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'SEND inclusion can be tough – but segregation isn’t the answer'

Don't push pupils with SEND out of the mainstream - instead, let's give teachers proper support, writes Nancy Gedge

Teaching SEND pupils can be stressful - but segregating them in special schools isn't the answer, says Nancy Gedge

Don't push pupils with SEND out of the mainstream - instead, let's give teachers proper support, writes Nancy Gedge

When it comes to schools, there are lots of ways that children and young people can traumatise the adults who work there.

From injury (there was the time when Guy broke his arm performing a cartwheel, and the first time I had to deal with a head injury – it was me who needed a sit down after) to illness (anyone who works with young epileptics will recognise this) to disclosures (especially the sort that make you have to wait in the office for a little bit so that you can compose yourself). Then there are the behaviour events that can be anything from jumping out of the way of flying furniture to being sworn at or the constant drip, drip, drip effect of classes for whom you must work especially hard in order to maintain control.

OK... traumatise might be a bit strong, but there is an element of working with young people that can have a negative effect on the adults in terms of their wellbeing, and, due to the very nature of the thing itself, this can be magnified by the presence of special educational needs and disability.  

Working up close and personal – especially in the case of teaching assistants – can leave you open to experiences that can echo into your private life and make it difficult for you to come back, and keep on coming back, the next day.

Children and young people, especially the vulnerable ones, the ones from difficult backgrounds or with learning or physical disabilities, need us to do exactly that. They need to know that we won’t give up on them, that we can and will recover; that we will be brave when they are not.

SEND: The importance of inclusion

I guess we could go down the exclusionary or segregated route: put all the children who put us in these sorts of positions into special places where special people, who have special training and qualifications, will give special lessons.

But where do we stop?

Who will be left in the remaining "mainstream"?

Will it be those who have never been stung by a wasp or a bee, who never needed a wet paper towel or an ice cube in a plastic bag? Or those who always do as they are told, are always cheerful and polite and never forget their homework or PE kits, who have picture perfect, always smiling homes and families? (Who are these children? Do they even exist?)

And what kind of society will we have created for them when they eventually pop out of the other end of the system?

Instead, we should spend time checking that the adults in our existing schools teaching the children who already attend them day after day are OK.

We should give them a proper opportunity to say how they feel about their day and think and plan together about how things might be changed for the better in the future.

We should recognise the pressure, do something to alleviate it. That way they can, and they will, return.

Nancy Gedge is Tes SEND columnist, coordinator of the Ormerod Resource Base at the Marlborough School, Woodstock, and author of Inclusion for Primary Teachers

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