienced a low failure rate. Correx boards with circuit diagrams and velcro provide a cheap and effective tool for learners to build circuits. A knife switch is very visual and helps learners understand what a switch actually is. Finger switches were also a good tool for students investigating circuits.
  • An ‘energy stick’ or ‘energy ball’ is quite noisy but visually appealing and students can make simple circuits with their bodies. 
  • The Ogden Trust offers funding for physics related CPD which might be worth investigating. 

Links from the chat:

Videoclip from Teachers TV –

Dave Paterson – Integrated instructions

Chemix website (for science diagrams)

Makaton signs for electricity

Ogden Trust

The finger switch

Meeting 3 of the ASE Inclusive Science Education group (practical work)


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. You can join by filling in the form at

Meeting 20th April 2021

Focus – Practical work for SEND learners

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

Opening comments

Rob opened the meeting with reminders about practical work – the best practical work is purposeful and the teacher has planned for it in the sequence of learning.

A good question to consider before planning to carry out any practical activity is: What do I expect the students to learn by doing this practical task that they could not learn at all, or not so well, if they were merely told what happens? (Millar, 2002).Really effective practical activities enable students to build a bridge between what they can see and handle (hands-on) and scientific ideas that account for their observations (brains-on). Making these connections is challenging, so practical activities that make these links explicit are more likely to be successful (Millar, 2004)

Rob also reminded the group about the Gatsby Practical Science benchmarks which refers to five purposes of practical science. The report also gives suggestions for improving practical work in schools and is well worth a read.

ATo teach the principles of scientific inquiry
BTo improve understanding of theory through practical experience
CTo teach specific practical skills, such as measurement and observation, that may be useful in future study or employment
DTo motivate and engage students
ETo develop higher level skills and attributes such as communication, teamwork and perseverance

Rob also referred to the Getting Practical: a framework for practical science in schools (SCORE, 2009a) p7 from which he took the following 

These reports serve as useful reminders of the importance of practical work, not only for the teaching of science but also for contributing to the wider development of skills for our learners, especially those with SEND.

Jane asked the group “What are the successful characteristics of practical work for our SEND learners?”

  • Immediate results – SEND learners often have a reduced attention span so can struggle with some of the longer or more extended projects
  • Ones where you limit the introduction of new pieces of equipment or techniques to keep unfamiliarity to a minimum
  • The use of digital meters can help those who struggle with reading traditional equipment or those who are colour blind.  For these learners Jane suggested using an app that identifies the colour, some will even speak the name of the colour.
  • Hands-on activities with clear results
  • A fast start is key, with achievable goals in between
  • Something that can spread over several lessons
  • Something that gets a ‘wow’ or holds their attention
  • ‘Slow practicals’ where the teacher breaks the task down into smaller chunks and the groups complete the task at the same time. They can then understand each step and there is the opportunity for the teacher to direct and discuss as you go through. You can also discuss what is happening and the students can put it all together at the end. This benefits all learners – not just those with SEND. These are also referred to as ‘lockstep’ instructions by some teachers.
  • Another teacher said that some of her students struggle with written instructions. The Integrated instructions (David Paterson, RSC) helped some learners but the weaker students still got confused when using these. Her solution was to use a very structured approach with a ‘me do, you do’ approach. This allowed the students to experience success 
  • One person mentioned Bukky Yusuf from Twitter uses fold-over instructions to help students focus (or they can be use as a reveal) Link: Jane has used laminates in a similar way for students to cross off as they work through.
  • Students can worry about getting it wrong, sometimes I photograph of the equipment can reassure learners as it shows them how to set up their equipment (and some students can’t interpret a traditional line drawing)
  • One attendee used to do practical work to build up confidence without the worry of having to record results etc. The same teacher went on to use practical activities that could be revisited and improved lesson after lesson, for example designing catapults. As there were no right or wrong ways of doing things, and it was unique to each group, it allowed all groups to progress, but it took a lot more time to work in this way.

Many SEND learners value the opportunity to work in the garden or a horticulture setting. This could be as simple as planting seeds or working in the school garden. This is an approach that has been adopted by several teachers.

Students in a PRU can also lack confidence in practical work, one teacher used a step by step (demon, do, demo, do etc) in a similar way to those above to allow students to experience success and remove anxieties in these lessons.

Another attendee mentioned a project from Heathlands school for the Deaf who were funded by the RSC. They made videos of different videos, 2 pupils presented the experiment, 2 filmed and other students photographed, prompted information etc. This is all planned in advance but led by the students. When revisited a year later the students were much more confident.

Opening STEM clubs to all can be valuable, especially given the time constraints in normal curriculum lessons. Jane runs inclusive science festivals that are open ended/plan for progress but allow students to work at their own pace and develop their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Next steps

Jane told the group about plans to apply for the RSC outreach fund to pay for microscale kits, to allow students to do more investigations on a self-managed way. This is to stop students being frightened of the equipment and reagents they use, and allow learners to focus on the science.

At the next meeting we could consider what experiments or investigations would be valuable to pilot in this way. 

