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Struggling with negative perceptions of SEN
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wednesdaygirl90 · 23/09/2021 20:59

I work in a student support role in a mainstream provision and, long story short, I am really struggling with my manager's approach to SEN. My manager heads up the learning support department and is responsible for the provision for all students with a learning difficulty and/or disability. I have worked in SEN for my entire career and have a learning difficulty myself with associated anxiety. I experienced a certain level of trauma from going my entire education without a diagnosis (I wasn't diagnosed until my early 20s). Just a bit of context for this post.

I've worked with many children and young people with a wide variety of needs and abilities, and am used to working in a very holistic, nurturing environment where the student/young person is at the heart of what I do. However, in my current place of work, this approach is not taken at all. My manager's general opinion seems to be that the majority of our students are "lazy" (her exact words) and don't really need learning support. Students aren't consulted or given prior warning of any changes to their learning support and there is little done to investigate the root cause of any behaviour. When I was a teacher, if a student was struggling to engage, my first action would be to talk to them, try to identify any particular reason they were struggling and then work with them to come up with a strategy that worked for them and for the school.

Today, there was a meeting about a student and a strategy regarding their learning support was drawn up with absolutely no consultation with the student. When I have observed him, the two major barriers to learning that seem so blatantly obvious to me are that he is incredibly anxious and that his self confidence is really low. However, my manager has branded him as lazy and manipulative without really taking the time to observe him herself or to talk to him.

The same attitude is applied to almost all students. They are simply expected to try harder and be more independent. I can't begin to explain how hard it is to do that with a learning difficulty. When I was a student, I tried so hard I would exhaust myself and burn out, and I still only got mediocre grades even though I knew I was smart. I just couldn't get it to translate onto paper. Since getting my diagnosis and the right support, I've gone onto get an MA and to work successfully in education, but that is only because I understand myself much better and have had fantastic educational support, access arrangements, etc. When I hear people talk about students with SEN being lazy and not trying hard enough, it absolutely breaks my heart because I do not believe that is the case. I had such high levels of anxiety when I was at school because everyone else seemed to be able to understand everything so easily, whereas it would sometimes take me weeks to grasp a concept it took everyone else days to grasp. Because of this anxiety, I would avoid doing work in the classroom for fear of everyone realising I didn't understand what I was doing. I would try to catch up in my own time, but it was misinterpreted as me being lazy.

When I see "challenging behaviour" or "lazy attitudes" in students, it is almost always anxiety and I do not believe that anyone is simply lazy. I also think that we cannot expect students to suddenly return to in-person learning (my place of work has only just returned to in-person learning) when they have been learning remotely for the last year and a half.

I am beginning to get really down at the lack of support these students are receiving and that the person who should be their champion is so convinced that they are simply lazy and not trying hard enough. It really breaks my heart, and I've come home today and just cried, because I know that they will have been called lazy so many times in the past even though they are not. The students I have met have all been incredibly bright and capable, but so anxious and struggling with the transition back to face-to-face learning. I feel so limited in what I can do as I'm under my manager's orders and there doesn't seem to be anyone else in my office who feels the way I do about this.

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