Making sure that every child makes good progress in lessons is a goal shared by all effective teachers. It’s the reason for being in the profession and why we devote so much time to the creation of lessons that will support and advance learning.
Yet support for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) remains patchy, and too often teachers feel inadequately equipped to deal effectively with the needs that children have in their classrooms. This inevitably leads to frustration for teachers, children, and their parents alike.
Current SEND situation
Nancy Gedge is a consultant teacher with Driver Youth Trust (DYT), a national charity dedicated to improving the life chances of children and young people. DYT is focused on those with literacy difficulties and who may have SEND, in particular, dyslexia. She gets to the heart of the current issues facing teachers with regard to SEND, explaining: “I don’t know about you, but I think that the thing I am hearing most about the current situation regarding SEND is funding, funding, funding. Local Authorities are squeezed, and this is knocking on to schools. Everything is getting harder to access.”
There is no doubt that the cash shortage in education is having an impact. Anecdotal evidence from around the country tells of lengthy delays in having needs identified and supported. In the meantime, schools do the best they can, but some children evidently struggle to access the education available to them. As Nancy explains, “Teachers needs to be aware that support from local authorities is harder and harder to get, and that they are saying ‘no’, not necessarily because the children don’t meet criteria, but to try to put them off having to pay for as long as possible. In my view, schools and parents need to stand together on this. Parents can certainly action appeals and so on – but it’s hard. It has a negative effect on family mental health. Everything we can do to support families will support the achievement of our students.”
SEND Consultant Barney Angliss echoes Nancy’s views. He says: “Much has been made of the changes to SEN and Disability contained in the Children and Families Act 2014. But the key to providing effective support for learners is not simply to comply with the law, nor to do things just for the sake of doing something. Intervention is not a substitute for good teaching so focus on support which embeds the classroom learning and enables the learner to engage more consistently, even with those things they find most difficult. Use data rather than hunches to identify where the learner – or the school – isn’t progressing; and select interventions based on their evidence, available at the Evidence 4 Impact website.”
How can we help?
While it is essential for teachers to be as clued up on SEND as practically possible, it’s no secret that this can be incredibly challenging. Training needs arise depending on the children in a teacher’s class and schools have a diminished capability to respond quickly. But there are some sources of support that may help:
– Get to know the SEND Code of Practice
– Nancy Gedge’s book, Inclusion for Primary School Teachers, contains a breakdown of the SEND Code of Practice, what it means, and what class teachers’ responsibilities are. It also covers a brief introduction to the most common learning needs that teachers are likely to come across, as well as advice on how to set up and run an inclusive classroom, including how to negotiate relationships with parents and TAs. It also has an extensive jargon buster as well as simple and practical advice on what to do when things go wrong.
– The Special Needs Jungle website carries extensive information about SEND including articles written by SEND specialists.
– The Driver Youth Trust Drive for Literacy Universal Toolkit provides a range of resources that are useful for classroom teachers to improve literacy standards.
– Barney Angliss can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter
– Nancy Gedge, driveryouthtrust.com @drivertrust @nancygedge
– The Optimus Education website carries extensive information on SEND.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.