SEND is in crisis
Tom Starkey’s contribution to the funding debate (“SEND cuts fail the test of common decency”, 12 April, article free to subscribers) really hits home.
I have heard elected members from all political parties state that they cannot fulfil their statutory duties and they cannot fully fund education, health and care plans (EHCPs). I thought teachers and other professionals had won the funding battle and taken the high ground some four decades ago – but we start afresh.
The special needs sector, in all its phases, has suffered more than systematic cuts – it has faced amputation of essential services and the systematic destruction of the skill base of so many dedicated staff.
When will central government realise that if you invest in young people early enough, their demands on services in the future may be reduced and they will be more independent people who contribute to society?
St John’s School and College (Seaford and Brighton)
Give the students what they want
Is the discipline we impose on young people in schools constructive and designed to help them achieve? Or is it restrictive, done to maintain control and channel their actions into things that we want them to do? If it's the latter, it is doomed, for humans react against overcontrol; they seek to throw it off.
Is this what we see in schools – a desire for self-initiated progress thwarted by an overbearing system? It would account for much unruliness in classrooms, indifference to learning and disenchantment with a system that prescribes rather than offers. Truancy proliferates and anti-school sentiment is rife. Is it because students are not getting from the system what they require? Is society spending all this money on an education system that largely fails?
It's ridiculous to give young people a say in what they learn, isn't it? What do they know about the world and its demands?
They might not know what they want, but they certainly know what they don't want. It's up to us to establish what their strengths and ambitions are, then provide them with the opportunity to develop. An element of self-discipline is, no doubt, necessary for success. But external discipline, inflicted on young people to keep them in line, generates antipathy, is increasingly difficult to effect and, somehow, misses its way.
If I'm sick, should I still go to school?
Presenteeism [staying in work when you are not required to be in, especially because of insecurity about your job] is rampant in schools. It's a hard thing to balance. If you are ill and your illness doesn't involve fluids leaving the body, then there is a real (at least for me) debate about whether or not to go in. If you go in, you'll get by. But if you don't, then plans won't be followed (at least not in the way you intended) and the children will learn less.
If you come in, it will save the school money because it won't have to provide cover with a supply teacher or it will save colleagues from having to take on extra children. It will also keep your class on task and timetable.
Or will it? I've come in and taught when it's been incredibly painful to talk, so I tried not to, which meant changing what I had planned. I spent longer than needed on tasks that didn't require much input and I know the students didn't get the best me. I wasn't at my best and the children didn't get the quality of teaching they deserved.
I've also come in when I've had colds and flu. I'm pretty sure, despite the number of times I'd washed my hands, that I helped to spread what I had to other pupils and teachers.
Illnesses are rife in schools. It's very hard to stop them spreading, so teachers get sick very easily, and often. But what is the best solution? If I'd have taken time off to begin with, would some of my worst cases have resulted in me taking less time off?
I simply don't know. I am sure I'll still go through the motions next time I'm more than just a bit under the weather, but I'd be interested to see what others think about it.