DfE teacher-training review head backs calls for specialist SEND teachers

Sam Twiselton says current system asks people to do 'a specialist job without specialist training'

Calls for specialist SEND teacher training have been backed by the head of a new panel

A leading teacher-training expert has backed calls for the creation of a specialist route for the training of special educational needs and disability teachers.

Professor Sam Twiselton, who is leading a national review of Initial Teacher Training, warned that under the current system staff were being asked to work in a specialist job without specialist training.

Her comments follow schools minister Nick Gibb urging MPs on the education select committee to consider recommending a specific route for SEND teachers.


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Speaking at a committee hearing this week he said he was persuadable about the idea.

Professor Twiselton said: “We have known for some time that the department has been open to this. One of the issues has been that as a sector we have not been able to agree on the best way forward.

“At the moment there is no specific route for teachers who want to work in a secondary special school.

“There are some primary teacher-training courses that have an additional SEND element but it is particularly an issue in secondary SEND schools.

“There are some that think that we should not separate SEND training and ghettoise it and that SEND training should be a part of all teacher training.”

Professor Twiselton, who is the director of the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, said there was a concern that if SEND was made into a separate strand of teacher training that its importance across all ITT courses could be downgraded.

However, she added: “I think we need to have both. SEND needs to be a part of all initial teacher education but I also agree with those calling for a specific route.

“At the moment we have a situation where some special schools are employing NQTs who have not necessarily had the relevant experience. We are asking people to do what is a specialist job without the specialist training.”

Despite this, Prof Twiselton said recommending such a change was outside of the scope of the new review into ITT which she is leading.

The panel she is leading has been asked to review initial teacher training to ensure it aligns with the new Early Career Framework of support which the Department for Education has produced to support teachers in their first years in the job.

The framework was announced earlier this year as part of the government’s recruitment and retention strategy.

Mr Gibb raised the prospect of a specific route for SEND teachers during a session of the education select committee. 

He said: “In terms of initial teacher training, there is no specialism for teachers of special educational needs.”

When asked if he thought there should be, he added: “I think it's something which the committee might consider recommending. There used to be many many years ago.”

He added: “In the teacher standards that we introduced in 2011, there is a specific requirement that to attain qualified teacher status you need to be able to identify and know how to differentiate teaching for children with special educational needs – but that is for all mainstream teachers in whatever subject.

“There is an argument for saying when we recruit graduates or undergraduates into teacher training we have different categories in physics, chemistry, maths and so on, but there isn’t a category for a special educational needs teacher.

"There is an argument for it, there are people who would argue against it but that is something which your committee might wish to opine on.”

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