What Not To Say

The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy

Oh, people put their foot in their mouths all the time, so, in the interests of harmony between us, and me not jumping on your head, or down your throat, here is my list of ‘Things What Not To Say To A Parent Of A Child With Learning Difficulties Like, Say, Down Syndrome’.

  1.  Did you know? (Sympathetic lilt and head tilt)  I’ve written about this before, but come on!  I’m asked this all the time, and I’m still not entirely sure what people mean by it.  What do they want me to say?  Yes, I knew I was having a baby.  Yes, I knew it was only going to be the one.  No, I had no idea that it would be a boy, or that he would have red hair.  That was it.
  1.  Is it true that Down’s people don’t feel sadness?  Perrrleaaase!  Come to my house at…

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week 20 – camp

How can I answer this? I haven’t been taught it… #blogsync

How can we put policy into practice?

What is the best place for testing in schools?
An autistic student got very irate during the GCSE mocks, demanding, “How can I answer this question? My teacher hasn’t taught me the answer to this question.” The question in question was, “How can a pet be a good companion for a person?”: a question which most students we teach could have a go at, and indeed so could he, BUT, in his view, he had not been taught about this, so it was therefore impossible for him to respond.
There are so many things that can go wrong with testing, as this (extreme) example illustrates.
Yet test results dominate teachers’ careers and define young people’s experience of school. Why? All those incessant tests we took as children and young people didn’t change anything. The only test which really changed my life was the driving test. You step into the glorious…

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Listen to the Radio from @ChrisChivers2

Radio dial2

Seeking greater clarity by fine tuning actions through a

Record of Actions, Discussions or Decisions, Interventions and Outcomes

(RADIO, in case you missed it!).

Building an individual case study.

Essentially, SEND practice describes a sequence of events, which seek to refine the actions and focus of attention, to identify, quantify and qualify the exact nature of a problem. Once this has been established, remedial action can take place. The longer the gap, the greater the problem can become, as further complications can become built into the experience, not least of which is learner self-esteem, affected by adult and peer responses to the circumstance.

Every teacher is a teacher of individual needs, which often identify themselves as little concerns when a learner either exceeds or does not grasp what is being expected.

The SEND framework 2014 does state that poor teaching approaches will handicap decisions on a child’s special educational needs. SEND is not a substitute for poor teaching or poor teachers. High quality teaching and learning should identify, describe and track needs within a classroom. Work sampling, annotations and record keeping will all contribute to good decisions. Some may say that this is additional work. However, it could be argued that well planned, well focused activities, with good oral and written feedback, to identified needs, in itself constitutes a reasonably clear start point of a record. An annotated personal record, for discrete individuals, as describe below should also be kept.


Teachers receive their classes from someone else, even at the earliest stages, where a parent or nursery member of staff has already become aware of little foibles, or gaps in understanding, or an area where there appears to be extra talent.

The parent is the child’s first teacher; it is to be hoped that their relationship is such that they get to know their children really well, through interactions at home and in places of interest that generate speaking and listening skills. As a Governor of a school in Gosport, as well as my own education career, I know that this is not the case, with children arriving operating at two year old levels, of speech and socialisation.

The adult role, teacher and support staff, is to be vigilant in spotting the child reactions in different situations, noting areas of concern, but also of achievement, so that a balanced picture can be built. The profiles built up during the Early Years stage is a more refined document than may have formerly been available.

If concerns emerge, there are likely to be three phases;

  1. Short (wave) term, classroom based. The teacher and other adults become aware that an area of need exists. They develop a short term plan to address the issue and agree a monitoring approach that allows them to spot and track the outcomes. Where feasible, discussions with the learner might deepen the adult understanding of the learning issues. Outcomes are checked carefully to deduce any patterns arising, which are then shared with parents and decisions reached about next steps.
  2. Medium (wave) term, involving internal specialist colleagues. Where an issue goes beyond the current capacity of the classteacher, the school internal specialist, the SENCo, should be involved to oversee the record, to discuss with the teacher and the parent possible ways forward and to agree a new plan of action in the classroom. This may involve using a discrete approach to the identified problem, with some specified time need. For example, a child with a specific reading issue might need some individualised time with an adult, whose role is to undertake a miscue analysis during each session to deduce with greater accuracy the nature of the problem. The SENCo may be involved in classroom observations, keeping records of on/off task behaviours, relationships, task application, with outcomes being photocopied and annotated to deepen the understanding of the problem, thereby refining the classroom action. Interventions strategies must be SMART targets. Too often in SEND situations, classteachers operate at too global a level, so that the refined needs of the individuals are missed, until they become more critical. There is a need for regular work sampling and annotations to describe the learning journey and issues still arising. The lack of such a record could handicap a child and the teacher, as it will be requested before specific help can be offered, especially if the school SLT has to allocate additional funding/adult support to address the issue.
  3. Long (wave) term, the school will involve a range of specialist experts, to support the diagnosis of the issue. Diagnosis depends on the quality of record keeping in the classroom and the school, if patterns are to be describe and the area for investigation is to be narrowed. As a result, a programme of action is likely to be agreed, timescales set and evidence needed identified. This is likely to be similar to the needs above, but within a refined remit.

