Rethink needs of strugglers

12th September 2003 at 01:00
As an experienced primary teacher and deputy headteacher, the longer I am in the profession, the more concerned I become about children with mild and moderate special needs.

Many of these children have individual education plans, specific targets and review meetings. They receive extra support in the classroom and hours are spent on paperwork by the class teacher and the special needs co-ordinator. Funding comes from a bidding process with a certain amount of money for each local authority.

I wonder whether it would not be of greater benefit to all children to actually trust class teachers to provide for all their pupils with differentiated work, support where necessary, and the option to give children independence in their learning.

If special needs funding went to provide full-time classroom support for every primary class then the teacher could use his or her professional experience to offer a child with special needs the appropriate help for specific sessions. Other children in the class could have the opportunity of working with the classroom support staff. This could possibly be the middle group of children who tend to get overlooked but could produce work of a reasonable standard with a small amount of extra support or the top group who need extending so that they don't get bored. This is inclusion at a basic level.

Children who struggle academically or have a specific special need are usually going to have to cope with that need for life, but they will not always have an adult sitting with them to help them through tasks.

There are many times when children with special needs must be given the space and time to fathom out how to cope with something they find difficult and achieve it independently. They will realise that to achieve certain things they may have to work a little harder than someone else, but by doing this at an early age they may be more willing to have a go rather than thinking they are "owed" extra help.

We need to trust teachers to use their experience to help children reach their full potential.

Alex Burrell Deputy headteacher Oldham

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