Levelling Up for SEND
Published: August 31st, 2022
Hi again! It’s been a while since my last blog, on what I called the ‘literacy crisis’. So it’s good to be back. And nothing has changed. The crisis is still with us. Now that the SEND Review consultation is done, we await the Government’s response and final decisions. Let us all hope that they are worth waiting for.
Meanwhile, what have I been doing? My past year has been spent mainly writing the third edition of my non-fiction, ‘SENCO Survival Guide’, to be published by Routledge later this year. It has entailed much research, and I have enjoyed going into a secondary school, a primary, speaking with parents of children in a special school, as well as visiting two FE colleges and talking with staff there.
It has been both fascinating and illuminating. Having observed and supported children in lessons, and discussed issues with teachers, Teaching Assistants and SENCOs, it is even more clear to me now that a significant proportion of children are not benefitting from what the National Curriculum has to offer.
The achievement gap is still huge. Why? Our education system is still failing to meet the needs of about a third of children – and solutions are not easy to identify. In the schools and colleges I researched, three issues feature, all interlinked: children and young people diagnosed with a form of Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND), disadvantage arising from home circumstances and/or poverty, as well as learners for whom English is not their first language, many of whom cannot access lessons because their levels of spoken English are inadequate. Many of these children, in spite of additional school support, cannot access what the National Curriculum delivers.
The fault lies not with schools. I have observed many teachers and Teaching Assistants working their socks off to provide a positive educational experience for all children – including those with the problems outlined above. The solutions start with allowing teachers the freedom to adapt the National Curriculum, with appropriate checks and balances, to enable access for all. One example: learners with inadequate English who cannot access NC classical texts (Of Mice and Men, Oliver Twist) because they lack both the vocabulary and grammatical understanding. Why can’t modern texts, with appropriate readability levels be allowed? It makes no sense to me. These learners spend a huge part of their school day bored out of their minds.
It’s not all negative. On the positive side, I have just received the news that one boy I have been tutoring has passed all of his exams, and is now looking forward to college. This young man, diagnosed with Moderate Learning Difficulties and ADHD, has been educated in a special school, and has achieved more than many of the children I observe in mainstream. So what has made the essential difference? Two key factors. His own determination and faith in himself, plus the understanding and support from his parents.
The key message? All children can succeed with the right aspirations and support to achieve them.
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