The changing landscape of SEN – how can we ensure that all teachers are equipped to teach all pupils? – Part 1

3 Part Blog – Part 1- Setting the scene

With over 1.5 million children and young people identified with a special educational need or disability it can be assumed that the majority of teachers will teach at least one pupil every day who has an additional need.  This will be much higher in many schools.

The question we need to ask is are our teachers trained to meet the needs of children who are identified as having additional needs  as well as take on all the other teaching challenges that they undertake on a daily basis?

For the last two decades schools have seen an increase in the number of pupils with very complex needs and difficulties. Early identification and intervention has helped but a large number of children are being identified with difficulties due to factors that we may not have seen in the past:

  • Modern medical science is enabling those with life limiting conditions to live longer
  • Babies born significantly prematurely are surviving but may experience cognitive difficulties as they develop
  • 10 babies per week are born addicted to drugs including state funded Methadone
  • There has been a significant increase in the number of children identified with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Attachment disorder is increased due to the number of children not in stable home environments
  • There is a significant increase in the number of young people with mental health needs resulting in eating disorders, self-harming and in very extreme cases, suicide.

Suggestions have been made in the past by both Ministers and Ofsted that there is an over-identification of pupils with special educational needs. However, the statistics show that although the number of young people with statements has not changed in the last five years, the numbers of children at school action and school action plus has reduced year on year by about 1%, currently standing at 16% of the school population.

As we move to implement the new SEN legislation from September 2014 schools are going to have to have a very clear idea of how they are going to meet the needs of this group of young people. The removal of the terminology school action and school action plus will not mean that these young people will suddenly disappear.

The draft Code of Practice was very clear in its message that every teacher will be responsible and accountable for every child’s learning and will need to find ways to support the additional needs of all those in their class.

It is my fear that we are not preparing our school workforce to be able to meet the needs of these very vulnerable young people.

Read my views on whether teachers are equipped to teach children with SEN in part 2 – out soon!