Tag Archives: additional learning needs

Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 4

education6
The last in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment information about the new system in England.  However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the final part in a series of four articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article deals with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

You can read the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Q.  “Child X has Y condition, therefore we cannot expect much.”

A.  It is not logical to assume that a child cannot do things because of a defined disability or condition although there is no doubt that some conditions, particularly neurological ones, do make specific kinds of learning difficult and some can make it harder to prosper in typical school environments.  To presuppose that a child cannot reach a particular level of learning or qualification because of a diagnosis or difficulty is a more subtle form of labelling.

What the codes emphasise here is individualisation – “reasonable adjustments” might help a child with a disability to access learning and testing more easily, individualised attention or a more specialised environment might help them to overcome or find ways around barriers they face.  Only when all that is put into the equation, is it truly realistic to define what a child may or may not be able to achieve.  The codes contain many statements about this, for example in Wales, LEAs (Local Education Authorities) have a duty to publish their arrangements for “auditing, planning, monitoring and reviewing provision for children with SEN (generally and in relation to individual pupils)” (Welsh Assembly Government, 2004), and among the many references to individualisation is this about early years provision: “Monitoring of individual children’s progress throughout the early years is essential. Where a child appears not to be making progress either generally or in a specific aspect of learning, then it may be necessary to present different opportunities or use alternative approaches to learning. Ongoing difficulties may indicate the need for a level of help above that which is normally available for children in the particular early years setting.” (Section 4:9).

A potential pitfall, where there is a defined diagnosis or learning difficulty, is to look only at that and not at other factors that might be considered if there was no such definition.  For example, a child’s reaction to their experience of school, and their possible view of having to be there as an inconvenience, might come into the mix with a defined diagnosis etc. as well as without one.  Shakespeare’s “As you like it” describes the “whining schoolboy with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school”.  This could have something to do with the time he had to get up in the morning, but also some children still find school to be a pleasanter experience than others.  Looking at how this can be influenced may also unlock some enthusiasm and ability.

In the United States the term “accommodations” encompasses reasonable adjustments, differentiation of the curriculum, assistive technology, multisensory techniques, individualised learning measures etc.  An Internet search on “accommodations” with “education” will yield additional suggestions for supporting children with different learning issues.  For example, “A critical part of teaching and assessing students with disabilities, then, is providing them with accommodations that support learning and that support their ability to show what they know and can do.”  (Luke SD and Schwartz A, 2007-2010).

References

Luke S.D. and Schwartz A., Assessment and Accommodations (Evidence for Education, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007, Resources updated October 2010, currently http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/eeaccommodations.pdf, moving at the end of September to http://www.parentcenterhub.org).

See also; Ideas that work: toolkit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities,  (US Office of Special Education Programs).  Some of the recommendations on teaching techniques for children with dyslexia, in Rose, J. 2009, Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties, (DCSF Publications) could be useful for other SEN / AN issues as well.  One more out of the many resources containing practical ideas iswww.teachingideas.co.uk/more/specialneeds/contents.htm.

Special educational needs code of practice for Wales (2004), (Welsh Assembly Government).

Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 3

education3
The third in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment information about the new system in England.  However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the third part in a series of four articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article deals with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

You can read the other parts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

“My child has special / additional needs but the school does not say whether or how they are being addressed.”

In all parts of the UK, statutory codes and guidelines expect the education system to work with parents and keep them informed when a child is involved in assessment for or inclusion in SEN / AN provision.  Notwithstanding this, there are parents whose children do have these needs, yet are unaware of what is happening about them at school.
In some cases this could relate to a concern, brought out in particular by the new SEND Code in England, about disadvantage brought on by the “labelling” of children as needing SEN / AN provision.

If a teacher and school are putting in techniques and measures to give a child extra support, they may describe what they are doing without mentioning SEN / AN.  On the other hand, the official approach in all parts of the UK is not only of overt identification of needs, collaboration and sharing of ideas between education providers and families, but also there is an emphasis, particularly in the newer systems, on collaboration and sharing with the children themselves.

An analytical approach to the needs can be split into broad areas, e.g. cognition and learning; behaviour, social and emotional development; communication and interaction; and sensory and/or physical needs (Oxfordshire County Council, 2010).  Or, a starting point might be observing what tasks the child finds difficult, and what works to tackle these.  For example, it should be possible to identify a problem with working memory and to put strategies in place for this, as inhttp://www.learning-works.org.uk/susan-gathercole-workshop-1-pdf.  Exactly when to bring in specialist analysis of any of these areas (“triggers”) would often depend on judgement.

It may be useful to know about two methods that teachers and trainers use:  the lesson plan and personalised learning.  The lesson plan analyses what the teacher would like pupils to have learned by the end of a lesson or series of lessons, what points they will put over to the pupils, varied ways of putting over the material taking account of pupils’ individual differences, and how the teacher will ensure that the pupils have learned the material.

