SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
Researched & Written by David Watters
“Extra support in schools for pupils with special educational needs is most effective when it is based in joint planning between class teacher and support teacher” Beveridge (1993)
The growing diversity of need within the classroom demands that teachers have a solid understanding of Special Educational Needs (SEN) so that they can plan and prepare specialised teaching programmes which give all learners the opportunity to succeed.
It is the duty of every teacher to ensure that appropriate differentiated work and resources are available. The teachers role and responsibilities are expanding, in response to this evolving learning community, whereby they are required to be fully aware of SEN procedures, to liaise with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) and teaching assistants.
This principle also applies to the education of English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Gifted and Talented (G&T) students who, although not defined within the law as having special educational needs, still require “special” provision and support.
All learners are entitled to equal access to the full range of opportunities and learning experiences within their school and a positive teaching approach at TP2, which embraces the various support systems, ensure that this is the case.
In order to investigate this hypothesis it would be useful to considerdefinitions of both “SEN” and ‘G&T” and the history of educational provision from a legal perspective. To place these findings within the context of TP2, it would be beneficial to look at the role of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), the Learning Support Assistant (LSA) and the G&T Co-ordinator in relation to two contrasting Case Studies (Pupil A and Pupil B).
Definition of “SEN”
The SEN Code of Practice (2001) defines that children have special educational needs (SEN) if they have a learning difficulty, which calls for special education provision to be made for them.
“In attempting to define the term ’special educational need’ it is important to remember that all children can be regarded as having special educational needs at some time in their school career.”
Definition of “G&T”
A gifted child’s needs are, for the most part, the same as for other pupils and in terms of pedagogy this includes knowledge and skills offered through careful planning, clear learning objectives, target setting, high expectations, variety of approach and good evaluation.
G&T pupils should be enabled to develop greater expertise through access to a curriculum that encourages higher order thinking, reflection, exploration of a variety of views, consideration of more difficult and complex questions, formulation of individual opinions, problem solving and enquiry, making connections between past and present learning, independent thinking and learning. (See Appendix 1.2A for Excellence in Cities definition of G&T)
Educational Provision: Legal Developments
Since the 1944 Education Act , special needs provision has improved significantly, as have perceptions and attitudes towards children who experience learning difficulties. The most notable influences upon this shifting attitude have been The Warnock Report (DES, 1978), The 1981 Education Act, The Education Reform Act of 1988 (ERA), 1993 Education Act, The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of SEN (DFE, 1994), The 1996 Education Act, The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act in 2001 and the revised Code of Practice, implemented in January 2002. (See Appendix 1.2B for more detail)
To assess how well our system of education is serving both SEN and G&T students the pupils’ experience may be considered in three stages. Firstly, are the pupils’ needs identified and responded to appropriately? Are they able to participate fully in the life of their school? And lastly, are they enabled to reach their potential in school?
Sally Beveridge (2002) states:
“All teachers are teachers of pupils with special educational needs, with a central role not only in their identification and assessment but also in developing classroom strategies to meet these needs.”
The Equal Opportunities Policy
of TP2 (Appendix 1.2F) aims to “maximise achievement by ensuring equality of opportunity for all members of the community.” The most significant influence upon equality of provision is the relationships nurtured between teachers and specialist colleagues within their school environment.
Role of the SENCO and G & T Co-ordinator
With regards to identifying and responding to the individual needs of each student TP2 has two vital members of staff. Firstly, there is the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for ensuring that any children with special needs are being helped appropriately, ensuring liaison with parents and other professionals, talking to and advising any member of staff who is concerned about a child, co-ordinating provision, making sure all written records are completed and appropriate Individual Education Plans are in place, ensuring relevant background information about individual children is collected, recorded and up-dated and contacting the relevant Area SENCO at the earliest possible stage where there is a concern. Secondly there is a Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator whose headline tasks include leading the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the school’s policy for identifying its “gifted and talented” pupils and the teaching and learning programme for them.
TP2 have an extremely pro-active and forward looking Learning Support Unit (LSU) with an open-door policy which welcomes the interest of colleagues and actively promotes the cross-fertilisation of knowledge.
Case Studies, TP2
Whilst working with BTEC National Diploma students on an assignment based upon the musical revue, A Little Bit of Everything, I had the opportunity to assess their performance and analytical skills in a number of contexts (See Appendix 1.2C for Assignment Descriptor). The learning outcomes, as defined in the Assessment Criteria Unit A6, to be achieved by the learner were twofold – “to take part in a rehearsal of musical theatre and to evaluate the effectiveness of rehearsed and performed material.”
