Starfish….it’s a big ask

In my latest post for WeeklyBlogChallenge17 I want to address the challenge for schools in meeting the needs of children with SEND, diagnosed or not. 

As I have previously said, the schools I visit really want to help their challenging children without resorting to exclusion and they are keen to take on board strategies and advice which encompass medical referrals as well as visible behaviours. However I am noticing many barriers to helping the pupils who struggle in terms of outside forces and influences and these are impacting on all our youngsters actually. The demands of the curriculum, OFSTED, SATS, funding and services cuts and the general high stakes driving our school  improvement are, or should be, enough to make us weep.

When I was at the PRU I saw child after child come in with nothing having been put in place, but now, on the other side of the fence I can see why – schools feel overwhelmed by need! So many children are being failed by our systems and it is no wonder education professionals are leaving in droves and potential candidates are less than lukewarm about replacing them! 

On twitter I am seeing despair and heartache in many quarters with much talk of ‘broken systems’ and pressure, but actually the signs of  disintegration are more prosaic. Over the last few months I have seen or heard about the following snapshots in primaries:

……A young (very good) teacher who spends every lunchtime in her classroom preparing for afternoon lessons as she has so much to do

……Long mornings of proscribed lessons for upper KS2  ie English split into poetry, spelling, reading with no let up, a late playtime (short) and then Maths (long) with much teacher talk; kid I was observing had a massive kick off!!

…… KS1 children expected to sit and concentrate for long periods with a pared-down version of upper KS2 lesson

…….Children being kept in at lunch time to complete SATS practice because they are ‘slow’ ( teacher frustration by the way not deliberate cruelty!) A good job they didn’t have my son….it would have been home time! (fortunately he missed KS2 SATS by a year)

…..Lots of chalk and talk (pacy) and lots of teacher confidence and expertise on show but not a lot of heart I’m afraid! 

And that is NOT the fault of staff…it is what is expected now….headteachers are under the cosh and there is not much room for manoeuvre …..I heard someone say there is no place for mavericks….and that is true for teachers and children. It is no wonder that we are seeing the de- professionalisation of teaching with unqualified staff creeping back in…I have never seen such an over-regulated, mis-trusted group of people as I am seeing now. I remarked the other day I am so glad I am not at the beginning of my career….I would not last five minutes in the present climate!

However this makes me more determined to get out and help for as long as I am needed….I am reminded of the boy rescuing starfish stranded on the beach; when it was pointed out that it was a hopeless business he picked up a creature, threw it in the sea and said ‘ well it’s made a difference to that one’

I guess I will just carry on saving my little starfish…..and sprinkling fairy dust!

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