Changes to the organisation of SEND provision have been in train for the past few years, during which time I have blogged, as I have come across useful information. These blogs are archived within the contents list of my blog, but I will refer to aspects to provide an introduction. This post is summarised from a broader reflection in http://chrischiversthinks.weebly.com/blog-thinking-aloud/practical-send
In this post, I am not looking to describe the range of individual needs that might be encountered. There are many expert colleagues who are much more able to offer insights into the specifics of individualised SEN(D). I have focused on issues as they affect mainstream school teachers, which can be summarised as developing a coherent, investigative approach that can fit with normal classroom practice, which is premised on the need to look, to reflect and record concerns to inform deeper conversations.
SEN is an area of teaching and learning where teacher expertise may be challenged. This, in itself, is an indicator of potential need, but, for a teacher, can create a feeling of vulnerability. There is always the possibility of meeting a child whose needs fall outside previous experience; the truism that “you’ve met one child with autism, so you’ve met one child with autism” can exemplify many areas of SEN.
On entry into the formal learning situation, the staff eyes and ears should be alert to issues, noting down things that are said and done, to ensure that future reflections can be based on pattern finding or evidence across a range of issues. Evidence finding is the bread and butter of teacher life, in terms of interactions, questioning, feedback, support and outcomes.
General statements like, “x cannot read”, are unhelpful to discussion. Investigating and sharing specifically what a child can and cannot do can lead to focused intervention, rather than general approaches. Leaving a child in a situation where they are clearly failing, are seen to be failing and knowing that this is the case, is destructive to the child and to the teacher. Acknowledging specific issues and seeking the specific means to address the issues demonstrates a positive, professional approach.
There is no doubt that, when a teacher encounters a child who does not fit the “normal mould” that they are used to, that they may experience unease. Once a child enters school, it is unlikely that concerns about potential special needs will be unknown, raised by parents or professionals, which hopefully have been followed up and investigated, so that, by the time a teacher encounters the child there may already be records with substantial supportive information available.
The journey to SEN decisions is likely to be a phased affair, especially with regard to learning issues and possibly over an extended timescale for many children, much to the frustration of parents and teachers.
“Getting a handle” on the problem can be a case of investigation leading to diagnosis, prescription and deciding on courses of action.
It is really important that teachers and other adults in class note down their concerns, from their earliest awareness, so that timely discussion with professional colleagues can distil patterns, suggest alternative courses of action and also avoid delay should there be a need to refer to an external form of support, eg the school Educational Psychologist (EP). Unless there is a track record of concern, the EP may well request that the classteacher undertakes activities that have already been tried, but the outcomes not recorded. This can add to delays in addressing key issues.
Action is also embedded in classroom relationships and these need to be carefully considered. Children know where they are in comparison with their peers. They can judge for themselves those who can and can also highlight that they can’t achieve, across a wide range of subjects. This can lead to self-esteem issues, to go along with their understanding of a learning struggle. Children know when they are being given easier things to do, so presenting appropriately challenging activities is important.
Allocating a teaching assistant to an issue can create a mutually dependent relationship, with a child’s independence and decision making capacity being limited by constant adult support. It needs careful oversight and review.
The children with the greatest need, by definition, need the best teaching. The classteacher must teach the group or individuals, to deepen their understanding of the child(ren)’s needs.
Where this is the case, reference to teachers of earlier years can provide pedagogical and practical advice. In many ways, teaching standard 2, progress and outcomes, is THE key standard to support teacher understanding. What is the anticipated learning journey of children from early years through to year 6? While this is never linear, concerns about a child’s learning is likely to be judged against such an expectation.
The crib sheet at the header might support some record collection and prepare the ground for discussion.