New curriculum will see more pupils diagnosed SEN, union says

Ed Dorrell

The new national curriculum will lead to more students being labelled as having special educational needs (SEN) and will transform school budgets into profits for publishers favoured by the government, according to a teaching union.

The NUT argues that the curriculum, to be taught from September 2014, uses a “one-size-fits-all approach”, which represents “a backward step” for education.

“The assertion that good teaching and high expectations are sufficient to enable every child to achieve the acceptable levels of progress is an insufficient way to address the complex issues surrounding what appropriate progress should look like for different pupils,” the NUT said in its response to the latest government consultation on the new curriculum, which closes on Thursday.

“It is likely that this will actually increase the number of pupils labelled as SEN.”

The union also argues that the latest draft of the curriculum is “still not for fit for purpose” for students already designated as having SEN or for those who speak English as an additional language.
It quotes an SEN teacher who is an NUT member saying: “As the new curriculum is not fit for purpose in mainstream, what chance have those pupils with statements? Or are we heading back to the days of SEN pupils being deemed uneducable?”
There is also concern about the lack of government training in the new curriculum being offered to schools.
Schools minister Lord Nash outlined the government’s “general approach” to the matter in Parliament last month.
“Schools know better than government what support they will need to teach the new curriculum in accordance with their own circumstances,” he said. “Rather than top-down spoon-feeding, we will encourage schools to work with publishers, education suppliers, subject associations and each other to develop materials that respond to genuine need.”
But the NUT claims this approach will “drain money from school budgets and transform them into profits for a few favoured education publishers”.
It notes that the two products Lord Nash highlighted in his statement were both published by the same company.
The union suggests this means there is “some sort of ‘officially approved’ commercial materials list, which could have a virtual monopoly on the market created by the government’s endorsements”.
The Department for Education spokesman said:“The new curriculum will help every child fulfil their potential and give teachers more freedom than ever before to tailor lessons to the needs of their pupils.
“This greater freedom, along with our radical reforms to the special educational needs system, will in fact help to improve outcomes for pupils with SEN .
“The final version of the curriculum will be available this September – a year before it is officially introduced - giving headteachers time to judge what support their staff need. We are also working closely with teaching schools, subject associations and school resource publishers to ensure the curriculum changes are reflected within existing teacher training programmes.”

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Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell is deputy editor and head of content at the TES, former features and comment editor and former news editor. 

Find me on Twitter @Ed_Dorrell

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