Speak Truth to Power part two

So, having declared that I don’t really do details, here’s part two.  I seem to have come up with a few.  If you have anything to add, please so so in the comments.

SENCOs

These people need to be on SLT in a school.  That needs to be added to the Code.  I am also concerned that the people responsible for co-ordinating SEND in post-16 colleges do not need to be teachers.  It isn’t a purely administrative post.

Funding

It seems to me that there ought to be some rules, based on agreed good practise, around about how the funding for SEND can be spent, and some sort of scrutiny from someone that it is having the desired effect.  It seems clear that just spending the money on a 1-1 TA isn’t the answer, and neither is putting the money into one big melting pot.  There is too much misunderstanding of what it is that children and young people actually need and how to go about it.  Or too much half understanding, and too much writing things down on digital paper so that you can be seen to be doing the right thing even if reality says different.

Training

This needs to be looked at wholesale.  We have an inclusive system.  Whatever we think about that we have got to the stage where we know that just putting vulnerable kids in mainstream settings isn’t exactly the end of the story, and we need to make sure that all of our teachers – and indeed all of the people who work in schools, from the secretary to the caretaker – have the knowledge to help them do their jobs in the school community.

For a start we need there to be more than a passing nod to SEND when trainee teachers are learning how to do the job.  Teaching children with SEND is the most difficult and challenging part of our job (in my view), it’s worth spending time going over the main areas at the very least.  I would suggest spending some time at a special school local to them, as well as really good training on reading and ‘what to do when things go wrong’.  I would also strongly suggest that there is specific training on working with parents as well as how to work with TAs and other professionals.

Teachers need to be aware of their legal responsibilities as far as SEND is concerned, as, at present, I’m not sure that all of them do.  I might be tempted to insist that a part of any INSET programme is devoted to SEND and what teachers can do at classroom level.

TAs

Where to start here?  Some unified standards and proper training and qualifications would be nice.  Oh.

School organisation

I have learned that there are some children who do not fare very well in mainstream education.  They are just too vulnerable, and their needs are too great.  I know this because one of them lives in my house.  He is my son.  However, while he is incredibly fortunate that he lives in a town where there is a special alternative that suits his needs, I know that this is not the case for many vulnerable children.  This needs looking at.

All our young people need and deserve an education, so we need to look at how this can be achieved.  Not all special schools are the same, and just because there is a special school nearby it does not automatically mean that a child with a specific need will fit in there.

Communication

Until I became a parent and my children started at school I didn’t really understand how spectacularly bad schools are at communicating with parents.  And now that I’m thinking about the national picture I can see that this lack of communication is system wide.  Teachers get stuck in next door classrooms.  Schools in the same town have little clue about what is going on in their neighbourhood, or the head teachers might, but not the teachers.  And special needs provision is much the same.  Do mainstream schools know what their special counterparts are up to and vice versa?  Are there mechanisms for sharing good and bad news?

I think it would be really useful to research who are the gatekeepers for information about SEND in our schools.  Who gets the emails?  Who gets the circulars?  How does information sharing – or not sharing – work?  If we know this, then we can have a look at how to make it better and make changes.

Research needs to be much more widely disseminated – we need to look at how to do that effectively too.

Leadership

Oh, where to start with this one?  We need school leaders who are committed to SEND and making schools a great place for all.  Where they lead, other people will follow.  But to be honest, I’m not sure that it is very wise to wait until those leaders appear out of the ether.  Training for school leaders needs to include SEND, and we need to give people time to talk around the issues.  SEND is an emotional minefield, and people need this reflection time on a subject that touches us all deeply.

All teachers are leaders – in fact anyone who works in a school is –  and they need training not just in how to work with children and young people, but adults too.  I hadn’t the first clue, when I started teaching at age 22, about how to work with a TA, and over twenty years later there is a positively astronomical number of them in our schools.  Training for teachers in their responsibilities towards TAs and what they are and aren’t expected to do would be very useful.

If schools are being badly led as far as SEND is concerned, what do we do to highlight it?  In fact, if this is the case generally, where do teachers turn?   Help us do better.

Thanks for reading.

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14 thoughts on “Speak Truth to Power part two

  1. Thanks Nancy, that’s really useful. I’m no expert on SEND but I would totally second your points on training – very often I meet NQTs who have had no input at all on e.g. autism and yet have children who are autistic in their classes. Yes, too, to the parent communication thing, this is an area where I think pretty much all settings (including our own) can always do better.

    1. Indeed. I was struck, only yesterday, as I took part in child protection training, is how close the signs are to each other. We really need better training – rather than following our own interests in these matters (I think anyway), before tragic mistakes – on both sides – are made.

