Improving education for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) requires schools and teachers to speak to each other more, delegates at a conference in London heard today.
Anita Kerwin-Nye, chair of Whole School SEND, told the network's strategy summit: “We believe the system and schools have a lot of knowledge but we don’t believe they can do it alone. Sharing knowledge is vital.”
Official statistics published earlier this year show that the total number of SEND pupils rose from 2016 to 2017 – after declining every year since 2010.
And speakers at the conference had ideas on how to teachers and heads can support each other to improve outcomes for SEND pupils:
1. Reward and celebrate
“Give awards and recognise great work that often goes unnoticed,” said Sarah Driver, founder of the Dyslexia charity the Driver Youth Trust.
2. Think of the staff
Sir David Carter, national schools commissioner, said leaders need to ensure their organisations are great places to work. “Schools have to be a place where people want to go to work so they are willing to meet that commitment to young people in that community,” he said.
SENDcos need admin support to enable them to focus on strategy, said Ms Driver. She also urged leaders to think of career pathways. “We’re talking NQT to SENDco to director of inclusion. And we need pathways for teachers who want to stay in the classroom but want to further their SEND knowledge.”
3. Engage the community
“How do you build confidence in the community, so every parent feels that their child matters? In an inclusive education system, leaders need to build the confidence of parents to believe that education is a solution – not a problem to overcome,” said Sir David.
4. Leaders need to lead SEND
5. Schools need to work together
“Show off and lead the way,” said Ms Driver. “Share your practise with other organisations so we can benchmark and learn from each other. Continue to champion SEND...and create new opportunities to collaborate and lead in the area where others turn a blind eye.”
Sir David said headteachers should build expectations that teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders will work in collaboration with colleagues from other schools. “I don’t think schools can be islands,” he said.
6. If you think the system needs to change – speak up but act now
Ms Driver said she has been lobbying for SEND funding to schools to be ringfenced by the government. But, she added, schools can choose to do this without being required to by law. “It is good practice and it makes a massive difference to outcomes…we place an enormous emphasis, rightly so, on disadvantaged pupils and we should do the same for SEND. There is no greater disadvantage than being ignored. And we are ignoring pupils with SEND.”
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