Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.
Lack of experience/understan
ding or plain old lazy
I was having a conversation earlier and was explaining how baffled I was about how bad mainstream schools are at implementing.
My personal experience, it has been down to nothing more than sheer laziness coupled with a totally lack of understanding of DS needs. My LEA actually handed my DS support on a plate (at the begining) gave him support that most people would never had received and did not even have to come out of the schools budget, agreed to a water-tight VERY specific statement and were actually quite supportive, all SENco had to do was keep a record of progress from the SLT and the usual IEP, most of which would have been done with the SLT...but she couldnt even be bothered to do this (no IEP or monitoring of any kind since he started the school), then lied about it at the hearing, which the panel were having none of.
I am interested in finding out just how many parents feel that the difficulties they face with their childs school is down to a lack of knowledge, but once they listen to you and take it on board, try and make the effort/changes OR as I said, just down to "I really cant be bothered with all this" attitude no matter how much you point out the problems or benefits of your child needing to receive xxx of support or have a good statement?
Once all my issues are over (however, also currently helping a couple of mums from DS2 school) I would like to help out with some volunteering/campainging, and it would appear that schools not implementing is a major issue, but why this is so is where I want to start my research.
It's hard to tell, but my gut feeling is that senco in both schools we attended was not fulfilling their role.
I think it is VERY complex.
I might add reasons as I think of them.
One very significant one is teachers resentment at being expected to fulfil provision requirements set by the LA without additional funding. In truth they do get additional funding but it isn't recognised as UCL or ring fenced, so they see a child's requirement for TA support eating into the money they were planning to spend on their vegetable garden to benefit ALL the children instead of one and which will attract more middle class families.
Lots of teachers resent advice from flying visit EPs who just don't understand their workloads and believe that the child would be better placed in a special school they don't understand doesn't exist.
Teachers can often point to more than one 'other' child that as difficulties significantly greater than the child with the 'pushy' parents and feel that statement was won for push invests rather than 'need'.
The crapiest SENCOs are always being told they are marvellous at inclusion by the LA, just for existing, lest they request more resources or funding, which leads to an ego trip.
LA inclusion training is about 'containing' the child in the least expensive placement rather than educating them, therefore 'containment' is all that schools feel is their remit. Any additional work s resented, in part, because of the culture of low expectations making the work appear pointless.
I think 'culture of low expectations' is at the heart of it. And this is where schools are diametrically opposed to parents, because patents have high expectations!
Also I think somewhere in their training I think teachers take on the belief that they know loads about / can identify various types of SEN, and are therefore in a position to 'gatekeep' access to specialists, whereas the basis for involving other profs is precisely because teachers DON'T know about this. It is categorically not their remit. Again, parents and teachers are pushing in different directions.
And fundamentally schools can't bear to contemplate that their environment and processes make life more difficult for some SEN kids. So they look outside school for problems with parents, whereas the parents are often looking at the school. Again - to completely different positions.
That's my take on it, anyway.
Starlight..I totally agree with what you say ( I always agree with what you say actually, lol)
It's a mindset in most mainstream schools and its somehow getting them to change that, which won't happen until the powers that be on the top also change, and not sure that will happen in my lifetime, if anything it has become worse with the proposed SEN changes, but will give it a good crack while I'm still young(ish) and kicking.
There also seems to be a big discrepancy in resources, support, etc..when it comes to secondary, and not sure why teachers and LEAs think once a child gets to year 7,suddenly the disability/needs vanish??
LOL at veg garden...that is very true. I thought children with SEN or with statements atleast had a higher rate attatched to them, I'm sure I saw this in the papers my lea sent in their bundle to show the difference between sending my DS to mainstream and specialist...I'm going to fish it out tomorrow.
Thanks HW.... I agree with all what you say, especially the second paragraph.
And this: (massive generalisation here but still relevant I think)
Teachers are very defensive. Not surprising as they are pretty much blamed for all of society's ills, devalued, given loads of paperwork, criticised in the media, by ofsted, by parents and have to undergo loads of observations by senior managers etc. The only thing that stands between them and resignation is a belief in their own 'professionalism' and skill.
They have a mutually accepted culture' and belief system that puts all parents in a box of 'thinks THEY know how to teach just because THEY went to school once ha ha' which renders anything a parent suggested as misunderstood before the sentence is complete.
If a teacher were to a) acknowledge that a parent knows better and further b) admit severe lacking in their own knowledge, where does that leave their self-esteem? What if their colleague who DO play the 'pretending to be an expert on SENs' found out that they had let the side down? What if they allow this one parent to influence their classroom skills, where will it end?
And schools interpret 'partnership working' to really mean 'outreach'.
If they are spotting problems with a child they want to offer support to the parents, to get them to engage with the issues and offer their 'expertise'.
