I have just finished reading some great blogs on inclusion….QT may have ruffled some feathers but the response has been fantastic; in my opinion we cannot have enough debate on this topic, because SEND is not going away!
In some ways I can sympathise with the notion of having quiet, studious classes where all children want to learn….but these already exist in private provision and some academies and free schools. Of course, being teachers, we all want to teach….I hear that mantra regularly, both from staff of excluding schools and staff in the PRU, usually when we have a particularly challenging child with complex needs or behaviour! This is usually followed by comments on not wanting to be a social worker, pmld teacher, autism specialist etc etc. I have (shame) made those comments myself in the far past….teaching SEND is jolly hard work when you have a range of complex needs…but I have also given myself a shake and gone on to do the best I can for the children. All my career I have had to fight to give both parents and vulnerable children a voice and make sure they get their educational needs met and it is even more so of a challenge in the current climate; there is a distinct lack of both funding and will with very itchy fingers on the exclude button, but we cannot give up. Giving up is not an option but is an abdication of professional and personal responsibility.
So to practicalities. A large part of my role is giving help and support to teachers and schools on both SEND and behaviour, and often the two are linked. These are the responsibility of the governors and Head Teacher…if a ‘lone class teacher’ is being left to manage on their own without support, then that is the fault of the school. I can remember in a previous job an NQT being told by the Head not to go running to him for help….I’d like to think those days are gone …aren’t they? I usually ask to look at the behaviour policy if it’s a whole school issue; often problems occur when teachers are operating outside of this. Behaviour systems need to be consistent and fair and easily understood and implemented. Often with some tweaking and staff INSET snags can be ironed out. Also training of key individuals such as behaviour and learning mentors can pay dividends; one school who constantly referred pupils to us rarely does so any more because they have taken more control of their own systems after a lot of input from our staff. As they are a town school with an extremely challenging catchment this is also very cost effective.
In individual cases of challenging pupils I usually ask for a BOXALL to be completed and analyse the gaps. For those of you who don’t know this, go to the Nurture Group Network at http://nurturegroups.org BOXALL is a brilliant tool, particularly for children with attachment issues, and Beyond the Boxall is a great (and cheap at £25) resource with activities to build resilience and close the gaps; it also saves hours of planning! Next I check that all possible underlying medical conditions have been explored via the family doctor referring to a paediatrician. It’s amazing how many schools haven’t already gone down this route, even in the face of suspected ASD/ ADHD. It needs doing anyway to support any possible EHC Plan but diagnosis and the right meds/ strategies can have an instant effect on behaviour and learning. One boy who came to us on placement and is awaiting a fresh start at a new school has altered dramatically now he is on ADHD meds….literally this is life changing as previously he could not keep a limb still, was oppositional, and these were barriers to learning, good behaviour and making friends.
I then do an observation of the child in structured and unstructured times ready to draw up an action plan.
In Part 2 I will go on to give some practical ideas for managing behaviour and SEND. I am not in favour of producing flowery reports with fancy phrases such as ‘ nurturing his inner sensitivity ‘ ( seen in a report from a consultant just prior to the child’s permanent exclusion)! A busy class teacher needs practical help, preferably modelled by the adviser, not words on a page….as QT says, they have enough to do in a class of 30+ As I have said in previous blogs I am going alone as a consultant next academic year so I need to give value for money! And be actually useful!! Schools have asked me to liaise with parents and carers who are understandably nervous about their children and SEND and this communication is vital in moving things forward. (I’m actually rather good at this)
In conclusion, SEND is here to stay and we need practical solutions that actually work! Yes it maybe that a child will need specialist provision via an EHCP but that needs time and effort putting in!