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.