  2. Thanks Nancy another comprehensive piece to go with part one. In this I would include the importance School Governors have to play in SEND within all schools to hold the school to account. In my opinion Governors need far more training in SEND including a thorough understanding of the Code of Practice and how it needs to be implemented within their school.
    Also as a parent I agree communication needs to be greatly improved.
    This is just my initial thoughts and will add more when I have had time to digest this fully and any other points raised

  3. Another interesting article. I’d just like to add there are many SENDCOS in primary and secondary settings that aren’t trained teachers. I’m not being judgemental as I’m sure many do a really good job considering the restraints they face. What I don’t like is the fact many people are unaware that they are not teachers even though they may well have received more training on SEND than some teachers in the post. Yet again it appears to be a postcode lottery. Is this fair when we are talking about those who need the very best the profession has to offer.
    On a positive note I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in a school where the SENDCO was part of SLT and had considerable influence on provision and inclusion within the school.
    I recently attended a conference and heard a person who now occupies a high position within LA talk of his proudest moment being when a school he led received good for inclusion as well as the whole school and this was the way it should be in every school. Let’s hope this ethos can spread to all in positions of leadership.

  4. Some schools name the head or deputy as the SENCO and then the post is delegated to a person who is often described as a SEN coordinator, inclusion manager etc. Googling schools and looking at staffing structures brings up an array of tiles for the people who are carrying out the role on a daily basis. It is only when you are involved with a school that you find out who does what.
    It’s the same for the teaching role. There are many instructors or HLTAS regularly “teaching” classes on a daily basis, not just in a cover supervisor role. Again I’m not criticising the good work they do but as an HLTA I would never expect to do the same job as a professional and would have wanted to know how many of my daughter’s lessons were delivered by a person who wasn’t a qualified teacher.

  5. I think every Headteacher should have to spend at least half a term as a SENCO before taking up their post. Or a week as a Teaching Assistant. Or a day listening intently to their SENCO. Or all three.

    1. Oh, you’ve reminded me of another one that’s been going round my head – everyone should take a turn at attempting to teach outside of a classroom, and a term or two (at least) on supply.

  6. TAs: Implement the newly written National Teaching Assistant Standards for all schools. These ‘should’ include minimum qualifications , encourage progression ( both experience & training) and be used for CPD and yearly appraisal.
    Somehow mandate that time is funded for teachers and TAs to plan, organise and review together. I have read papers by the EEF and Maximising TAs which have identified that when TAs have weak subject knowledge and poor ‘task’ understanding learning struggles to take place. All children need to be working with adults who are well trained and briefed.
    TA National Standards would also be of great help to teachers and SLT in managing and deploying staff effectively.

    Curriculum ( my own ‘ invention’, but could relate to all of your areas) : Ensure all initiatives are grounded in sound, robust, scientific evidence eg understanding of cognition, progression and long term retention. This particularly applies to reading and spelling, because as Jim Rose identified systematic synthetic phonics/ simple view of reading is vital for decoding and comprehension both for reading and writing. It seems that many colleagues in schools are still using the Searchlights model and other sight strategies that have been roundly discredited.
    Recent changes to the National Curriculum are hopefully ‘encouraging’ practitioners to focus on children mastering understanding & skills and identifying & meeting needs, so this should filter through to support SEND. Any additional needs should be identified forensically, utilising outside agencies expertise ( funding issues) and planned interventions, accommodations and modifications should be used with fidelity, honesty and transparency.

    SENDCo & Leadership: SENDCo need to be trained teacher, for the age groups of the school, and be on SLT. I think I am correct in understanding that until recently all newly appointed SENDCos were required to complete a masters qualification in SEND. I think that requirement has been dropped.
    There should be a nationally agreed pro forma for teachers, TAs & SENDCo to use to support the ‘ assess, plan, do, review cycle’ ( similar to EHCP) and it should involve the parents and child in its writing, use and review. These working documents should be honest and tools to plan for and review tangible outcomes. Like the ‘old’ IEPs child and parent contributions ( eg read regularly with child to support their phonics skill development) , to meet the outcomes, should be included as fundamental elements.

    Training: ITT and school based training needs to have foundation in theory and seeing it in practice. I agree, all courses should have genuine SEND experiences – in Special Schools, working with SEND children in interventions and in- class support. This should be extended to all staff in school so there is a sharing of best practice with a range of provision.

    School Organisation: Inclusion should be for the childs benefit: academically and socially. I am concerned that, at a basic level, mainstream schooling appears to be a ‘cheaper funding option’. At the moment the limiting provision of either a mainstream or special school ‘choice’ is failing a number of children because of the above issues. In my experience it seems that children with autism seem to be the least well catered for and I think enhanced provision autism units attached to most mainstream schools could be a better solution. There doesn’t seem to be a national policy for this, but best practice could still be shared and then a znational strategy formulated.

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