T: 0151 477 8450
E: knowsleycentral@knowsley.gov.uk






Learning Support Team

Welcome to Learning Support at Knowsley Central

Who we are:

The Learning Support Team consists of four Specialist Teachers who have a range of qualifications and extensive experience working with children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND).

In 2017, the Northern Learning Support Team joined with the Central Learning Support Team to create the Knowsley Central Learning Support Team. We work in 18 mainstream schools across Northern and Central Knowsley.

Along with teaching qualifications and QTS, our additional qualifications include Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas in Specific Learning Difficulties, Special Needs and Inclusion, National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordinators, Elklan Speech and Language Support, Associate Membership of the British Dyslexia Association (AMBDA) and Assessment Practising Certificates (APC).

Virginia Johnson (Lead Specialist Teacher)

Virginia qualified as a teacher in 2005 and worked in Oldham Local Authority as a class teacher and then SENCO. She gained the Post Graduate Certificate in Specific Learning Difficulties in 2013. After gaining this qualification, she joined our Learning Support Team and progressed to become the Lead Specialist Teacher in 2015. She gained a further Post Graduate Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties in 2016. She has AMBDA and APC.

Virginia’s specialism is dyslexia but she also has an interest in how early language skills can impact on literacy development later on in life.

Oonagh Shirlow (Specialist Teacher)

Oonagh has been working in the field of Special Education for over twenty five years. Before joining Knowsley Central Learning Support Team in 2017, previously she was employed as an Outreach Teacher in Belfast. Oonagh has a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Needs and Inclusion.
Oonagh is particularly interested in the development of reading skills in struggling and reluctant readers.

Cathy Farrar (Specialist Teacher)

Cathy began her career as a Learning Support Assistant in a special school for Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) and behaviour. She went on to become a qualified Learning Mentor before starting Teacher Training. Cathy qualified as a teacher in 2007. She worked for Northern Primary Support Centre and gained her Master’s degree in SEN and Dyslexia in 2009.

Cathy has worked as a Learning Support Teacher within the Knowsley area for a number of years. She has experience in supporting a wide range of SEND including ADHD, Speech and Language in addition to her specialist knowledge and qualifications in Dyslexia. She is a qualified dyslexia assessor with AMBDA and APC.

Diane Lackey (Specialist Teacher)

Diane has worked within education for many years and has a wide range of experience working with children with SEND. 

Before joining the Knowsley Central Learning Support Team, Diane worked as a Specialist Teacher within the Northern Team. 

Diane is a qualified dyslexia assessor and tutor and has AMBDA and APC.


How We Support

Local Schools

Our team works with children and young people aged 3 to 11, and staff including; senior leadership teams, SENCOs, teachers, teaching assistants, learning mentors and school support workers.
We offer learning assessments and advice, specialist teaching, observations and support for children and young people with SEND.

Specific support in schools:
• SEND screening assessments, identifying strengths and difficulties in aspects of cognitive skills such as verbal/visual, phonological awareness, processing, memory.
• Full diagnostic dyslexia assessments
• Language screening assessments
• Literacy and numeracy skills assessments
• Individual observations and feedback, e.g. learning behaviour, attention and concentration etc.
• 1:1 / small group interventions, e.g. for literacy, numeracy, language skills
• Observations of learning environments, classroom practice, learning walks
• Modelling approaches for staff, e.g. multisensory teaching, use of visuals, task planners etc.
• Modelling how group sessions may be run e.g. language groups, literacy groups
• Help to establish intervention groups e.g. baseline assessments, training of staff, modelling intervention, monitoring delivery, reviewing progress
• Screening of small groups as part of Assess> Plan >Do > Review cycle
• Training – a range of courses tailor-made for schools
• Consultation sessions with parents
• SENCO support; to strategically implement SEND changes – reviewing with staff, pupils, parents/carers, the SEN Information report, SEND policy, local offer etc.
• Advice and support for further referrals and applications, e.g. EHCP, ASC/ADHD pathways etc.
• Consultation with staff to include verbal feedback and notes of the meeting
• Termly planning and review meetings so that the most appropriate support can be matched to the needs of the child
• End of Year reports, praised by Ofsted, to outline the support given to schools and the progress of SEND children

Consultancy & CPD


We provide a wide variety of courses and CPD to increase staff knowledge about SEND and support settings in encouraging and improving learning behaviour and raising attainment.

We aim to work in partnership with children, school staff, parents/carers and other professionals to encourage positive learning communities which meet each child’s needs. This will be achieved through a child-centred approach based on collaborative partnership with stakeholders.

We also work closely with other agencies in the local authority, e.g. Educational Psychologist Service, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, SENDIASS, Community Paediatrics and many more.

We have excellent relationships with our schools and know them and the strengths of the people in them well. We have a long standing commitment to improving the outcomes for all children and young people within Knowsley. Building on our years of strong partnership working, we are able to establish, lead, support and manage effective local networks.