In teaching, we do not get taught how to teach children with special needs except for perhaps half a day out of our entire time at university if you do the post graduate one year entry as I did. You are reliant on gleaning advice on what may work through asking other teachers, consulting with parents and trawling the internet. When you become SENCO every other teacher thinks you have the answers to all the problems and that’s just not the case. Even having gone on a master’s course for SENCOs over here in the UK which now officially all SENCOs must go on and pass within three years of becoming a SENCO (the SENCO Award) it is mainly about the history of SEN and how we manage some of the paperwork involved instead of how to best teach children with special needs. I know the reason - because there is no sure fire way for any of these unique children and all of us have to try different methods before one seems to catch with learning something in a particular way but not necessarily the same way for another thing so how can we possibly be taught what to use for those with special needs.
So enter Ofsted – the equivalent of the name Voldemort in the Harry Potter stories – a name no teacher wishes to utter in fear they will descend and castigate the school. They are supposed to be the UK government’s way of maintaining standards but in my experience they only have a cursory glance at what is the actual make up of a school and make judgements purely on figures that have to be above national average for a school to be rated good whatever the intake of the school. Those schools with an intake (such as my own) of children who come from families with a poor education themselves, no-one working and less than half in stable relationships must be on a par with those middle-class families from the leafy suburbs!! Both my daughter’s and son’s schools (rated outstanding) only take those who pass their entrance exams which immediately puts you in the top 5% of the country and certainly I wouldn’t class some of the teaching as outstanding at my daughter’s school.
I also return to the question of how Ofsted expect children on the SEN register at my school to make the same progress as their peers yet at a special school it would appear another scale is used and those children do not have their results published. During our last Ofsted inspection, the lead inspector told me I should concentrate on not allowing children to come to our school who had special needs – and I don’t think they were joking!! Trying to be an outstanding school, based on figures, where children with special needs (who despite their best efforts) still bring the average down is to my way of thinking near impossible. I desperately want to give the children at my school the best education possible suited to their needs and as I unsuccessfully argued with Ofsted there should be a value placed on the smiles of the children as much as their intellectual ability to pass tests of maths and literacy!
Please let me know about the outstanding teaching your children receive and what that equates to in your eyes?
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