This was well received by the group. Rob agreed with another speaker than SEND learners can have a tendency to shovel chemicals (especially if they think there will be a more impressive reaction/bang etc)

Closing remarks

  • Jane shared a story of a previous project (some time ago) for which the authority provided funding and students made a complicated chemical product (emulsion paint) and took it home.
  • Jane asked if teachers had come across schools that don’t like students with behaviour that might prevent them from doing practical work. One teacher in a PRU said that this was less likely to happen in a smaller group.
  • Rob mentioned culture for learning is important, he had a culture of practical science. It took time to establish but the norm was to do as much practical work as possible so learners developed a love of practical work and removal from the practical work was used as a sanction (although could still stop in the room and watch in most cases) Rob did varied experiments, an example sprang to mind with modelling radioactive decay with popcorn (although it was messy) The research doesn’t always suggest that practical work is good for abstract concepts, although Rob maintains that this approach benefited his SEND learners who also showed improved behaviour so they could join in the practical work. Culture takes time to establish in the classroom whether in a school, department or for an individual teacher. 
  • Open ended investigations are squeezed out due to time constraints for many
  • One delegate made stained glass. Jane asked if it was beads of borax glass. Jane also recommended making sugar class from the Salters chemistry handbook.
  • Another participant mentioned natural indicators used in a more open-ended way
  • Jane expressed the opinion that there is much to be said for doing less and doing it better but the pressure for assessment outcomes can be very unhelpful for these learners. Someone else asked “Is it better to have covered half the curriculum in depth or all of it superficially?”
  • One delegate reported that a deaf child was excluded from practical lessons because the school felt they couldn’t do experiments. They were removed from the lesson and put in the resource centre to do extra maths and English. The group were upset to hear this and felt that it would be challengable under discrimination/equal opportunities legislation. It was only with intervention from outside the school that the situation was resolved.
  • Rob asked the group about how covid has affected practical work in their settings? Teachers have experienced difficulties troubleshooting from the front in this situation. Visualisers can be a useful tool for teachers to use in this situation.

Links from the chat:’s%20Science%20Education%20in%20BSL%20Videos%3A%20Natural%20Indicators%20%3A%202.%20%20Bluebell%20pH%20indicator/1_20necta0

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

The Inclusive Science Group – Meeting 1 (Differentiation)

In the absence of a proper home for these notes, I’ve decided to host them here so that they get picked up by search engines and are accessible to a wider range of teachers.


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 (assuming you asked for updates as part of the signup process) If you want to join our group you can sign up here.

Meeting 23rd November 2020

Focus – Differentiation

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

The discussion opened with Rob sharing this cartoon and reminding the group that what is good for SEND learners will also benefit other learners in the group.

RB opened with his model for differentiation, which wasn’t always appreciated by school leadership teams, was to pitch to the top and scaffold learners to reach there. This could be by extra resources, like a results table or a literacy scaffold or it could be additional support from a TA or the teacher. Schools may be reluctant to adopt this new model after years of book looks and work scrutinies, but Ofsted won’t be focusing on differentiation in the same way as they had before.

It was suggested that the word accessibility would be a better word than differentiation as it helps the teacher and isn’t about treating learners differently or separating students. The current system has created a lot of baggage around the 3-tiers approach and the impact on students (and what they read into it about themselves) Jane agreed that we have created language around labelling students and referring to ability. Our learners are diverse and there are lots of ways of learning and many ways of checking or evidencing this. One example is how we get students to record their ideas or findings in science. Students make progress in different ways, at different rates and by following different routes. Jane suggested that as a profession we lack exemplar materials or good case studies to help teachers with this. Action point: To consider how we can source and provide this support to help teachers of all career stages.

Another colleague pointed out that she uses the same approach as Rob in her lessons. She provides three tiers of a worksheet with the same learning objectives, but perhaps she needs to revisit what this looks like in practice.

Another teacher referred to the structure strips which she had discovered on previous CPD. She uses these alongside the student’s work to break questions down into smaller achievable steps. Sometimes these are smaller questions or bullet points and often link to the type of question being asked to help students answer GCSE questions for example. There are issues around the management of differentiation and the message it gives to students. Differentiation can be deterministic and how to we approach this challenge? Giving students a feel for a good answer can be useful. Role reversal, for example, asking students to take the role of the examiner and asking them what they might be looking for can be a powerful strategy. Giving students a feel for what success looks like can be an enabler as students don’t have an idea of what a good answer might look like. We are trying to give learners agency – quite often learning is passive and we get TAs to support in the wrong ways. These approaches go hand in hand with increased resilience and modifying what you do to develop this.

The phrase “Learning without limits” makes you think about teaching in a way which involves everyone without creating our own barriers, finding ways of making sure everyone in the class is learning in parallel rather than restricting some learners by activity. Several of the attendees had negative experiences of education and having barriers removed to help their learning. Everybody learns differently, we are very diverse and we need to celebrate that diversity and bring this into our classrooms.

Inclusive teaching has to include stretch and challenge. One example discussed was the structure imposed by a school who groups students for maths and science as though they were the same thing. Schools need to be responsive to their learners and consider ways they can help learners rather than holding them back.

