The HMI report for 2018 includes a commentary about the teaching of and support for SEND.
In many ways, I am not surprised. Working with Inclusion Quality Mark for eight years up to 2014, it was clear, from visits to and supporting schools, 2013-14, attending and presenting at conferences, that the complexities of the changes that were being wrought on schools in a very short time would be very difficult to achieve. That the changes also included system changes outside schools, at a time when austerity cuts were really beginning to bite, only served to exacerbate the situation for more vulnerable children.
Schools felt that they had to focus on curriculum and assessment, the latter having been put into free-fall by a Government unwilling to offer clear guidance. As schools would also be inspected on the new system, it became an imperative, especially for schools which felt vulnerable; borderline good, RI or SM.
Systems are still not yet fully effective in all schools. The sheer weight of requirement, especially for Primary schools, to embed mathematics and English, meant that the wider curriculum was sometimes given less prominence, to a point where this is flagged up as a concern for the 2019 inspection framework. It is also feasible now, after four years, that schools are beginning to see issues with their earlier decisions and are making adjustments.
One big structural change in 2014 was to put emphasis on the classroom as the prime place where good or better teaching and learning is seen as addressing the needs of all individuals. Therefore work has to be well planned, well delivered, activities engaged with, feedback given and supportive, developmental feedback afterwards.
In which case, the class teacher becomes the conduit through which SEND decisions are effected, with enhanced responsibility. Consider for a moment the position regarding Performance Related Pay (PRP) where a teacher can be held responsible for the outcomes of all groups of learners.
Teachers need to know their children very well, to be able to personalise interventions and commentaries. The deployment of available support, for specific purpose, with defined, checkable outcomes, will be essential. However, as the highest trained person in the classroom, the teacher may reasonably be expected to take the greater burden of the most challenging learning needs, while the support does just that, supports other learners.
All aspects need to be considered, starting with the appropriateness of the task, or the necessity to adapt, the need for support to achieve an appropriate outcome.
Within the task, the deployment of staff to be the eyes and ears, with the capacity to intervene appropriately to need will be essential. It will become an essential skill to spot and deal with issues as they arise to smooth the learning path. These interventions will need to be noted in some way. Therefore a methodology needs to be considered. In the first instance, the exercise book could become a part of the dialogue of concern, noting advice given, as well as clear, readable, understandable feedback. A secondary need will be to keep a track of teacher thinking, within and between lessons, through post it notes, amended planning, or diary format.
The teacher needs to get better at initial investigation of issues.
In addition, within the 2014 NC, the idea of levelness gave way to yearness. I blogged about this, from 2013, as I could see considerable potential pitfalls, especially for children who didn’t “make the grade” in the previous year. This may have been further exacerbated as teachers chose to stay in the same year group for a few years, to make use of their need to get to grips with yeargroup requirements.
Primaries are possibly in a much more difficult position, in that the new National Curriculum is very year-group based, with the assessment criteria as articulated, to know and understand the year group requirements. The use of the phrase “Secondary ready” cast an implied level of expectation against the achievements at year six. The rhetoric to date seems to suggest whole cohorts moving at the same speed. Topics are also relatively year group specific, which could cause issues if a child is either slower or faster than their cohort at learning in a specific subject. It is arguable that for Primary schools, level-ness has been replaced by year-ness. So measurement of progress will be against year group expectations. Within the documentation, it is possible to infer the hierarchy of expectation, so schools may do that to ensure that their learners are tracked against the new criteria.
Where schools have been freed from the need to use levels and asked to create their own systems, those which have been shared through social media like Twitter have to date looked very much like levelness in a different form. And they always will, because the schemes shared have been recording sheets to keep a track of children’s performance.
And that’s my main issue. Subjects have hierarchical skills, which have to be introduced, practiced and embedded in produced work. Levelness articulated the hierarchy of skills and allowed this within whole class tasks and topics, with all learners challenged at a personal level, in the best practice. Level and grade criteria support expectation, planning, in-lesson interventions, reformulating of challenge to need, feedback, both oral and written, then food for thought after the lesson.
Year-ness will do that, but I have a slight worry that the articulation of achievement within the new system at Primary level has the potential to become a new system created barrier to learning for a number of vulnerable learners.
We had a system that could have been tweaked to make it more coherent, challenging, robust and acceptable through the system.
We may embed new issues. I hope that I am wrong.
All classes are mixed ability, even a set or streamed group, so creates an internal dynamic that needs to be accommodated; from prior records, simple starter assessments to confirm or ask questions, to seek to refine planning that allows appropriate imparting of information and learning challenges, both of which may be subtly altered in delivery through engagement with individual or group needs.
This is articulated in another blog; 65, based on the teacher standards.
Not all Special Needs get identified early. Some become more obvious as school challenges get harder. Some may have a source outside school, but which impacts in the setting, eg social and emotional needs.
Individual responses will offer challenges and cause concern. This may multiply over time, if established as a seeming pattern of response. Investigation and recording of the developing situation informs a discussion with the school SENCo. Not to do so might result in a request to do so over the next period of time. This delay can be the source of irritation in a teacher who wishes an immediate remedy.
· SEND is no longer “someone’s job”, it is everyone’s job…
Training is an interesting issue, in that there are and will be significant calls from all sides for “more training”. The availability of external staff is likely to be seriously strained in the near future, as all schools ask for the same personnel. I can see a number of options addressing these needs.
Local specialists (possibly including Special School staff) to create fact sheets available to all local schools, to address possible concerns across a range of needs, ASD, ADHD, SALT, OT as an example.
- In-house solutions 1. Some special needs in learning can be evidenced against the outcome of younger children. Therefore, by definition, the expertise is in-house. Exemplar portfolios will help with decision making, if they incorporate both a statement of what’s evident and a description of potential next steps. In “old money” a level 2 child in year five is operating on a par with an average year 2 child. By talking with the year 2 teacher, the professional dialogue will offer insights into routes. In a separate system, it may be necessary to make links with feeder schools.
- In house solutions 2. The school SENCo, if (s)he has undertaken the required training, should be in a position to offer the broad-brush explanations necessary for class-based colleagues.
- Planning for learning needs to look at the dynamics as well as the fixed points. The plan, based on expectation, should prompt thinking on the hoof, ensuring interactions that result on lessons being tweaked to the evident needs.
It could be that simple…