Over time, a case study emerges, with a record of actions, discussion, decisions, interventions and outcomes. It may be, at this stage, that the collective wisdom is that there is a problem that is greater that the system capacity to identify and remediate the need. In the new SEND framework, schools will apply for consideration of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

The evidence file is sent to a panel for consideration, along with other applications. Each case is judged on its merits and there is no guarantee that awarding an EHCP will be the outcome. Equally, an EHCP may not guarantee extra funding or alternative education placement. The EHCP, if awarded, is quite likely to be a tighter descriptor of the learner’s individual needs, the education response to be allocated by the establishment, the timescale and regularity of reviews.

SEND issues cause teachers to become worried. In another post, I have suggested ways in which a teacher can expand their understanding of teaching and learning outcomes across the range of learners they are likely to encounter.

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New SEN Arrangements from @jordyjax

I can’t pretend to be an expert on the impending new SEN arrangements from September but I do have a few preliminary thoughts.

I am very concerned that emphasis has shifted from a whole- school approach to class teacher being “detective” as I recently read – where escapes me! In a world where ‘quality first teaching’ is king it seems sensible to rely, in the first instance, on the professional instincts of teachers in diagnosing SEN in their children. However all is not as it seems.

In an ideal world teachers will be completely aware of difficulties in their children except for the following :
1. Children who come from another class with undiagnosed needs and the previous teacher feeds misleading information in the first instance.
2. Children who arrive in FS with no information from nursery/ no nursery involvement.
3. Children with a history of behavioural problems masking undiagnosed needs including medical needs.

Diagnosis of SEN in these children will take time for even experienced teachers to unravel, but what about inexperienced staff? How long will it take before the needs of these children are met? How many children will end up in PRUS because of undiagnosed needs?

There need to be proper school systems in place with suitably qualified SENCOS trained to spot children with difficulties in their classes rather than it be left to chance with individual teachers. It is easy for children to slip through the net until it reaches a point where their needs can’t be ignored; for some children this is too late.

You may think this is an unlikely scenario; however if it is , why is my PRU full of primary ASD,  ADHD, MLD, complex needs (including epilepsy)?? It is an absolute disgrace that when medical needs impact on behaviour the answer is a PRU which is meant for BESD children. Schools shrug their shoulders and say ‘what else can we do ?’.

I say there is a lot that can be done. Schools need to support SEN children properly.  They need to accurately assess their needs. They need to put strategies in place to manage behaviour. They need to staff children appropriately. We are often told that nothing can be done by schools but they expect us to do it.  We don’t have money for extra support but we are expected to manage difficult children. We are funded as schools but we are expected to manage high needs children without extra funding. We are expected to be assaulted in an attempt to manage children’s needs.

Yes we are there for BESD children who are struggling in mainstream but increasingly we are being asked to take children with undiagnosed medical needs. And that cannot be right.

Tests, tests, tests #blogsync for June


These are my thoughts on school tests, written as part of June’s #blogsync compilation.

Tests, there’s a plethora of them these days. There are tests for Year 1 phonics, Key Stage 1 SATs tests, Key Stage 2 SATs tests, Key Stage 3 teacher assessment, Key Stage 4 teacher assessment as a predictor for GCSEs and GCSEs at the end of compulsory schooling. In SEN we have our own range of assessments with ASDAN, TI, TC and Entry Levels to name just a few. What is the purpose of it all?

The official party line is that tests are to check if children are on track to gain their GCSEs. If that is the case why are we testing 5 year olds and proposing to test 4 year olds. These children are as far away from their GCSEs as it is possible to be. So we test them at 5 years…

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