Teaching Assistants: The Dangers of teaching by echo

The role of the TA is among the most controversial in schools. However, much of the debate focuses on numbers, not what TAs do. TAs undertake a vital role to ensure inclusion of pupils with special needs and disability. However, there is too much concentration on TA supporting learning which all too often ends up as ‘teaching by echo’, rather than preparing children for learning, so they can engage with the teaching first hand. Continue reading

Looking for a magic wand: Labelling children.

In my SEND work, I often have to discuss with parents the possibility that a diagnosis might help support their child and signpost them to professionals to manage this. Many are grateful to have the opportunity to discuss their concerns about their children. Some are in denial and refuse to consider that there might be anything ‘wrong’ with their child. But increasingly, I am meeting a third group of parents who come in and demand that their child is diagnoised and labelled. Continue reading

What is the difference between closing a gap and diminishing a difference?

The release of the new OSTED documents is always a sign for teachers that summer is really over. This year we can breathe a sigh of relief as there seem to be few major changes. However, for those teaching disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND there has been a subtle change of language in the new OFSTED handbook. Gone is the language of ‘closing the gap’ and in its place is ‘diminish the differences.’ Continue reading

‘It’s the children, Stupid!’ Are schools losing the children in the data

Like so many teachers, I spend a lot of my time in pupil progress meetings. At these meetings, we talk about targets and interventions and, in theory, about children. However, much of the conversation is dominated by the data, percentages and the government set thresholds. Increasingly these discussions are dominated by what teachers need to do to ensure that the school’s data  on Raise Online will be good enough to give it  a chance of obtaining a ‘good’ or even ‘outstanding’ grade from OFSTED. Continue reading

Is the new assessment system becoming a Tower of Babel that will fall on those with SEN?

When I think of the new assessment system, I am reminded of the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. At the beginning of the story, all the peoples of the world speak the same language. They decide to build a tower to reach heaven. When the Tower reaches too high, God confounds the people so that they all speak different languages. They start to fight, the tower collapses and they never reach heaven. I fear that this is what is happening in special needs education. Continue reading