Throughout the project the following observations were made:
Having talked at length to support staff I found that statistically, it is likely that there is one child in every class of 30 children who is Dyspraxic.
It is difficult in Performing Arts not too draw comparison between performances but I made very slight alterations to how the students evaluated their work; feedback was seldom verbal and instead was written and given on a one to one basis. Praise for every effort and accomplishment was given and I allowed Pupil A extra time to complete written work (as homework) without drawing attention to this decision. What became clear was that in individual lesson time Pupil A responded so much better. With improved focus through a perhaps more relaxed environment this student was able to demonstrate a solid understanding of musical ideas covered in the class.
All students should be supported and given appropriate guidance throughout their time at school and it is the Subject teachers who must provide a fully inclusive and effective learning environment. Lessons should be planned with an awareness of the needs of each student. Nevertheless, in order to fulfil their roles most effectively, teachers will need access to advice, support and expertise to supplement and complement their own knowledge. The structures in place at TP2, which help students to reach their full potential, enable teachers a shared wealth of expertise with which to
develop the confidence to devise and deliver stimulating and inclusive lessons.
Beveridge, S. (1993) Special Educational Needs in Schools. London : Routledge.
Gardner, Howard (1983; 1993) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York : Basic Books. Publications
Beveridge, S. (1996) Spotlight on SEN: Learning Difficulties. NASEN publications.
DES (1981) Education Act 1981. London : HMSO.
DES (1988) Education Reform Act 1988. London : HMSO.
DES (1991) Education Act 1991. London : HMSO.
DES (1993) Education Act 1993. London : HMSO.
DES (1996) Education Act 1996. London : HMSO.
DfEE (1997) Excellence for all Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs (summary). London : HMSO.
DfES (1999) All our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education London : DfES
Exceptionally Able Children, 1997, rev. ed., Education Dept. of W.A., East Perth TP2, Equal Opportunities Policy (2005)
The Audit Commission (2002) Special Educational Needs: a mainstream issue
Every Child Matters – http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/
Gifted Development Center – www.gifteddevelopment.com/
ISEC – http://www.isec2000.org.uk/abstracts/ and http://www.isec2005.org.uk/isec/abstracts/
Nasen – http://www.nasen.org.uk/
Teacher net – http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/sen/
Blunkett, D. (2000) Transforming Secondary Education London : DfES
Clark, D. (1996) Schools as Learning Communities London : Cassell
Clark, C. & Gains, G. (1997) “Meeting the Challenge of the Able Learner”.
Cowne, E. (1996) The SENCO Handbook. London : David Fulton
Davies, J.D., Garner, P. & Lee, J. (eds.) (1998) Managing Special Needs in Mainstream Schools: The Role of the SENCO. London : David Fulton
Gerschel, Liz. (May 2005).The Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator’s Role in Managing Teaching Assistants: The Greenwich Perspective. NASEN, Volume 20, Number 2
Ramjhun, A.F. (1996) Implementing the Code of Practice for children with Special Educational Needs: A Practical Guide. London : David Fulton Publishers
Audit Commission -
responded to the set tasks in learning and behaviour characteristics typical of a G&T student (Appendix 1.2E) with an exceptional standard of written and practical work, highly developed musicality, sensitivity to text and a firm grasp on physical technicalities necessary to perform the chosen music. Pupil B is working at a level which is almost beyond the standards expected of the course and will undoubtedly receive a Distinction for work which is of an outstanding quality in every area. My concern is that Pupil B may feel frustrated which is why I make sure we work together, when possible, at looking forward to the next stage in development. Additional Extended Learning tasks have been welcomed and individual singing lessons allow Pupil B the opportunity to recognise and respond to challenge and take initiative in personal progress., demonstrated particular learning difficulties associated with Dyspraxia; hesitancy of movement and awkwardness in performance, difficulty in planning and organising thoughts and low self-esteem whereas Pupil B demonstrated consistently strong feelings/opinions, perseverance when motivated, engagement with complex communication and analysis, creativity, a tendency to be highly self-critical and an ability to grasp new ideas rapidly. Perhaps here it is worth relating the complexity of Pupil B’s approach to learning with the Multiple Intelligences work of Howard Gardner since her work clearly fitted in with Gardner’s own definitions of a number of proposed intelligences; Linguistic intelligence, Musical intelligence, Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence, Spatial intelligence, Interpersonal intelligence and Intrapersonal intelligence. (Appendix 1.2D)http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports