The recent SEN reforms amount to a substantial change in the delivery of education – the biggest in 30 years. Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is the renewed emphasis on SEN provision as an integral part of quality first teaching, and ensuring that all pupils are making the appropriate progress is part and parcel of the responsibilities of all teachers.
Every teacher is a teacher of children with SEN, a point reinforced by the draft SEN Code of Practice which is currently out for consultation (see below for more information on the Code).
The new code places teachers at the centre of provision for pupils with SEN, and while it is not due to come into effect until September 2014, schools are already being inspected by Ofsted with a renewed focus on pupils with SEN.
Some teachers may be working in Pathfinder areas that are trailing the new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) that are replacing the system of SEN Statements, so will already be moving intervention systems away from Statements and School Action to new ways of working.
However, some NQTs may not have had much SEN training during initial teacher training and may feel that skills need to be developed in this area. There are some simple steps NQTs can take to start meeting pupils’ needs.
The first step to ensuring that you are meeting children’s needs is to understand your pupils. Does your school have an additional needs register which records all the little things that can often be missed?
Child X might have had a simple grommet operation and is still suffering from intermittent hearing loss, Child Y needs a visual timetable to ensure they stay on task, and so on.
For those children who might have Statements or School Action plans, have you taken the time to talk their needs through with the SENCO or previous teachers and heads of year?
Have you built-up a relationship with the parents or carers? Are you familiar with your school’s SEN policies?
Second, having gotten to know your cohort, are there any areas where you feel you need more training? Ultimately you are responsible for your own career and professional development, so you need to take ownership. While your school and NQT mentor will have areas they want you to address, you can still look to find your own professional development opportunities.
There is a wealth of SEN training opportunities available and with the expansion of the internet, much of it is free.
A good start would be the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP) hosted by nasen. It is a comprehensive portal of materials commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) covering the four main areas of need – behaviour, speech language and communication, autism and dyslexia. It can be found alongside other free materials online (see further information for a range of useful links).
Just as there are a lot of free resources on the internet you need an effective way to share and find them. Using Twitter enables you to build your own virtual staffroom of people who you can access at a moment’s notice to help you in your work.
Work colleagues can be part of the process, so you can also use it to build internal links within your school as well as globally. It is also the ideal way to link with other NQTs, and to share experiences, tips and resources with peers at the same stage of their career.
Networking with Twitter can also help to inform and reinvigorate your planning when trying to cater for all pupils.
Rather than sitting there staring at an empty sheet vainly hoping for the words to appear magically before Downtown Abbey starts, you can put a call out via Twitter.
If you have invested some time in following colleagues who are sharing their resources via social media, you will soon find that people are only too willing to help and point you towards quality SEN resources.
Know your students
The best advice of all is to get to know your pupils; their individual needs and the ways in which you can help them to get the most out of school.
Sometimes, having a label of SEN can be just as much of a barrier to learning as the special need itself.
We need to have high expectations of all children, and by providing the appropriate provision, you can make a real impact on their future life chances. It might be challenging, but if you wanted an easy career, would you have chosen teaching?
The SEN Code of Practice
The publication of the draft SEN Code of Practice heralds further changes to SEN provision in state-maintained schools.
The principles underpinning the code, which is due for implementation in September 2014, include the need to support the child or young person, and their parents, in order to facilitate their development and to help them achieve the best possible educational and developmental outcomes.
Including young people and parents in all related decision-making is another underlying principle, which makes clear that they must be provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions, and that there should be greater control for them over the support that they receive.
With SEN Statements being replaced by the new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), the role of local authorities, health and social care services and schools are to be firmly linked, with all services called upon to work together to assess needs and provide effective support.
The EHCPs will cover a person’s SEN provision from the age of 0 to 25 and parents of young people who have an EHCP, and the young people themselves, have a right to ask for a particular school or college to be named in the plan and for a personal budget for their support.
The main changes
The most significant change in the new code is that it will be a new single piece of statutory guidance on SEN that reflects the new 0 to 25 SEN system. It offers information on the provisions set out in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.
SEN Support (also known as the “Single Category”) will replace School Action and School Action Plus as the new school-based category for additional support for children with SEN.
Social, mental and emotional health replaces behaviour, social and emotional as an area of need.
Overall, quality first teaching is embedded throughout the new code, which states that SEN provision goes beyond the differentiated approaches and learning arrangements.
The code calls for the use of appropriate evidence-based interventions, and states that SEN support in schools is based on four types of action: plan, assess, do and review.
A Local Offer will also indicate how schools will access the assessment for EHCPs. Local authorities must produce the Local Offer, setting out in one place information about the provision they expect to be available for students in their area who have SEN, including those who do not have EHCPs.
This must include provision in the local authority’s area, but also outside the area where it is likely to be used by the young people with SEN for who the authority is responsible.
All schools now have a legal duty to publish information on their websites about the implementation of policy for pupils with SEN. They must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as SENCO, whose role it is to determine the strategic development of a SEN policy in the school.
The school should also ensure that the SENCO has sufficient time and resources to carry out their role, including providing sufficient administrative support and time away from teaching to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities.
Underpinning the code is the need for schools to provide high-quality teaching which is differentiated and personalised. Ofsted inspectors are also required to report on the quality of education provided.
Schools must ensure that provision is effective; the code’s key message is ultimately that every teacher is responsible and accountable for all pupils in their class, wherever or with whoever the pupils are working with.
Useful links NQT Special Edition DownloadOn November 28, 2013, SecEd published in partnership with the NASUWT, eight pages of best practice and advisory articles aimed at supporting NQTs and young teachers. Ranging from behaviour and CPD to SEN and pedagogy, the articles offer valuable, practical advice and are freely available. You can read them in the best practice and blog sections of this website. Or you can download the free eight-page PDF at http://bit.ly/1aYJWUo
Sean Stockdale is the editor of nasen’s Special magazine. Nasen is a UK professional association embracing all SEN and disabilities.