Never in a month of Sundays have I seen a school or teacher interpret this as the other way around, or even a more equal arrangement.
This is because parent engagement is wanted on the schools terms, not the parents, usually.
I also think that senco's are often also class teachers and are simply overworked and juggling too much. I am a teacher and a parent of two dc with ASD and two tribunals under my belt so look at issues from both sides of the fence! Sometimes the TA are inexperienced or also perhaps more dangerously have a small amount of knowledge that makes them think they are expert, this can also go for the teachers. i will always remember a TA in my school telling me ' oh but he is just like x, that's because he is autistic they see things like that etc etc. I think low expectations can be an issue as well. I think inclusion money is very tight. My dd has a statement and has full time 1:1 from a fab TA but the statement funding makes no allowance to cover preparation of her differentiated curriculum and this does take time. In short I think it's a complex subject. As parents we see the shit results of these problems and of course do what we have to to get a better education for our dc. I don't think though that it is simply laziness. Lack of understanding probably also plays a part because there is very little training in SEN given and many senco's have also had very little formal training.
Time is a huge factor I think. And having 30 kids in a class. Something is always kicking off.
Heads do not timetable teacher time to spend 1:1 with SEN kids. Thats why most get stuck with TAs and because the teacher does not know the child well / is not advising the TA properly, often the outcomes of having a TA are very poor.
Even a good SENCO can only ask the teacher to do things, but cannot make them happen if the teacher does not have time.
Usually teachers are timetabled up to the max. the teacher prep time allowed is never enough and even then can be nicked to cover for sick staff. Most SEN stuff would have to be done by teachers in their own time unpaid. I know from DS's ABA staff the teacher spends about 5 mins once a fortnight with him and thats usually reading a book like they do with the others (which is the one thing he doesn't need to improve on).
I am not convinced the mainstream model works for children with moderate or severe SEN. I am all for the principle of inclusion but it has never been properly funded or evaluated. Training is usually brief and superficial not detailed, ongoing professional development and no dedicated teacher time is allocated to the individual child. To work schools would have to employ extra teaching staff to release the class teacher for training and 1:1.
But there is laziness too. I am always baffled by autism outreach teams coming in and doing 'autism awareness'. I can't understand why teachers need to go on courses about the absolute basics. Surely they can read this in a book / the internet like we do?
I have to say my experience of primary school teaching for NT children is not much better - I still feel they don't know my child, child gets hardly any individual attention, too many kids in the class, huge chunks of time wasted waiting for children to be quiet and listen and very little teaching! If i could home ed the NT two (and they would actually do what I asked without moaning!) I could get through in an hour what the school manages to teach them in a day.
I think ABA has challenged school's views of what DS can do. There is another child in the school with suspected autism and one joining next year so it will be interesting to see if the school has higher expectations of these children. I do think there is an issue of low expectations but here that comes as much from outreach / SALT as from teachers. As everyone in LA / NHS is colluding that the cheap mainstream model works, teachers are persuaded 'its the autism' that prevents progress not their teaching. Outreach and SALT do not have the time (and here even the personal experience or expertise) to demonstrate or train teachers in specialist autism techniques or programmes. Having seen DS get autism specific high quality ABA teaching and make good progress I wonder if School will start to challenge SALT and outreach about the other children and question their lack of progress more.
Ultimately the idea a mainstream teacher can teach DS when he needs an autism specific curriculum is just a big fat government / LA lie. He absolutely needs the specialist support he is getting. I don't really see it as the fault of the teachers, I have always thought teaching DS was well beyond their capabilities / resources. Our battle has been getting the school to say that and the LA to fund ABA support in mainstream. I think many more children should have specialist support come into mainstream with them and thats a more sensible model than expecting the schools to suddenly be able to acquire specialist knowledge or find the time to implement it 1:1.
Tbh, I think the whole concept of locking up 1 adult with a national curriculum to deliver to 30 kids is a bit dodgy. Bad enough if they're NT and the teacher is experienced, keen and well supported.
But then, I'm a homeschooling hippy at heart. My status is only marred by having 2 in school and 1 in daycare...
teachers get sod all training in special needs. you have to learn on the job. not everyone has time/inclination to do so. (though time should be made it is easy for this to get pushed out by the requirement to have planning done and presented to the head and other stuff.. that is not as important but more seen.
oh and some heads are all talk and no action...
(ex teacher and parent)
Some of it I think is inexperience, mindset and bad planning from some schools.
Inexperience due to insufficient SEN/SN training in college/uni before taking up a post at an inclusive school.
Mindset from the old fashioned teachers who believe there is no such thing. Or mud sticks and the child was "naughty" from day one and it carries through.
Previous school HT was also SENCO both of which are demaning jobs and impossible to have both roles with one person so kids SN or NT lose out.
