Parents’ and carers’ guide to the new SEN reforms – September 2014
Learning is not a linear process. All children develop differently. They make progress at different speeds, at different times and in different ways. There are periods of rapid progress and others of seemingly slower progress, when consolidation takes place. There may be times when learning plateaus, with children seemingly not making any additional progress. These may be followed by periods of rapid improvement and fast progress. For these reasons it is vitally important that parents and teachers avoid making hasty judgements about how capable a child is – especially early on, in the first years of schooling. Some children take longer than others to develop confidence and achieve success – and that’s perfectly normal. They need more time. Conversely, some children get off to a flying start. Later their rate of learning may slow down. This is also perfectly normal.
At our school teachers do not use the labels ‘low ability’, ‘middle ability’ or ‘high ability’ as these terms can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Put simply, if an adult continually tells a child they are ‘low ability’ the child is likely to respond accordingly. Instead staff at Barnes use the terms ‘high attaining’, ‘middle attaining’ and ‘lower attaining’ followed by the key phrase ‘at this time’, or ‘currently’. Research shows conclusively that all children perform better when their parents and teacher consistently give them the message that they can and will succeed. This message is communicated in what they say, what they do, even how they look at a child. The message is that every child can and will succeed – for some it may take longer, but it is just a matter of time . . . and effort. This approach works as the consistent very high outcomes for all our children demonstrate.
Types of learners
For the purposes of this article I will discuss three groups of learners:
- those who are currently lower attaining when compared to their peers and did not start their school career at our school. These pupils join us much later, usually in a Key Stage 2 class, having attended other schools. They are performing below, and in some cases considerably below, the class average
- pupils who find learning a struggle at some point – often early on – and may be performing below the class average for a short, or longer, period of time
- pupils with significant, and often complex, learning needs. Many of these pupils will have a statement of Special Educational Needs (or, from September 2014, an Education Health and Care Plan).
Let’s start with those pupils who arrive late at Barnes and are lower attaining in comparison to their peers. It should be said immediately that some of the pupils who join our school in Key Stage 2 are amongst the highest attaining individuals. Nevertheless, there is a significant proportion of late entrants who arrive with learning needs. We have proved time and time again that pupils who join our school late can make rapid, sustained progress . . . and succeed. We can point to countless examples over the years of pupils who joined us in Year 3, 4, 5, or even 6, who struggled at first, but subsequently made rapid progress as a result of our high expectations culture, very good teaching and targeted additional support.
Some pupils who take a little longer to get going do, and may even perform well below the class average for an extended period of time. These individuals do very well indeed by the time they leave our school. They receive the highest level of targeted additional support that our budget allows. We try to offer the following additional support to this group of learners:
- Daily or additional one-to-one reading with identified pupils
- Additional after school mathematics teams for 1 hour a week led by a class teacher or a member of the senior leadership team
- Additional after school English teams for 1 hour a week led by a class teacher or a member of the senior leadership team
- Regular reading with Anna Freeland, the school’s SEND leader
We remain a very inclusive school. A total of 16 pupils in the main school have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC plan). The current figure, which is typical, is significantly above the national figure for primary schools. We are fully committed to inclusion and serving the needs of all members of our local community, so we are delighted that these children attend our school. We also recognise the positive benefits for all our children of learning how to live in a diverse community, respecting and appreciating the needs of others, some of whom are different to themselves. The spectrum of special educational needs is broad. It includes pupils on the autistic spectrum (a high incidence); pupils with a significant speech and language impairment; pupils with global developmental delay; pupils with very significant mobility/medical issues and pupils with cognitive difficulties.
The school’s governing body is committed to an inclusive admissions policy. For that reason the school always has a considerably higher number of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), than the national average. For our reception intake we give preference to pupils with statements and EHCP. We are also sometimes sympathetic to requests to admit SEN pupils with an EHCP as in year admissions. We are, however, mindful of the capacity within the school to meet the needs of a very large number of pupils with complex needs. The financial costs and management time costs incurred result in us having to judge whether the admission of another pupil with complex SEN is compatible with the provision of efficient education for other pupils. Admission requests are therefore considered on an individual basis.
Ensuring that SEN pupils are treated the same as everyone else
We have high expectations for all our pupils, including those with SEN. We expect them to succeed and look to overcome any barriers they may be experiencing which are hindering their academic or social progress. These pupils are treated like everyone else. Many receive additional support, but we are always careful about the possibility of stigmatisation, or a pupil missing out on a much loved subject, like PE. Some extra support is offered in class; on other occasions we withdraw pupils for a set period of time. In these circumstances we always think carefully about the timing of withdrawal and take steps to avoid a pupil re-joining their class in mid-session. Click here for some principles of effective practice that are discussed with all teachers.
Access facilities for pupils with SEN and our accessibility plan
We have an up-to-date access plan and this ensures that the needs of physical disabilities are not discriminated against, but instead given every advantage to access all parts of the school site.