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Some teachers believe that many of our low-ability pupils are capable of sitting exams (Sats, GSCEs), but our special needs department seems to want to withdraw them. What is the best way to handle this?

Ted, Surrey

A: What happened to power of the pupil voice and the Every Child Matters agenda? Surely the decision should be based on the needs of the individual pupils, and so they must be fully consulted in the process. Pupil welfare is of paramount importance, so making the wrong decision could destroy fragile self-esteem. The special needs department is best able to make these decisions, based on its knowledge of pupils' social, emotional and academic needs. This helps ensure that pupils are not used as pawns in the league table game.

John, Cumbria

A: This is a case of divergent philosophies within the same institution. More dialogue is needed between the special needs department and the teachers. It could well be there is no rivalry between the two approaches and the matter should simply be decided on the basis of a case-by-case analysis. If it is in the interest of the pupil to have a crack at the exam, then surely they should be allowed to do so.

Linda, Worthing

A: I wonder sometimes whether we put too much pressure on our pupils to perform simply to measure some outcome? This could be at the heart of the problem and might explain why colleagues in special needs are not keen for youngsters to take exams. If you are paying for expertise, you might as well take notice of those who give it

Sue, East Grinstead


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