Early on in my teaching career, I found myself in charge of a class with a high proportion of special educational needs (SEN) children on the register. The mystery of who would take on this group has been the topic of much discussion in the staffroom, but I was surprised when I was told it would be me. The Secret Teacher writes in The Guardian.
I’d observed the class before as part of my training. The sheer number of different needs – including autism, severe dyslexia, non-specific learning delays and ADHD – that had to be accommodated staggered me. I couldn’t fathom how the teacher at the time did it. When I asked, they told me it was only possible because they had specialist help.
When this class became mine, much of this support was removed, with most of the help coming from a part-time teaching assistant who had no experience working with children with special needs. I myself had next to no training and spent most of that first term running to the school’s Senco. They were often busy with endless administrative tasks, and would send me away with a bulging file of reports, recommendations and assessments. I actually cried in despair.
I struggled to find and read a story that all of the children could follow. I would work late into the night, frantically searching the internet for resources that I could use. There were children with learning difficulties who could barely hold a pencil, some who would occasionally lash out at other children, another with communication issues. I had to attend meetings with an educational psychologist and weeping parents who blamed themselves for their children’s problems.
My experience is just one aspect of a bigger problem in provision for SEN children. According to the Department for Education (pdf), 14% of pupils in England – 1.2 million children – have special needs or disabilities. But due to tightening council and school budgets, many families have to fight to get the help they’re entitled to. More than 4,000 children in England with an approved education, health and care (EHC) plan still receive no provision for extra services, compared to 1,710 in 2016. If an EHC plan is granted, schools must cover the first £6,000 cost of any extra support, using their overall budget. Some mainstream schools have become reluctant to take students with SEN needs because of this.
At my school, I was given cause for hope when my pleas for assistance were finally heard and I was provided with a part-time SEN specialist. The difference was stark. Children were given the meaningful, targeted, monitored sessions they needed, which not only had an impact on them but the rest of the class. I had a confidant and the support I was desperate for. My confidence grew. Suddenly some – although still not all – of the children began to show real, tangible progress.
But our problems are not over. When we asked if our SEN teacher could work full time, we were told there was no budget. They left as a result, and have not been replaced. The children they supported in my class were devastated. I feel like we’re back to square one.
Read the full article Secret Teacher: funding cuts leave us unable to help SEN children at school
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
Are you a trainee teacher, NQT, teacher, headteacher, parent or just someone who cares about education and has something to get off your chest in a Schools Improvement Guest Post? Follow this link for more details at the bottom of the page.Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link.
We now have a Facebook page - please click to like!