A phrase in common usage is ‘teach to the top’ which teachers are interpreting incorrectly. They are giving a simple complicated explanation to the group which excludes many of the learners who don’t understand it. Literacy is a barrier to learning for many learners and thought has to be given to explanation, development and layering of explanations. In this situation, sets can be a positive experience but care has to be taken to avoid limiting the learning of learners and making sure that teachers have high expectations. We need to give learners the tools and opportunities to build schema so that learning is secure. An example discussed was specific heat capacity which was approached by the teacher who started with the required practical and students understood the basic concepts of heating at different rates. We need to build solid foundations for learners to build conceptual understanding because if science is going over students’ heads they won’t learn. We have to make sure teachers are confident to revisit content to act as a foundation for students who need it to build upon. Asks deeper questions about the purpose of science education – it isn’t just for passing exams but can be important for life or as a life skill.

The importance of linking to real-life – why do we need to learn that? The example of brass monkeys and the origin of the phrase in relation to expansion/contraction of metals and real-life applications of the science. Teachers get worried about what they can teach and they can leave out. RB suggested that research on science capital could be useful as it links science to everyday life and makes it relatable and he has had success in his own teaching, both in engagement and retention of knowledge when linked to real-life situations. Rob also posed the question of who would get the best GCSE grades (and who would have the best experience of science) out of a student who covered the whole curriculum superficially and a student who covered 75% of the curriculum in depth.

Allocating support/resources is where the relationship between teachers and students are key. This works best where the students make a choice – a choice to use the support, but also a choice which they need (which blank results table from a selection for example) In this situation the student isn’t being limited by the teacher.

Explaining to other students is an underused skill in our classrooms and not only helps with conceptual understanding but can also help with the retrieval of knowledge. Retrieval of memories is an important strategy for these learners.

A colleague who worked in a museum environment recommends a multi-sensory approach with students being able to handle and touch items they are learning about. This often promotes engagement that wouldn’t have been observed in a typical classroom environment.

Who are the ASE

The Association for Science Education (ASE) is the largest subject association 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

Do you need a fancy microphone to deliver remote lessons or CPD?

I was delivering CPD online for STEM learning and one of my delegates told me the sound was a little quiet. I had not had a delegate mention this before, so I fiddled with some settings and went away to do some investigating (what we scientists do best!)

I had been using a very good quality USB condenser microphone, but this was on the desk in front of me and not mounted at head height. A quick scout around the house revealed a collection of microphones which I tested.

I tested all the microphones using Google hangouts to video call and Audacity to make recordings.  Naturally, I kept the settings the same to make any comparison fair.

Desktop USB condenser microphone on the desk

Very good sound quality but quiet because of the distance from my mouth but quiet unless I brought the microphone within a few inches of my mouth. Increasing the gain did not make much difference and caused an echo.

Bullet USB condenser microphone on a stand on the desk

This was a smaller model but the same manufacturer as the larger mic above. Despite being slightly closer to my mouth by being on a stand, the volume wasn’t any louder than the first USB mic.

Webcam mic mounted on top of the screen

I have a cheap USB Logitech C270 webcam which has a built-in mic. This picked up sound better than the expensive USB condenser mics, probably because it is mounted at head height. The sound quality was not quite as good as the condenser mic when mounted right in front of my face but was far less intrusive. In fact, the quality was better than most of the other solutions tested…

Analogue microphone on a headset (built-in sound)

I found my Brittney Spears microphone (unused) at the back of the drawer and added this to the test. The quality was extremely good but the proximity to my mouth meant it also picked up every swallow and breath. Reducing the gain helped, but then the sound quality was around the same as the webcam mic then. I also found the socket was sensitive (and annoying having to unplug the speakers to plug in the headset jack)

Analogue microphone (on USB soundcard)

I tried the same headset on a cheap USB soundcard. The playback quality was about the same but the mic picked up a whine when the gain was turned up to a useful level, probably as a result of being in a cheap plastic case and not being shielded.

USB C phone headset

I’ve got a USB C headset for my phone (which means it doesn’t need a headphone socket). As with the desktop mics, holding the microphone in front of my mouth improved the volume/quality considerably but was impractical in use. This made me realise that phone headsets are badly designed for capturing speech and only suited to occasional use.

Laptop mic (built-in microphone, HP Envy laptop)

Whilst this was on a different computer, I used the same software and settings to test it. Like the desktop microphones, the placement on the desk meant that the volume of sound picked up wasn’t as good as other solutions. When speaking in front of the microphone the speech playback was of reasonable quality and on a par with other microphones

What am I using now?

After testing the microphones, I decided to balance the quality of audio against convenience in use. The webcam mic, mounted on top of my screen was the best overall solution as it had the best sound pickup with no cables in the way (and delegates don’t have to hear me sounding like a heavy breathing phone call pest on the other end of the call)

There was little difference in speech quality (although this could be different for music/singing) between fancy USB mics and cheap analogue mics, so use whatever is cheapest. For many people, this might be the microphone in their laptop.  Find your microphone settings (under sound in the control panel on Windows) and remember that it’s cheaper to speak a little louder than to buy a fancy new microphone!