Stubborness with some schools refusing the training offered and assuming the brief SN awareness course is all they need to know plus read a few books.
Lazyness yep at least for changing and having a differential curriculum as SN child turns their whole routine upside down and its the SN child who is demanded to "comply" as not being the majority.
TAs worth their weight in gold and can only do what is instructed of them and follow teachers/heads lead.
I could write 60 pages from a personal view but I will add not all schools are the same.
DS' biggest barrier to progressing was the arragonce of the teaching staff in an ofsted rated 'outstanding' school. Whenever I made a suggestion it was met with 'no, leave our job to us, we are ofsted outstanding rated teachers'.
In truth, outstanding teachers should be more aware than others that there is always room for improvement.
Another reason schools are bad at implementing statements is that statements are usually written so very wooly that schools are used to taking them with a pinch of salt and interpreting them how they want to.
So if a statement says 'ds to receive 20 hours of 1:1 time exclusively for him', this is interpreted as:
'ds to receive 20 hours of 1:1 time exclusvely for him, - when the teachers professional opinion is that he requires it, - at all other times the TA can help with the behaviour problems of the children who don't have statements and also to tidy up at the end of the day so we can fit in an extra phonics session for all the children and improve our SATS scores'.
^Star's comment about the use of the TA time is just SO true^
DS statement clearly states 22 hours 1:1. Effectively the TA is used 1:2, and for the rest of the class as needed on a daily basis.
I really, really want to tell the mother of DS's best mate to give up her fancy job and sports car, get off her arse and fight for a diagnosis and Tribunal same way I had to if she wants her son to retain the support he's currently getting @ school.
Cheeky woman keeps trying to find out what secondary school I'm gonna put DS down for so she can keep up this model of hanging off the coat tails of DS's support (she even got her son transferred from their old school to my son's new class).
If he was going onto mainstream secondary then he would need that time that's set out in his statement as being exclusive to mean exactly that. One individual glued to his side at all times. It's never gonna happen, so we are opting out.
She'll come acropper in the next year or two as we plan to sign up to Interlink High (online homeschool) & I intend to pull him out in year 6 to prep for this @ home with him lol!
It's an utterly crazy system. It irritates the fook out of me that school are basically forcing my son to share his support, like this, but I realise there is NOTHING I can do about it in practical terms. DS started year 4 on NC level 1, so imho it's not as if he's doing well enough academically to justify giving away his hard won TA time.
The culture of low expectations means I'm not suppose to challenge his grades (he has a normal IQ even 95% centile in some areas). Statemented children are just not expected to achieve, and parents are supposed to be grateful not challenging.
My PGCE contained 1 afternoon and a 2000 word essay on SEN. A lot of mainstream teachers don't even know what they don't know unless they have a special interest in SN iyswim.
bochead. You hit the nail squarely on the head there.
That is all.
Thanks for all your replies, you've certainly started to make me view things differently.
There has not been a single thing said that I disagree with.
Oddly enough I had a meeting earlier with senco for DS2, whom said she thought the appeals process was a waste of money and time, the other senco (there were 2 at this meeting) said "well that's all about to change as parents have to go through mediation first" she then made reference to a mobtger who was insisting on more support and a particular school and the whole thing went against her...I suppose she was having a dig about me, but the bottom line is she has no knowledge of my particular case and probably just assumed I was a pushy parent, didn't think it wise to tell her about my case with DS1 as I want her to be on board to help DS2, so left that arguement alone as hard as it was.
I think also, until the teacher training course includes a proper amount of time on SN, things aren't going to get any better. A friend's daughter has just completed her PGCE and has started her 1st teaching job in a reception/yr 1 class. She knew there were children in that group who had SEN and felt unprepared from her course to deal with them..........and she has a brother with SEN. They still only get 1/2 a days training on SEN!
That's just the problem with 'mediation'. It is seen as a way of keeping those pesky parents at bay and from interfering in the 'professionals' work. It's like a buffer and welcomed with open arms by SENCOs and the rest.
TBH, I'm not sure that the teachers course need to include much about SEN except in relation to their expectations, it just needs to be about good teaching practice in general related to child development, pedagogy as well as how to evaluate learning, progress and difficulties, motivation etc.
For example, there is only so far 'awareness' of my ds' ASD will take him, the rest has to come from expecting big things and being determined and trained in the skillset to find out how to achieve them.
The best one for me is " we will train TA to deliver xxx programme" something that a professional took years to learn and develop, apparently a TA can do just as good a job with 1 days training.
As if those same people proposing this will accept going to the dentist and have them say "don't worry my receptionist can pull out your teeth as she has been on a one day course and watched me loads of times"
It's the notion that anyone can effectively teach a sen child that I find so disheartening, maybe if the needs are mild and straighforward but its when they try it with severe or complex issues that they simply can not comprehend then I think "huh?"
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