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The scandal in our schools: one step forward15th May 2012 by John Drummond
Radical changes are being proposed for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) today. Around one in five children are identified as having special educational needs.
I am speaking from long and deep personal experience when I say that the current system is a battle and that changes are long overdue. They include:
- a single assessment process (today parents and children are bounced around between education, health and specialist services)
- parents having control over personal budgets they can use for kids with SEN
- the creation of an integrated education, health and care plan for children (currently the process can lead to an Individual Education Plan)
But this is one step forward and wider thinking will lead to two steps back. Our whole education system is built on a foundation that does not reflect the needs of our children.
It is dominantly language-based, rewarding kids with good language skills, good memories, good studying techniques and good exam techniques. It fails to recognize that children have a wide variety of learning styles. If children are smart but they struggle with language or they are slower to complete good work, they are set up to fail.
The reality is that there is a massive diversity of learning styles among children and our system should be set up to help them learn in the way that works for them.
There are two other massive issues:
- our schools are not set up to give children competencies for life (managing projects, managing relationships, managing finances, looking after their health)
- our assumption is that kids have two routes – an academic route or a vocational route; this ignores the fact that very many kids don’t fit this choice; some of the most brilliant innovators and inventors struggle to learn in traditional ways
This government’s underlying assumption seems to be that SEN numbers are exaggerated and that there may be hundreds of thousands of kids wrongly labeled as SEN to disguise poor teaching. My experience and the experience of many other families we speak to is the opposite.
It is a continuous battle to get a child’s needs assessed and appropriate interventions put in place. If they are assessed they may get put on School Action or School Action Plus which provide some additional support (but it is very limited). Only 2% of children get statements which provide them with additional tailored support.
My take is that we are institutionally ignoring the needs of around 20% of our children and that re-affirming a culture where it is difficult if not impossible to get appropriate support is short-sighted. It makes much more economic sense to throw the net wider, increase the number of kids who are assessed, train all teachers and provide tailored interventions. My absolute conviction is that this would improve growth and productivity and significantly reduce health and welfare costs.
My personal view is that this is one of the biggest scandals we face as a nation and it’s time to turn up the share of voice of those we are failing.
Further information here.
By John Drummond
Chairman, Corporate Culture