Despite the presumption of inclusion, the code of practice(s) – the latest iteration is not the first one we have had – the Salamanca Statement, or even the UN conventions on the rights of children and persons with disability, inclusive practice is still somehow seen as an add-on. And more, an add-on that causes stress, greater workload, and harms teacher mental health and wellbeing. This bothers me, because teachers are struggling and leaving as a result, and children are not getting the education they should. What is more troubling is that it isn’t by any means a given.
We could make things a lot easier for mainstream teachers, in particular, by simplifying the additional support needs paperwork and processes we ask people to carry out. One of the criticisms that could be laid at the door of education professionals is that planning and target-setting, so important for ASN pupils so they don’t fall through the educational cracks, becomes a tiresome exercise in form filling, losing its purpose and meaning.
Good practice, and there is lots of it about, needs to be shared beyond the confines of the “ASN silo”. Mainstream class teachers are the ones holding the responsibility, after all.
A 'difficult' reputation
Let’s get over the idea that teaching ASN is somehow more difficult and complicated; scary, even. If we don’t want our teachers coming a cropper and running away, or worse, declaring that teaching ASN is somehow not their job, their responsibility or what they signed up to when they trained to teach – and that ASN children don’t belong in mainstream schools – then we, collectively, including members of the “ASN industry”, should stop saying ASN is more difficult.
Yes, we as a profession might need to know a bit more about learning differences and stop assuming that everyone is the same, coming into school as if straight off some standardised-child production line. We certainly need to know more about child development and how our own responses to student behaviour challenge us. But this doesn’t mean that either inclusion as a concept, or teaching ASN learners in the mainstream, is beyond us.
Adapting and adjusting classrooms and curriculums to make them more accessible for ASN learners shouldn’t be a burden. Simplifying teaching, learning, planning and record keeping would help teachers and benefit all students. Because every teacher is a teacher of ASN, so what is good for ASN is good for everyone.
Nancy Gedge is a consultant teacher for the Driver Youth Trust, which works with schools and teachers on ASN. She is the Tes ASN specialist, and author of Inclusion for Primary School Teachers. She tweets @nancygedge