Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: Advocacy, education, equality, G at GCSE, Green Paper, How should students learn?, Individual Education Plan, Sarah Teather, Special Educational Needs, SSAT, statement
This is my second of three blog posts written for the Specialist Schools and Academjes Trust conference.
There has been much debate about how students should learn. Many suggestions focus on using innovative high tech ideas in the classroom and alternative curricula are being explored by a number of groups. For children with special educational needs (SEN), however, the answer to the above question is much more basic – we must ensure that all children with SEN have their needs met through a system that is fit for this purpose.
All too often the current system for meeting SEN fails. This is because it works only for those with very mild needs at one end of the spectrum, who don’t need a statement to have their needs met, and those children with the most severe needs and who do have statements, at the other end of the scale. There are a lot of SEN children in between these polar opposites who do have significant needs who need provision that can only be provided by having a statement, but can’t have one because these are severely limited.
This is unfair and children who slip through the net at school and do not have articulate parents who can advocate for them can miss out. We should be aiming to extend the security that statements can offer to children and it is unacceptable that so many children with SEN have needs that remain unmet. If all children with SEN who attend mainstream schools have their needs met, they will learn and they will be able to access the curriculum just like any other pupil within that school.
Not all children with SEN will be able to have their needs met in a mainstream school, and will need a placement in a special school. Jane, who is a teaching assistant in a special school, has this to say about how students should learn in special schools:
‘I think the answer… is entirely summed up in one word: ‘differentiation’. The main barrier to learning is that educators have not thought about what and how students should learn. In any school but especially a special school each pupil needs to be learning different things in different ways. Too often those in charge assume it would be a good thing for the children in their care to have a chance at a “real” qualification, usually a GCSE. These courses are not at all suitable for pupils who can barely read and they are stressed and humiliated.
There are better things they could learn to do to a worthwhile standard rather than getting a “G” at GCSE…. [such as]… how to carry on a conversation, how to notice another person’s mood, what is helpful behaviour in common social situations. A child’s primary educational objective could even be to become toilet trained. The impact of learning this skill is taken for granted by all and is huge and life enhancing, far more beneficial than spending the year learning to count to 5…. It is sad that the process of grouping children in terms of their special needs is basically a negative one. You drop down the groups because of the things you can’t do until you reach the lowest level. Articulate children end up grouped with non-verbal children simply because they can’t write. Too much weight is given to the child’s physical age instead of looking at their overall developmental age.’
There is a great need to look at the system for identifying and meeting SEN, and to also focus on and enhance those properties within the current system that meet need and give security to children such as the statement of SEN. These can really be a passport to a successful school experience. I welcome the Green Paper on SEN and disability and hope that I will still feel the same when it is published, and that this opportunity to make positive change is seized upon by policy makers.
Filed under: Education and the new government, Special Needs Education | Tags: 1996 Education Act, coalition cuts, disability, education cuts, Guerrilla Mum Mantra, Individual Education Plan, Minister of State for Children and Families, Sarah Teather, SEN, Special Educational Needs, statement of special educational needs
In this peculiar phase of cuts and anticipated change most of us expect to see alterations to the way our children’s SEN are provided for in the coming months if not years. However, I think it is in order to pause to think that in terms of SEN provision, very little has actually changed yet. If your child has a statement, please make sure you have an up to date copy of it, and check that it matches your expectations. Talk to your child about what they do in school. Get out the paperwork from your child’s last annual review and any letters you received about this. Look at your child’s Individual Education Plan and make sure that the provisions within this match those indicated by the statement.
Depressing media coverage of anticipated cuts and negative headlines about SEN have primed us all to expect less. But it is well worth bearing in mind that your child’s SEN provision is still protected by the 1996 Education Act, and no changes have yet been made to affect that. If any changes to your child’s provision are proposed to you make sure that you get them in writing and check them against the statement. Be prepared to object if necessary (some changes might be appropriate!) and remember that as of September you are now allowed to appeal through the Special Educational Needs and Disability panel if a local authority refuses to amend a statement following annual review and you disagree with that.
Remember also that Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, in September launched her Green Paper: ‘Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – Call for Views’. We have until 15th October to reply. We should all try to contribute if at all possible. You can respond online on the Dept for Education website. Here is the link.
Remember the Guerrilla Mum Mantra: Don’t take no for an answer; never give up. If in doubt, telephone, email and write letters’.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Academies, Audit Commission, benefit cheats, Children with disabilities, coalition cuts, education, Education Minister, Free Schools, Health and Safety, Individual Education Plan, lifestyle choice, Ofsted, SENCO, Teaching Assistant
I urge you all to read this report for yourselves. I have not finished reading it myself but have in the first two pages encountered some seriously sweeping statements not properly backed up by research which aim to cut costs and enable publicly funded money to go to independent schools and private schools, academies and free schools.
I am going to take a little time to read and digest the report before I publish any analysis. However, the way this has been reported leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The report only became available on the OFSTED website after 9.30am today, after all of the bad headlines and scaremongering media coverage had been presented largely unchallenged.
The bit I have read so far is not based on evidence which stands any reasonable test and the conclusions are ideologically motivated rather than evidence based. Yesterday I commented on the Toby Young article which was scaremongering about Health and Safety and children with disabilities in schools. I said at that time that Toby would be declaring that disability is a ‘lifestyle choice’. It’s happened, although it is referred to as ‘special educational needs’. Watch the media as special educational needs becomes the new benefit cheat.
You don’t have to take this. WE don’t have have to take this! What has motivated OFSTED to do this? Follow the money… OFSTED obviously don’t want to go the way of the Audit Commission. Do we detect the hand of GOVE?
Filed under: Special Needs Education | Tags: Advocacy, Asperger's Syndrome, Back to School, education, education cuts, Guerrilla Mum, Guerrilla Mum Mantra, IEP, IEP Meeting, IEP Review, Individual Education Plan, SEN, SENCO, Special Educational Needs, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, successful outcomes
First published on the Jessica Kingsley Publishers blog – http://www.jkp.com/blog/