Just over 14 per cent of pupils in the UK are currently identified as having Special Educational Needs (SEN). On average, that equates to approximately four pupils in every mainstream class.
Natalie Packer, author of The Teacher’s Guide to SEN and SEND Consultant for the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), looks at the impact this has on teaching and learning, and how teachers can meet the needs of these pupils effectively.
One of the key messages of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2014 is that every teacher is responsible and accountable for every pupil in their class, including those with SEN. So what does this mean in practice for a class or subject teacher?
Essentially, it requires the teacher to understand every individual’s needs, have a range of knowledge and skills they can apply in the classroom and have the confidence to try out some new approaches. This isn’t always easy, particularly when there is constant pressure to demonstrate progress and achieve improving results.
New and more experienced teachers alike will therefore benefit from quality support and guidance to enable every pupil to learn as effectively as possible however the policies, processes, practice and even terminology surrounding SEN can sometimes be a minefield. This led me to write a book to act as a starting point to provide the support and guidance so many practitioners need when it comes to supporting children with SEN.
There are so many different factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to be an ‘inclusive’ teacher. Not only are teachers expected to understand the ins and outs of SEN provision, the legislation and system but they are also expected to be able to adapt their teaching, work in partnership with parents, TAs and other professionals and to create a successful SEN review cycle that assesses, plans and reviews each SEN child. This is a huge undertaking and we all know not one child is the same as the next.
In schools, classes are made up of pupils with different needs and abilities. Some may have speech, language and communication difficulties and autism where others may have moderate learning difficulties, dyslexia and social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH).
I wanted to reach out to teachers, to provide them with key information as well as provide examples of practical ‘hands-on’ strategies to support pupils identified with particular needs like those highlighted above. The Teacher’s Guide to SEN includes all of this information together with key facts, ‘real-life’ case studies, strategies and questions for reflection. For example, there is a fantastic technique that helps support pupils who struggle with working memory.
The Roman Room technique (or pegging) is a technique used to help recall a number of items of information. Ask the pupil to visualise a place they know well, such as their bedroom. The pupil then thinks about the key features of their bedroom and ‘pegs’ a piece of information onto each feature. They repeatedly imagine walking through the room, recounting the information as they get to each feature. This could even be done literally at first. The idea of the technique is that unfamiliar information will be linked or pegged to familiar information, locking it into the pupil’s long-term memory.
Pupils with SEN often face additional challenges to their learning and ability to socialise and this is where some guidance and support can be helpful. Committed teachers strive to do the best they can for all their children and young people they teach. Whatever stage in their career, those still in training, those in early stages of their careers or those more experienced practitioners, it’s always worthwhile to refresh knowledge and gather new ideas to try in the classroom like the Roman Room technique.
I hope that my insight will help primary and secondary practitioners ensure their classroom practice is truly inclusive.
The Teacher’s Guide to SEN is an all-you-need-to-know essential guide for supporting children with SEND in the classroom, written by Natalie Packer and published by Crown House.
Natalie is an independent Education Consultant who has many years of experience working in the field of SEN as a teacher, SENCO, headteacher and adviser. Natalie is a key member of the SEND team at AET providing support to their national network of over 60 primary, special and secondary academies.
Follow Natalie on Twitter @NataliePacker