Misdirection can send staff on a wild-goose chase

8th June 2018 at 00:00
To help teachers better understand a child with SEND, make sure your communication skills are up to scratch, says Nancy Gedge

I am not the best person at giving directions. I once unintentionally sent some poor people on a five-mile circular trip through the countryside; they refrained from asking my advice again the second time they passed me.

It’s not just the left and right thing (my husband has taken to asking me whether I mean the real left or my left, just to be sure) but also, when describing landmarks, there is so much that is down to interpretation. The “big tree” could mean anything from an overgrown Christmas tree to a majestic oak. The “house with the blue door” isn’t much use as a means of identification when there is a whole row of them.

I mention this because it is a neat way of demonstrating how thinking about the needs of the listener has to be the way forward when communicating essential information. And this is particularly important when information is being distributed about children with special educational needs and disability.

Cut the jargon

Teachers are busy people (it’s one of the things that makes the job so interesting), and this means that there is only so much information that they can handle in one go. If we want to help them better understand a child with SEND, then as well as getting our information right, we need to bear in mind what will be useful to them and consider their level of understanding. And while every profession has a language of its own, it has to be said that the world of SEND takes jargon to another level entirely (so much so that I devoted a chapter to it in my book, Inclusion for Primary School Teachers).

A certain amount of condensing to essentials needs to occur. This is where “pupil passports” or “one-page profiles” can really help, especially when the student has been involved in writing them. A single page of “what helps me to learn”, spelled out in simple, clear language can make all the difference to the busy teacher, helping them to plan more effectively for students with specific requirements in their lessons.

Mind you, although email is a wonderful thing, and can enable people to communicate with each other all over the world, at the touch of a button (or a swipe), there is no replacement for the old fashioned approach – that is, the face-to-face conversation.

This is where the questions can be asked (“When you said ‘left’, did you mean my left or your left?”) and clarifications sought (“When you said ‘the big tree’, did you mean oak or Christmas?”) and the danger, metaphorically speaking, that you send your colleagues on a wild-goose chase via the country mile is reduced.


Nancy Gedge is coordinator of the Ormerod Resource Base at the Marlborough School, Oxfordshire and the Tes SEND specialist. She tweets @nancygedge

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