The Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training considers SEND in some detail, something which is most welcome and much needed. Recruitment into Special schools is problematic, as can be seen in Marc Rowland’s work in this area (http://www.nationaleducationtrust.net/ShapingIdeasShapingLives204.php), and part of the problem is a lack of attention within ITT. Without the opportunity to spend time in a Special school and experience the challenges and rewards, how can you make an informed view about whether it is a field of education in which you want to work. Yet sustained, meaningful opportunities to complete training within Special schools are limited. However, the Carter Review appears to be encouraging a repositioning of SEND within ITT, with greater significance and greater opportunities attached.
The review aligns itself with the aspirations of the SEND reforms with references to “All teachers are potentially teachers of SEND.” and “…good teaching for SEND is good teaching for all children…”, which is not unexpected. In doing so it addresses the importance of assessment, planning and subject knowledge in meeting the needs of those whose progress takes a more individual pathway. These generic skills are hugely important, but more emphasis could have been placed on the need for an analytical and highly reflective attitude towards teaching and learning. This almost forensic approach, which we value so greatly in Special schools, will be well served by a better developed understanding of child development, which is also referred to.
The focus on naming the higher incidence, higher profile additional needs which teachers are likely to encounter concerns me. Whilst I understand the desire to do this, it potentially draws attention away from the wider range of other additional needs, both with diagnosis and without. It raises the concern that we may end up with overly simplistic and overly generalised introductions to particular types of SEND, falling into a medicalised deficit model in which the label rather than the child takes centre stage. This carries with it the risk of compartmentalising pedagogy, leaving trainees with the belief that certain approaches suit certain diagnosis, rather than treating each child as a unique individual and considering the point that certain approaches suit certain developmental needs, no matter what the diagnosis. Needs that may be associated with diagnostic labels, but equally might not. I would have preferred to see references to avoiding making generalisations or presumptions based on medical, social or psychological labels and focussing on the development of evidence informed enquiry, related to individual progress. Possibly a big ask in a one year training programme.
It is encouraging seeing references to partnership working and including families in this. Working effectively in SEND is built on partnership and one in which a low ego approach can pay dividends. Being honest about what you don’t know is vital if the child’s needs are going to come first. Understanding how to manage your own professional knowledge gap and how to ensure it shrinks over time is a vital part of developing yourself as a teacher in Special education.
The highlight for me however is the final paragraph of the SEND section, moving Special school placements away for simplistic ‘enrichment opportunities’ in which limited teaching, if any, takes place, towards a meaningful contribution to a more rounded training programme. “Placements where trainees have opportunity to practice and be assessed in a special school or a mainstream school with specialist resourced provision are particularly beneficial.” I couldn’t agree more!
Some things to consider further:
Any framework for SEND ITT content needs to be pedagogically focussed and not label led.
We need to address the capacity of Special schools to host trainees, by allowing Primary trainees to be placed in Secondary age classes, where the curriculum content is likely to still be Primary focussed and issues around age appropriate teaching can be tackled.
We need to consider carefully the training implications of different Special school organisational structures.
We need to ensure that there is a better developed approach to post qualification SEND CPD, perhaps based around a sector led NPQSEND.
We need to ensure that employment in the Special sector is seen as just as appropriate for a NQT as Mainstream and discourage providers from dissuading trainees who show an interest in this field of education.
There are undoubtedly others so feel free to add to this in the comments section.