If a pupil has additional needs / a disability, the teacher may prepare a handout or something in a different format for that pupil, in addition to any materials that are prepared for other pupils.  Other elements of preparation may include where to position various children in the room, how they will organise any group work, how they will assist all the pupils to participate, and what the dynamics might be between different pupils.  Teachers should get to know your child, how they can best learn, how to approach them and what extra help they might need.

The approach is obviously different at different levels of education – nursery, primary, secondary etc.  One question to think about when preparing for transitions between different levels is, how will the child be able to deal with the different approaches and expectations of the new level of education they are moving into – for example, the more varied, demanding and academic secondary setting can be hard for children with additional needs to adapt to, which can bring out difficulties that were not apparent, or not important at primary level.

In other ways they may find the new environment exciting and challenging, and begin to enjoy making more of their own choices about things.  Parents might be able to predict some of these elements in their child, and help them and their school to prepare for them.

Without a Statement / EHC / CSP there is no annual review to discuss these things, but there are still other opportunities to discuss and plan with schools and to respond to reports.  A teacher who is aware of ways in which learning can be assisted for a pupil can incorporate those into lesson plans, remembering that there are likely to be several children with disparate additional needs in a class, as well as different characteristics and learning styles among all the other pupils; and of course subject-based teachers will deal with a number of groups of children in a day / week.

Personalised learning is a way of assessing the needs of a student with SEND, forming a relationship with them, finding out how they learn, planning ways of teaching them personally, and assessing progress as the teaching progresses (University of Exeter, 2010).

References

Luke S.D. and Schwartz A., Assessment and Accommodations (Evidence for Education, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007, Resources updated October 2010, currently http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/eeaccommodations.pdf, moving at the end of September to http://www.parentcenterhub.org).

See also; Ideas that work: toolkit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities,  (US Office of Special Education Programs).  Some of the recommendations on teaching techniques for children with dyslexia, in Rose, J. 2009, Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties, (DCSF Publications) could be useful for other SEN / AN issues as well.  One more out of the many resources containing practical ideas iswww.teachingideas.co.uk/more/specialneeds/contents.htm.

Oxfordshire County Council 2010, Guidance for identifying and supporting young children with special educational needs for early years settings, schools and support services.

SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years (2014), (Dept for Education and Dept of Health, England).

University of Exeter (2010), Framework for personalised learning.

Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 2

education4The second in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment information about the new system in England.  However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the second in a series of four articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article deals with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

Q.  What can I do if I am told that my child does not have a diagnosed condition, or that the condition is not recognised, therefore (s)he does not have additional needs – (s)he’s just naughty / lazy?

A.  As in the article about meeting children’s needs in school, this touches on the question of “significance”, while also relating to education law.  To take the England guidance as an example – please consult the code for your area of the UK – “A child or young person has a special educational need if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.”  (Dept for Education England 2014 Social Care, and others).

“Children have a learning difficulty if they:
a) have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age; or
(b) have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the local education authority)”.

Disability is defined in two ways:

“A child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from a mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed.” (Children Act 1989); or “A person has a disability for the purposes of this Act if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to day activities.”  (Disability Discrimination Act 1995, later Equality Act 2010).

Therefore, if a child needs educational support in relation to any of these definitions, (s)he has a special educational need, regardless of what might be causing it (except that difficulties with learning relating to speaking a different language are dealt with separately).  This need might be short-term, long-term or sporadic.

Other legislation also affects these definitions.  For example the code in Scotland, reflecting the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 1989, states for most children:  “A child or young person has additional support needs for the purposes of this Act where, for whatever reason, the child or young person is, or is likely to be, unable without the provision of additional support to benefit from school education provided or to be provided for the child or young person.”  Definitions in Northern Ireland are affected by the Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1989.  In terms of wider learning support, section 1.8 of the code for Northern Ireland describes the five-stage approach to identification which is expected to be used.  The practical actions to be taken under this approach, by teachers and SENCOs, start at section 2.45 of the Code, for example finding different learning strategies for the child, as elsewhere.

References

Code of practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs, and supplement (1998-2005), (Dept of Education, Northern Ireland).

Dept for Education (2014 England, Social Care), Social care: guide to the 0 to 25 SEND code of practice: Advice for social care practitioners and commissioners.

SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years (2014), (Dept for Education and Dept of Health, England).

Special educational needs code of practice for Wales (2004), (Welsh Assembly Government).

Supporting children’s learning (2010, revised edition), Scottish Government.

Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 1

education1
The first in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment with the new system in England.

