Better provision only comes with staff

5th October 2007 at 01:00

Whether a child has dyslexia, dyspraxia or is caught up in the middle of a messy divorce at home, Pauline Marshall's special needs team at St Julian's School in Newport will find time to help.

However, the award-winning special needs co-ordinator she was named SEN teacher of the year at the Inspirational Teacher Awards in Cardiff this summer still believes better provision and delivery will only come with more funding for staff.

She describes her approach in dealing with the additional learning needs of the school's 1,500 pupils as "leaving no stone unturned".

"We have to have a positive, can-do approach. We work hard on literacy. Our aim is that every child is at least functionally literate."

The trained dyslexia teacher manages a team of 14 classroom assistants who concentrate on word and speech skills, identifying pupils who need their help in Year 7.

The school provides in-class support for pupils with statements, including 12 of the lowest-ability children in each year who have literacy, numeracy and other general learning difficulties. They see around 20 per cent of the school population at one time or another.

If Ms Marshall could have more funding for special needs it would be spent on the team's most important resource staff because the SEN team's remit continues to grow yearly.

"I sometimes get the feeling at conferences that perhaps English schools are better resourced. More money to tackle behavioural problems would help," she says.

The team also runs the BEST initiative offering behavioural and emotional support, including anger management and social skills courses, as well as the school's inclusion (or time out) room. Pupils who have been "de-classed" four times are sent to follow the curriculum in isolation.

The number of SEN teaching assistants has increased annually.

"At one point we were not necessarily as well-resourced as we could have been. But in recent years the management team has been sympathetic to our requests for staff increases and resources," she says.

Now the unit has one large classroom with a bank of computer terminals and a library of reading schemes, a "chill-out" room for the BEST team, a conference room, office and time out room for up to five pupils at any one time.

Pauline has two teaching assistants working on behavioural and emotional problems. They are also on hand when a crisis occurs between them they have 30 free periods out of 50 over a fortnight.

"We had already been dealing with behavioural and emotional support issues, but sometimes there wasn't anyone available. What we've done is formalise that support."

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