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Question regarding Learning Specialists on school staff -

(8 Posts)
Earlybird Wed 17-Aug-11 15:10:55

It must be incredibly difficult for teachers to teach to the wide range of ability within a classroom - those who are struggling to keep up, those with behavioural issues, those with IEPs - all the way through to those children who are gifted and talented.

I know that many (most?) schools have staff to help children who have ADHD, dyslexia, etc, and also work with children who are in danger of falling behind because they require more intensive help/reinforcement.

But my question about Learning Specialists: are they only there to assist students who are struggling to keep up, or those with behavioual and/or learning issues?

I've been wondering if some of their time/energy shouldn't go towards supplementing and/or differentiating materials for the students who are more able.

Your thoughts - pro and con?

spanieleyes Wed 17-Aug-11 15:26:12

SEN covers children at BOTH ends of the ability spectrum, from those in danger of falling behind to those who are more able and, certainly in my school, both groups of children will have IEP's ( individual education plans) setting out the additional support above and beyond that expected from normal quality teaching in the classroom.

IndigoBell Wed 17-Aug-11 15:58:26

Earlybird - there are two types of LSAs. Ones that are paid for by a statment, and are there to do 1:1 with kids who would not be able to learn anything without them. You have to have very severe problems to qualify for one of them.

Then you have classroom LSAs, who are there to support the teacher however she wishes.

In good schools LSAs spend time with all tables.

If the LSA is always attached to the 'lower ability' table - then that should raise questions.

What frequently happens is that the SEN kids get almost totally taught by LSAs and receive very little teacher time sad While the teacher spends most of her time on the middle and high ability kids.

So, basically the kids who need the most help, get the least teacher time, and normally consequently suffer. But school can roll of a huge list of interventions and support that your child is getting, and therefore feel they are doing everything they should.

It is also far easier to stretch higher ability kids. By defn they can read, write and work independently. So the teacher can set them appropriately differentiated work - but they don't need a LSA to stand over them while they accomplish it.

Earlybird Wed 17-Aug-11 17:09:44

Thanks for your thoughts and explanations. I've asked the question because I am frustrated.

Dd is in a school in America (private, with a very good reputation), so I realise we are in a very different situation to what is 'standard' in the UK.

When we moved here from the UK, dd was far ahead of her US peers - which I put down mostly to the fact that UK schools demand more at an earlier age.

Three years later, I see that though she is learning (and happy), dd is rarely challenged. She now believes that most everything should be mastered easily and almost perfectly. She gives up quickly if something is tricky, as her capacity for experimenting/trying different approaches/taking risks is gone - she will not try if she doesn't think she can do things 'correctly'. ATM, almost all of her mistakes are careless and slap-dash rather than because she doesn't understand the work.

She often seems to be paired with the children who are struggling (usually rambunctious boys who presumably will benefit from her good example, and ability to stay on task). The school, teachers and parents do an admirable job of offering these children support so they don't fall too far behind. The school learning specialist spends individual time with them (outside class), and families additionally employ tutors, as needed, to reinforce what is taught in the classroom.

My impression is that the school's compassionate approach to supporting these children is an anchor that drags on the general progress of the class. I understand that the more able children can't steam too far ahead as the group disparity would become too great.

But, I am frustrated that general resources are directed at teaching to a mid-range of mastery, with all 'special' resources directed at those who are struggling to keep up due to learning or behavioural difficulties.

We've just come back from a visit to the UK, and when I observed what dd's UK peers are doing at school, i felt once again that our current situation is far below what dd is capable of (and would be doing if we were still in the uk).

All a very long-winded way of saying that I wish some of the time/energy of the learning specialists could be directed to children like dd who are capable of doing more, and would thrive if challenged.

Sorry for the essay.......any suggestions are welcomed.

IndigoBell Wed 17-Aug-11 17:32:05

I don't understand why you would need a learning specialist to stretch your DD - that is the job of the teacher.

But I do understand that the US system is very different.....

However in the US you don't have nearly the range of abilities in one class that you do in the UK, because in the US if you don't pass the year you have to repeat it........

In the UK the teacher is responsible for teaching all children in the class - regardless of their ability. They can use a LSA to help them - but it is still the teacher who is plans the work, sets the work, marks the work........

mrz Wed 17-Aug-11 18:32:59

As Indigo says it is the teacher's responsibility to teach all children regardless of abilities and to use support staff effectively (and I would argue within the class not withdrawal )

Earlybird Wed 17-Aug-11 18:37:52

IndigoBell - I don't understand why I'd need a learning specialist either, but wondered if it might be helpful. I am frustrated that the children with 'issues' seem to absorb an abnormally large portion of the resources, and get 'special' treatment, while the extra-competent children aren't engaged and actively encouraged to do their best.

There is a group of parents who are concerned about the same thing. Whenever we raise the issue with teachers or administrators, you can literally see their eyes glaze over as they mentally label us 'pushy parents' or 'Tiger Mothers'. Believe me, I am far from that.

The school seem to have very little interest in differentiating assignments/work for the able students saying 'our students are generally about a year ahead of their peers at state schools'. They did briefly split the students by ability in maths last year - but that lasted all of 3 weeks (with most parents not realising it had been discontinued).

The problem is that the school is the best in the area. They are wildly over-subscribed, so any dissatisfaction or criticism (constructive or otherwise) is met with a thinly veiled attitude of 'well, if you're unhappy, there are dozens of families desperate for your child's place'.

IndigoBell Wed 17-Aug-11 19:55:32

I think it's just that the US system doesn't do differentiation.

What I keep on saying (on here) is that the really great thing about the UK system is how they don't keep kids back a year - and instead differentiate properly.

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