The Changing Landscape of SEN – Part 2- Are all teachers equipped to teach children with SEN?

The current Initial Teacher Training programmes have no mandatory requirement for special educational needs and disability to be included in the programmes whichever route is being used. The only experience student teachers may have of pupils with SEN is when they are on practice in schools and this may not be good practice!  How will they develop the knowledge, skills and understanding required to meet the needs of these pupils when they begin their teaching career?It is pleasing that in the last three years there has been an increase in the number of training placements in Special Schools which has increased the number of new teachers who are seeking opportunities to work with our most complex children and young people. How many of these will teach in mainsteam schools?

Recently the increase in the number of students entering the profession via the School Direct route with the support of teaching schools and teacher training providers gives us an ideal opportunity to ensure that the training they receive for supporting children and young people with SEN underpins the whole of the initial teacher education programme.

The biggest challenge I believe is for existing teachers, especially those who have been teaching a number of years. Currently in England there is no mandatory requirement for teachers to undertake any professional development once they have achieved their Qualified Teacher Status. The Teacher Standards introduced in 2012 and new Performance Management guidance has improved this situation and many teachers do undertake additional CPD and post-graduate study BUT there is still a large number of the teaching workforce that do not.

This situation must change – the new national curriculum, SEN legislation, examination reform and significant change to Ofsted inspection means that teachers need to be supported to be kept up to date and be able to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to meet the needs of 21st century children. These will not be developed through just classroom practice, regular monitoring and observation. High quality professional development must sit alongside that to ensure we have a school workforce that is not only outstanding but commits for the long-term and do not leave the profession due to the constant pressure to perform without appropriate support.