'Emphasis on times table tests risks the further alienation of SEND pupils from mainstream education'

7th January 2016 at 06:00
One leading expert on autism worries that the new KS2 tests will lead to schools avoiding children with special needs

I was perturbed that pupils with special educational needs and disability did not appear to feature in education secretary Nicky Morgan’s thoughts when she recently announced the piloting of times tables testing for all pupils at the end of key stage 2.

Firstly, this is because the use of "all" in Ms Morgan’s statement, without detailing accommodations for some pupils with SEND, suggests that these children are not even expected to be in our mainstream schools and so no account is made for them. Secondly, the agenda that ranks schools according to exam results is in opposition to the inclusion agenda.

There are already many reports of mainstream schools overtly or covertly resisting admitting pupils with SEND who they perceive as a potential threat to their results. Holding schools to account yet again for the "failure" of pupils to score well in the tables tests will only further position pupils with SEND as an undesirable liability for schools. 

In maths, as with all subjects, the focus should be on meaningful and motivating learning for all pupils with individualised assessment that identifies each pupil’s strengths, challenges and learning style. If the government is to target specific elements of learning then it must always demonstrate how pupils with SEND are included within the initiative.

Ms Morgan’s statement may seek to focus on multiplication, but its impact may well be to divide.

Nick Hodge (pictured) is professor of inclusive practice at the Autism Centre, Sheffield Hallam University. He tweets at @Goodchap62

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