For the purpose of this post, I am looking at the needs of children starting in mainstream education, as children in SEND settings may well have had a diagnosis before starting school. There is, to my mind at least, a need for schools and teachers to explore their current practices and to enhance these, to allow classroom based staff to make the significant contribution necessary to accommodate the new requirements.
The SEN framework is changing. This has been well documented, on this site and elsewhere. Some of the change is more significant than others, as far as the operation in school is concerned. That’s where I’d like to concentrate. I know that Malcolm Reeve (@Malcolm_Reeve) is currently looking at the Local Offer aspect.
One big structural change is 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 marking 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 will 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.
Many posts on this blog look at the detail of teaching and learning, with regard to addressing the needs of individuals, aka personalisation, whether more or less able learners. This is based on a simple premise, articulated as:-
1) analysis of evidence leading to quality information being made available to support
2) detailed planning, including the provision of appropriate resources and staffing.
3) Students in the best practice, actively sharing in their learning journey, which is
4) tracked and reviewed at regular intervals with
5) records being collated and disseminated, allowing the process to be cyclic and developmental.
Differentially, this can be interpreted over time scales, dependent on the need to intervene and support, a series of cycles within cycles, based on individual needs.
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, through post it notes, amended planning, or diary format.
In addition, the teacher needs to get better at initial investigation of issues.
Behaviour is no longer a special needs category. Issues need to be described and explored for causation.
There are four areas of SEN description in the new framework
- Communication and Interaction
- Cognition and Learning
- Social, Mental and Emotional Health
- Sensory and/or Physical needs.
Teacher judgement plays a significant part. If a teacher has never met an issue, or makes simplistic inappropriate judgements, then the subsequent learning journey for the child will become more complex, with the potential for regression, rather than progress, as the relationships can become strained.
So, from a classroom perspective, I’d offer the following:-
- Start a Note of Concern file on individuals who are raising worries.
- Annotate plans regularly with individual concerns.
- Annotate exercise books with appropriate supportive commentary.
- Make diary notes in the Note of Concern to deduce any pattern arising.
- All adults become “spotters”. Keep a post it note record of things that happen in the lesson, to add to the Note of Concern. Ask any support adults to do the same.
- The record should allow the teacher to create a proper narrative, with action, outcome and judgements/decisions, refined actions. There should be a record of planning adaptation.
The class teacher is not being asked to be a diagnostician, but an investigator and describer of learning, behaviours and outcomes. The TA or other adult support can provide an additional insight into issues. The broadest view available will support decision making.
Stepping up a notch. Instead of School Action Plus.
If the teacher has got to the point where the child’s needs exceed their expertise or experience and they feel the need to involve another adult, such as the SENCo, to seek advice and solutions, then the school awareness is raised. This has previously been called School Action Plus, and may involve further exploration of the issues with a range of external expertise, all of which will be subject to reports to the school, enhancing the available evidence.
I’d expect some kind of school based action plan to be developed, with the focus on actions, from the teacher, to seek to effect specific change; to keep a further diary of interventions, and outcomes, over relatively short timescales. These PAPs need to be seen embedded in plans and visible in practice. They should be clear descriptors, accessible and shared with parents at each stage. The focus on classroom action is essential. Progress should be capable of being measured in some form.
Regular reviews and refinements eventually build to a more substantial case study file, which is likely to be then supported with reports from a range of additional professionals.
In order to ask for an EHCP, the school has to be able to present significant evidence of different scales of intervention over time. A failure to do so could lead to the vulnerable child in the school not receiving timely additional focused support, causing a further delay in development.
As with Statements of Educational Need, the EHCP judgements are made by an expert locality panel, which scrutinises evidence in detail. And as with a statement, these do not necessarily come with funding, but may come with specific actions on the establishment to provide support, with an in-built requirement for regular reviews.
Inaction is not an option. Evidence chasing will assume greater importance, with a heavy emphasis on the classroom teacher.
Training will be needed.
Schemes need to be established immediately and embedded in practice.
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.
- Consider the diagram below. Basic principle of SEND, know your children, well.