The HM Government Green Paper review on SEND was published earlier this year and highlighted some serious issues across the system. The government has acknowledged that overall, the experience and outcomes of children with SEN in schools are poor. There is tension within families of children and young people with SEND, caused by working with a complicated and often unhelpful system.
The three key challenges with SEN in Schools were identified as:
- Navigating the SEND system: The complexity of the SEND system makes it difficult for families to understand and navigate. This can lead to delays in getting the necessary support and interventions for children with SEND
- Outcomes: Children with SEND often lag behind their peers in various measures, including academic achievements, social skills, and emotional well-being.
- Financial Sustainability: Despite significant investments, the current system is not financially sustainable, which raises concerns about its long-term viability and the quality of support provided.
Among the government’s proposals is establishing a new national SEND and alternative provision system and supporting parents and carers in providing a list of suitable placements. There is also a lot of talk of better equipping mainstream schools to allow for children with SEN in schools to be provided for within these settings.
How to support students with SEN in schools?
It is clear that children and young people with SEND and their parents and carers need more support, but any proposed changes will take time to take effect. Most schools have children with SEND in their settings already, so we will take a look at some useful tools supporting these children, and how to improve communication with parents and carers.
Mencap states that all schools should use SEN Support to find and meet the needs of children with SEN in schools. They should all be able to meet the ‘reasonable’ special educational needs of most children with a learning disability.
They have set out this following list of expectations:
- Assess: they must talk to a child’s parents or the young person themselves to work out what support might be needed.
- Plan: once a child or young person’s needs have been identified, staff must work together with them and their family to decide what outcomes they want the child or young person to achieve and what support should be put in place to help them achieve those outcomes.
- Do: the staff, supported by the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) where relevant, should put this support into practice.
- Review: the support received by the child or young person should be reviewed by everyone involved to see if it is working. If it is, it might continue. If it is not working, or if the outcomes have been achieved, some of the arrangements might be changed.
How our SEN planners can help
The Green Paper emphasised the importance of transparent communication with parents for fostering a harmonious relationship between children, schools, and other support settings. In the context of SEN in schools, this communication becomes even more vital. SEN planners, designed with this in mind, offer a plethora of home/school liaison pages. These pages act as a bridge, ensuring a consistent dialogue between educators and families. They touch upon various aspects of a child’s day, from their mood and behavior to specific physical needs like toilet use and eating habits, and of course, their academic progress.
Furthermore, these planners empower children with SEND to voice their feelings, experiences, and aspirations. By filling in pages dedicated to their personal reflections, children can share what’s dear to them, their challenges, and their triumphs. For SEN in schools, understanding these personal narratives is crucial. It offers educators a deeper insight into the child’s world, enabling them to tailor their teaching methods and support mechanisms more effectively.
Additionally, the planners are not just tools for those with SEND. They also serve as resources for their peers. With sections dedicated to fostering understanding and communication, such as using sign language or assisting a hearing-impaired classmate, these planners promote inclusivity. They ensure that SEN in schools is not just about support but also about integration, understanding, and fostering a sense of belonging for every child.
Assessment within schools
Assessment is the cornerstone of effective support for children with SEN in schools. It’s not just about identifying the needs but also about understanding the nuances of each child’s learning style, strengths, and areas of challenge. In a diverse classroom, where the spectrum of needs can be vast, a standardised approach might not always yield the best results. Tailored assessments, which take into account the unique challenges and strengths of children with SEN, are crucial.
The planner pages designed for SEN in schools play a pivotal role in this tailored assessment approach. They are not just tools for recording observations but are dynamic platforms that capture the evolving needs of the child. As children grow and their learning environments change, their needs might shift. Continuous assessment ensures that these shifts are captured in real-time, allowing for timely interventions.
Moreover, in many educational settings, a child might interact with multiple educators – from their primary teacher to special educators, to other support staff. Each of these interactions can offer a different perspective on the child’s needs and progress. The planner pages serve as a centralised space where all these observations can be collated. This ensures that every staff member is on the same page, quite literally, when it comes to supporting the child. It eliminates the risk of fragmented care, where one teacher’s observations might not align with another’s.
Furthermore, these planner pages can be shared with parents and guardians, fostering a collaborative approach to support. Parents can provide insights from the home environment, which, when combined with school observations, can paint a comprehensive picture of the child’s needs.
With regards to the findings in the Green Paper, we can only make small steps to improving the outcomes of children with SEN in schools, but these are steps in the right direction. Clear communication is key, and while the government reviews and amends a complicated system that is unfortunately not working for so many families, we can at least be assured we are doing the best we can within school settings.
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