I have been reading (and re-reading)a new research report from the Institute of Education: “The Making a Statement project Final Report. A study of the teaching and support experienced by pupils with a statement of special educational needs in mainstream primary schools” by Rob Webster and Peter Blatchford.
The Executive Summary of the report concludes:
On basis of the evidence from our research, we suggest that the new EHCPs avoid expressing support for pupils in terms of hours, and instead specify the pedagogical processes and strategies that will help meet carefully defined outcomes. Furthermore, we recommend that setting personal budgets is dependent on the outcomes specified in the EHCP in order to avoid schools making decisions about support based predominantly on the resources available.
There is in this report much that raises my hackles but it is not my purpose here to enter that debate. No, my purpose is to consider how some of the evidence might be supportive of the work we do at Paces and others do elsewhere: totally without scruple to use this research to our advantage. Given the evident ex cathedra support of inclusion, the authors might be surprised to see their work used to further education in a special school, and conductive education at that!
The research reported on is important because, as the authors state – and worth reading for this reason alone – “there is surprisingly little research that documents, in a systematic way, the support experienced by pupils with SEN, and specifically, those with statements”.
The most startling statement in the whole report comes on page 3:
Most teachers reported having had no training on meeting the needs of pupils with high levels of SEN, indicating failings in initial teaching training.
On page 56, in the section headed Preparedness: Training and guidance” the authors state:
… over a third of all teachers and TAs interviewed – said that they had had no specific training to help them support the needs of the statemented pupil they supported/had in their class.
One teacher who was interviewed as part of the research said (and is quoted presumably as being typical):
I’ve actually been on almost no special needs courses since I was trained thirteen years ago. So no; I’ve come into it very blind.
Another is quoted as saying:
“I did a four year teacher BA instead of a PGCE, but in my placements, I didn’t come across SEN children really at all”.
Commenting, (I can find that this observation has no impact on the authors’ conclusions from their research) that this level of professional ignorance indicates “failings in initial teacher training” seems to me as fine an example as may be found of British understatement, bordering on the euphemistic and myopic.
Contrast that with the training that Conductors bring to the classroom.
We might assume that despite the failure of their training to prepare them for the classroom, teachers would ensure that when they get there they familiarise themselves thoroughly with their pupils.
Not so. Whilst nearly a quarter of teachers participating in the research (12 out of 56) “claimed that they had an understanding of the pupil’s statement and/or annual review” exactly as many said they had “no understanding of these documents” (page 56). The rest were presumably somewhere in between; having somewhat less than “an understanding”. Frankly, I find it incredible that more than three-quarters of teachers of children with a statement of special educational needs, subject to an annual review, can in any sense be said to be doing enough without, in the author’s words “an understanding” of either document.
Contrast that with Conductors’ understanding of a pupil’s disability and the lengths conductors go to in assessing a pupil on first meeting.
Let the authors – in their words, not mine – sum up this state of affairs in mainstream schools:
Many staff were unsure how to best deal with the challenges and sometimes complex difficulties posed by pupils with statements. Most teachers reported having had no training on meeting the specific needs of pupils with statements, and only a few had received some general training on SEN. In our view, this indicates a failing of initial teacher training. This lack of knowledge seemed to be a contributing factor in teachers’ lesson and task preparation; their planning rarely extended to cover the learning needs of pupils with a statement. (p71)
The Making a Statement project set out to collect systematic data on the educational experiences of pupils with a statement of SEN in mainstream primary schools. (p73)
This was achieved through the collection of observation data based on many hundreds of hours spent in classrooms over the 2011/12 academic year. The observations results were supported with detailed case studies, which drew together data from interviews, documentation and researchers’ field notes. The findings from the observations and case studies led to the summation of the main messages from the study in terms of five key, overarching themes. (p73)
Three of these themes and some of these main messages are (p69ff):
The appropriateness and quality of pedagogy:
Pupils with statements often receive a less appropriate and lower quality pedagogical experience compared to their average attaining peers.
The quality of pedagogy is unlikely to be sufficient to narrow the attainment gap between pupils with statements and their peers.
The extent of knowledge:
There are considerable gaps in teachers’ and TAs’ knowledge concerning meeting the needs of pupils with statements.
The quality of leadership and management:
There are concerns about the ways in which schools prioritise meeting the needs of pupils with statements.
The authors of “The Making a Statement project Final Report” have observed and reported the systemic failure in the teaching of children with statements of special educational needs in primary schools.
Maybe in our conversations with local authorities and with Tribunals – and in our lobbying of MPs as the Children and Families Bill makes its way through Parliament, presaging the “most radical change in SEN for 30 years” - we should use this report to point out this failure and, conversely, what conductors and conductive education have to offer.
Institute of Education Press Release: Pupils with most serious special needs spend too much time apart from their classmates and teachers
Institute of Education Blog: Worlds apart? How pupils with special needs lead a life away from their teachers and classmates
You might also like to take a look at how the Times Educational Supplement reported this research and the comment on that by Tom Bennett on his blog The Behaviour Guru: When everyone’s special, no one is: how inclusion went sour.