When you know “Special” education has your attention
When you know “Special” education has your attention

When you know “Special” education has your attention

I have always been committed to helping all pupils thrive and learn. My edventures in teaching therefore, focused and explored strategies and routines with broad impact, rather than targeted subsets of learners, for example low achieving boys (usually low-attaining also), most-able pupils or pupils receiving Pupil Premium, or in fact pupils with SEND. I accept the latter was a professional omission on my part and I will come back to that shortly.

A rising tide lift all ships.

During my first decade of teaching, as a teacher of Physical Education, I do not recall being professionally responsive of the SEND needs of pupils in my classes, nor making adjustments for these pupils learning. In the context of Physical Education, next to nothing about cognitive deficits, behavioural or emotional disabilities, and zero about autism spectrum disorders, speech and language disabilities and dyspraxia for example. The “next to nothing” – a nominal awareness on mobility / motor skills barriers and how to adapt some physical activities to be more inclusive/easier for all pupils (slower balls, larger racket heads). Referred to as differentiation. I sometimes wonder, if I had have a Primary School upbringing, would I have been more SEND aware?

I knew “next to nothing” about the Special Education and Alternative Provision sectors.

During middle decade, I taught ICT and English. As a classroom based teacher, I become more aware of “SEND needs,” however, again, knew little, received little professional training. I knew next to nothing about neurodiversity. As for pupil profiles – I had access to prior attainment grades and CATs scores.

It was not until I joined The Wellington Academy as Vice Principal, leading and working directly with our SEND Department, that I grew to appreciate the scope of SEND teaching and the extensive demands placed upon them SEND Leaders (SENDCO does not represent the scope of the work and influence, at the very least SEND Leaders). I was quite amazed at the scope of their responsibilities. And still I knew nothing of the Special Education sector. I did meet and work with some very talented SEND teachers. I did visit an Alternative Provision provider.

As Headteacher, I was more hands on with SEND as we were an inclusive school with three pupils with disabilities at our school. I visited an Special School and I invited Jarleth O’Brien and Simon Knight to speak and represent the Special Education sector at Srocks (a teachers for teachers event we hosted).

The last three years at Boundary Oak School (Independent sector) reinforced and deepened my commitment to SEND teaching and by default Special Education. Teaching in the sector has showcased the frustrations of numerous parents trying the meets the social and educational needs of their children – seeking solutions beyond their local state school provision. In my experience, parents are seeking a more nurturing, harmonious, character building environment (co-curricular program, Forest School and leadership opportunities) under the banner of education. Various edventures have underlined the complexities at play (cognitive, social, physical, well-being) and then there is the EHCP / paying independent school fees issue I have yet to understand.

As a consequence, my attention now is attuned to meeting the needs of pupils. The blind spot is now my professional focal point.

You know “Special” education has your attention…

I know my education outlook has shifted and this past week I received two emails that underlined that shift. Both, incidentally, underline the importance of ‘noticing,’ and relationships.

…I finally feel “heard” when it comes to XXXX’s uniqueness. Most people write XXXX off as a lost cause who doesn’t seem to want to help himself, but you seem to understand that he is actually flailing about underneath trying to fit in and appear “normal”.

For you to try to unpick some of the complexities and diversities has been greatly appreciated and I know she always enjoys your lessons and is extremely fond of you – job well done then!

Adding to that, a parent email this morning.

It was great to see you yesterday and thank you in person for all the support and inspiration you have given XXXX this year, he is really going to miss having you as his English teacher. This was the website I mentioned, by the Author Ross Green. I have found his collaborative proactive solution and going upstream of behaviour really helpful. 

His book titles include:

  • The Explosive Child 
  • Lost in school
  • Raising human beings

Your next step in your career sounds sounds exciting and challenging in equal measures. Wishing you all the best of luck and every success.

Ross Green and Lives in the balance “advocates against punitive, exclusionary disciplinary practices in schools, families, and treatment facilities, and advocates for interventions that are effective, compassionate, proactive, and collaborative.”

Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) is “an on evidence-based, trauma-informed, neurodiversity affirming model of care that helps caregivers focus on identifying the problems that are causing concerning behaviors in kids and solving those problems collaboratively and proactively.” (US based)

Leave a Reply