tesletters

16th October 2015 at 00:00

Has inclusion failed? Only if we let it

Ann Mroz (“The SEND pupils trapped in the exclusion zone”, Editorial) and Nancy Gedge (“Has inclusion failed?”, Feature) make valid points in the 9 October edition concerning the exclusion of children with special educational needs and disabilities. The figures unfortunately bear them out.

However, Ms Mroz asserts that SEND children “do not fit comfortably into the government’s rhetoric of raising standards in…a ‘rigour revolution’ ”. As an SEND coordinator, teacher, trainer and director of inclusion with almost 40 years’ experience, I fundamentally disagree. Colleagues have very high expectations of SEND students, based on a no-excuses culture and a determination to secure the best possible life chances.

My professional philosophy is that any child with SEND can achieve as highly as any non-SEND student in mainstream education given the appropriate differentiated support, encouragement and a whole-school ethos. You do teachers a huge disservice. Perhaps the balance of views needs to be restored?

Garry Freeman

Leeds

I was disappointed with Nancy Gedge’s feature, which showed that SEND children are increasingly excluded but with no thorough investigation of why.

There are clues elsewhere in the magazine. For example, Sir John Dunford (“Social mobility efforts are mired in confusion”, Comment) and Sir Tim Brighouse (“A vision of huge classes, scarce staff and even closures”, News) reference the reduced status of vocational qualifications. Careers advice, and hence opportunity, is limited and the curriculum is narrowing as cuts, teaching conditions and staff shortages limit choice outside English Baccalaureate subjects.

Whatever happened to personalised learning and the individual in education? If we continue as we are, opportunities will be increasingly wasted to the detriment of wellbeing, which will serve only to distance young people from a life they have reason to value. Preventing that from happening should become the true driver of inclusion.

Ian Abbott

Lead professional within a local authority SEND service

A good governing body is a team effort

Jarlath O’Brien makes some valid points in “How to get the governing body you want” (Professional, 9 October). I particularly agree that a headteacher needs to be “professionally aligned” with the chair of governors. Both can be excellent, but if they don’t get on they will be on a road to disaster.

While some heads ignore their chair, some chairs want to do everything and fail to draw on the strength of their governors. All these individuals need to work together to create a higher entity – a team – that is better than they could be on their own.

Jane Redfern Jones

Chair of governors, St Giles Primary School, Wrexham

At the mercy of the baseline assessment

As a Reception teacher using Early Excellence’s EExBA to assess my class of four-year-olds, I want to counter Jan Dubiel’s “uncomfortable truths” about the baseline assessment (see bit.ly/BaselineTest) with some observations of my own.

It’s true that the concept of assessment in Reception is not new, but never before has it been used to predict Year 6 Sats results. As such young children struggle to communicate their basic needs and adapt to a strange environment, how can we possibly decide how well they will perform in tests in 2022?

Although EExBA is better than other government-approved assessments, it is still very reductive and shows a lack of respect for professional judgement. How can I answer anything other than “yes” when asked if a child “shows curiosity about objects and the world”? Surely this comes with being human.

The high uptake is not a sign that teachers see this assessment as meaningful. Rather, it is symptomatic of a system where we are forced to prove that we make a “measurable impact”. Teachers are compromised and hundreds of thousands of four-year-olds are at the mercy of this system, while companies like Early Excellence profit. Now that’s an uncomfortable truth.

Helen Pope

Reception teacher

Examiners deserve respect – and better pay

In her time at the helm of Ofqual, chief regulator Glenys Stacey has not been afraid to court controversy. But perhaps, on more mature reflection, she may regret her assertion that exam markers “don’t do it for the money” (bit.ly/ExamMarkers).

Surely she cannot mean that it is morally defensible to under-reward the altruistic markers who, after already working long hours, sacrifice further time to deliver results to very tight deadlines. It is demonstrably untrue to say that markers aren’t motivated by pay: in 2014, OCR found markers could complete their assessments on time if offered substantial inducements.

If recruitment of markers is to be more effective, the status of examining needs to be improved. Examiners should be seen less as a “workforce” and more as a “profession”. Moreover, the low piecework rates do not reflect the very high cognitive demands of the job. Modernisation of the reward system is long overdue if boards are to retain as well as recruit.

Yvonne Williams

Ryde, Isle of Wight

The high cost of freedoms for the few

I must apologise to Simon Corns (“An ‘efficient’ school is an effective school”, Letters, 9 October) for assuming that being a headteacher of a selective school and an advocate of free schools and academies aligns him in any way with the present government, and I am sure he runs his school very efficiently.

But it would appear that “freedoms” for some do not result in freedom of choice for all. Although the government tells us that the education budget has not been cut overall, the use of millions of pounds to open free schools has resulted in that money going out of the budgets of other schools in those areas.

Mike Rath

Barnstaple, Devon

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