I read this book with great interest, as a large part of my life over ten of the past twelve years has been spent working with schools seeking to improve their approach to ensuring they had a secure inclusive ethos, starting with supported self-assessment.
There is a truism in education that you will always think that you will never know enough, and as a result, the relentless searching for self-development becomes the hallmark of a very good teacher. A good teacher is a life-long learner, prepared to look at themselves to determine where they need to address professional or personal needs.
Nancy’s book is written with the 2014 SEND changes in mind. The book is a very good resume of the need for a teacher to see themselves as responsible for the progress of each child in their class, making best use of the available resources, to the best of their ability. It offers much food for thought in this regard, with regular points that suggest specific elements to ponder. It would certainly support a teacher seeking to develop their practice.
The first chapter looks at the inclusive teacher and this is probably the most significant element, as, especially in mainstream Primary, the class teacher is the adult who will have the greatest impact on a child’s life for ten months. Being a teacher is a complex activity, ranging across a wide range of knowledge domains and skills.
The mind-set of this person determines every learning aspect of the year. If the child is not sufficiently challenged, they may not make an appropriate level of progress. The experience level of this person will determine their capacity to understand the child’s need and to be able to set expectations appropriately. Mentoring by an experienced colleague will be needed.
Where I work with ITE trainees, this can be summed up with the teacher standards 2,4,6,5,2 (see blog); an understanding of what progress means, leading to effective planning, engagement and interaction with learners in-lesson and adjustment to evident need, establishing a new baseline for subsequent challenge.
Other chapters look at the specifics of the 2014 SEND Code of Practice and what it means in detail for a class teacher, the removal of barriers to specific needs, behaviour management and the specifics of certain special needs, relationships including with parents and teaching assistants, concluding with a jargon buster.
This is a wide ranging book, covering areas of teaching and learning alongside the needs of children with Special Educational Needs. It will be if use to early career trainees and NQTs, but would also provide a basis for self-reflecting within a school.
As well as encouraging people reading this book, I’d offer my own thoughts, looking at some broader aspects of an inclusive approach in detail, from visits to some 100 schools, which can be downloaded as a pdf, but also a pdf on SEN(D) which includes a crib sheet of areas (see below) that might be worthy of note and record when a child is causing some concern.
I have to say that, over the past twelve years, the Inclusion agenda moved from integrating SEND children into school to become a more holistic ethos that sought to ensure all children were included appropriately. This move was to counter earlier philosophies that could be captured in the question “Does your school have the capacity to take this child?” which was effectively asked within a SEN Statement development before a school was named. It was up to the school to say yes or no; a form of initial exclusion. Professional capacity in specific areas may still be a determining issue, and combined with the diminishing of Local Authority staffing may well run counter to the needs of individual children. That this is often the case is regularly documented in social media.
That you haven’t an easy answer to a child’s needs can be the case where a special need is suspected. Before the term SEN(D) was coined, teachers spoke of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), describing needs in as much detail as possible, in order to support dialogue with external expert staff. The principle hasn’t changed, even if the title has.
As a rule of thumb, I’d encourage teachers to spot, record, think and talk about a child displaying anomalous behaviours or responses in a learning situation. Not all children come with a ready-made SEN(D) label identifying their needs. It will certainly make you think and can often be very challenging.
Clarity is essential to good decision-making.
Inclusion, at heart, is just doing your job, well.