I escaped from my daily life of writing and rurality last week and went off to meet a friend in the city. It gets me back in touch with life other than one either closeted at the computer or striding the marshes. Although an hour or two of crowds and that’s plenty to top up my need to escape for another month.
My friend is a senior lecturer in education with several years experience in teacher training. So you can imagine we inevitably talk about schools and how we could make it better, particularly for those children who are failed by the system. She’d read in the comments on my blogs about dyslexia of people’s experience of support – or not! So I asked her how teachers are trained to cope with special educational needs. She suggested they’re not…here’s what she told me…
One of the key difficulties is that PGCE teacher training courses are too short. According to the Standards for Qualified Teacher Status, trainees are required to have knowledge of relevant government policies and also know how to make personalised provision for those they teach, including children with special educational needs.
If any teacher suspects that a child has a learning difficulty they should inform the SENCO in the school who has some training. The SENCO cannot diagnose a learning difficulty because they are not trained to do so but should, with parental permission, contact relevant specialists for advice and assessments.
The tragedy of course is that somewhere this system isn’t working for many children, who struggle undiagnosed throughout their school life. Change is needed somewhere and teacher training is the most obvious place to start, so that new teachers entering the system are more fully prepared to spot the signs of a learning difficulty that experienced teachers might have missed. There are, however, so many different types of difficulties that this is far from simple.
Further, the government is proposing to train more and more students in schools. The full details of these plans are not yet known. But if the role of training is increased even further for practising teachers, who are already overloaded, how much time will be given to special educational needs training? Let’s hope this is given a high priority and furthermore, is assessed and monitored to ensure that all schools are providing a high quality level of training.
It’s staggering! Here we parents all are assuming teachers will know how to deal with all these differing needs. But they don’t. And it looks like the reason they don’t is that they are so busy fulfilling the needs of the system that the needs of the individual are lost. With current cutting back the situation will become worse. If we don’t spend money on training teachers what does that say about how we rate them and the teaching of our children?
What we really need is for the focus to come back off the politics and get back onto the children. That’s what education is supposed to be about!