Today, we offer perspectives from two JKP authors on yesterday’s Ofsted* report, titled ‘special educational needs and disability review: a statement is not enough’.
A Parent’s Perspective…
Ellen Power is a parent of two children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and author of the new book, Guerrilla Mum: Surviving the Special Educational Needs Jungle. Below is an excerpt from her full response to the Ofsted report:
“[Yesterday’s report] demonises Special Educational Needs education and will now make it more difficult for all Special Educational Needs children to get the help they need. SEN is suddenly a ‘lifestyle choice’, the children are akin to ‘benefits cheats’ and the parents ‘grasping, ‘greedy’ and ‘sharp elbowed’ middle class parents.
If you could have found me a school where it was easy to get the help my children needed because the school was angling for more money, I’d have sent my children there. If there is a school which is very keen to get children on to the SEN register or to have children statemented, tell me where it is because I know of plenty of parents who cannot get this provision for their children. Do I know of any Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants who are ‘social workers’ at schools on unfeasibly large salaries? […] No, but I know plenty who are highly skilled professionals who often work through their meal breaks and after school for no pay to support the children they work with.
We are constantly being told that cuts are necessary because we simply can’t afford to spend the money. In this case we can’t afford not to. Allowing children to fail in school is not an option because it condemns them to lifelong failure.”
Read Ellen’s full response to the Ofsted report on the GuerrillaMum blog.
Read an interview with Ellen about her book, Guerrilla Mum.
A Professional’s Perspective…
Richard Hanks, M.Ed. is a former Headteacher and currently Head of Learning Support at a school near Bath, UK. He is the author of the new book, Common SENse in the Inclusive Classroom: How Teachers Can Maximise Existing Skills to Support Special Educational Needs.
“It genuinely was only by coincidence that [my book] Common SENse in the Inclusive Classroom was published the very day after the latest Ofsted report on special educational needs. Although the methodologies that went into the production of the book and the report are, of course, different, there are strong threads that link them, and what they each say.
If one reads the Ofsted report in full, it does have much to say that is positive about the achievements of SEN pupils, and the provision that is made for them. But that which – not without justification – has caught the headlines is Ofsted’s view that a significant proportion of pupils are too easily diagnosed as ‘SEN’, and that such needs as they do have could be routinely met by some good teaching.
I can see where Ofsted are coming from, but Common SENse proposes a slightly different perspective.
It would certainly agree that getting hung up on diagnoses and ‘labels’ can be a distraction, and even inhibiting to teachers, who may feel that they cannot act until there is a diagnosis, and cannot act after there is one because they do not know how to respond to the named disability.
Common SENse, though, would query the discussion around ‘good’ teaching. Common SENse is always seeking to point teachers in the direction of appropriate teaching. It agrees that teaching is the key to successful outcomes for pupils, but what it does is give the teacher hundreds of examples of teaching strategies that any teacher may choose from with respect to an individual pupil in order to make it more likely that that pupil makes progress. Perhaps it may be fairly said that this was outside Ofsted’s remit, but teachers may feel its report points out some of the inadequacies without giving them a very direct steer as to the way forward.
However, if some teachers could just adopt the strategies and ways of working and thinking detailed in Common SENse – and these are neither seismic shifts or rocket science – perhaps the [Ofsted] inspectors would have even less to complain about.”
Read an interview with Richard about his book, Common SENse in the Inclusive Classroom.
*Ofsted is the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.