However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the first in a series of articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article will deal with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

Q.  “If they are not at the greatest level, will my child’s additional needs be met at school”

A.  It is true that in many ways, schools deal with special / additional needs informally.  However the legislation, guidance and codes of practice cover all children with additional learning needs and not only those needing the most concentrated levels of support.  Educational codes of practice are devolved, so that each area of the UK now follows a different code, but the principles followed in each one are similar.

England now has the SEND code of practice 2014, under which children not needing the most concentrated level are given “Settings-based SEN Support”. Under SEND, compared with the previous code in England, there is more of a continuum with the approach that is expected for all children, to identify and deal with anything that is reducing their potential benefit from education.  SEN Support also now applies to young people aged 16-25 and can begin, theoretically, at age 0.  The statutory guidance states the following, and this includes children who are currently on “Action” or “Action Plus” levels of support:  “The legal definition of SEN has not changed so that no child or young person should lose their support simply because the system is changing.  Special educational provision should continue for children and young people who need it because they need educational provision that is additional to or different from, that made generally for others of the same age in mainstream settings. It may change only if:

  • a child or young person’s learning needs have changed, or
  • the educational setting has changed its universal offer” (Dept for Education, 2014).

Parents of children needing Settings-based SEN Support should be involved in “regular review and discussion” of their child’s progress.  The class teacher is a key person in identifying and supporting children at this level, and the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) remains another point of contact for parents.  Whereas, for some children, the changeover from Statements (under the previous code) to EHC Plans (under this code) may take until 2018, the changeover from Action and Action Plus to SEN Support is expected to be achieved by September 2015.  Sections 8.5 onwards of the statutory guidelines (Dept for Education, 2014) describe how a similar system now has to be introduced into post-16 institutions as well.  The complete timetable is in Annex A of the guidelines.

education2The approach to learning needs at every level is described in the new code as a graduated and continuous process of “assess, plan, do, review”.

Each local authority in England publishes a “local offer” describing what SEND-related services are available in the area and how to access them.  At the time of writing, these offers are in a state of transition to the new system.  Some currently mention assessment for EHC Plans without mentioning Settings-based SEN Support, however as above, both are part of the new system.  Each school also has a special educational needs policy / “school offer”.

The new code suggests to me that potentially, there could also be more integration with non-educational services for children receiving Settings-based SEN Support, though not in the same manner as for those with EHC Plans.

In Scotland, the Code of Practice is “Supporting Children’s Learning” (2010), which applies between ages 3 and 18 years.  In this there is a staged approach to additional needs, moving through the support types and levels that might be required in response to concerns expressed by parents, teachers or others, broadly considering first the least extra support that might be needed.  Only some pupils with additional needs will prove to be at the level where a formal Co-ordinated Support Plan (which was the successor to a “Record of Needs”) is required, but this methodology should also identify and seek to meet the needs of the others.  Local authorities go into more detail for parents, for example the Children In the Highlands Information Point, http://www.chipplus.org.uk/index.asp?pageid=331378.  Scotland also has the concept of the Universal Child’s Plan, which is triggered when a child’s learning needs demand more than ordinary classroom teaching techniques (which do encompass additional needs to some extent), so that other services and an Individualised Education Programme (IEP) become involved.

Northern Ireland has the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs (which also includes instructions for provision.  Dept of Education, Northern Ireland, 1998-2005).  Northern Ireland and Wales still use the three-level system of Action, Action Plus and Statementing levels of support.

The equivalent code in Wales (Welsh Assembly Government, 2004) approaches assessment and provision along similar lines, described as a “graduated response”, also like the other codes, stressing that any difficulties the child has should be picked up early.  The codes describe when Action and Action Plus are applicable and how assessment, provision etc. should occur, and they apply between the age of 3 years (and the time leading up to that), and an age between 16 and 19+ years.  Anyone with concerns about what provision should be made for a child can find useful details in the sections of these two codes and their associated documents relating to the applicable age-range (early years, primary school age or secondary school age.  There are also sections on transition from school age).

In all parts of the UK, there are local authority / board SEN specialists who can be called upon by schools to assist in respect of identification and provision.

Where there has always been a grey area, is in defining what are “significant” learning needs.  To many parents any learning need, or barrier to learning is “significant”, whereas there are schools and/or individual teachers who consider there are “no problems” beyond a threshold that is not necessarily defined.  For children, consistent difficulties and fallings behind can lead to frustration, lowered self-esteem, further educational difficulties and relationship issues with peers, however educationalists expect children to learn at different speeds and to have different learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, so when does this become “significant”?  In principle, the statutory codes and guidelines would seem to agree that any learning need should be picked up and supported as early as possible, yet they still use the term “significant” in some places.  In Scotland, the code and guidance include a discussion of the term in the light of Tribunal and Court decisions, and gives some examples (Scottish Government, 2010).

References

Code of practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs, and supplement (1998-2005), (Dept of Education, Northern Ireland).

Dept for Education (2014, England), Transition to the new 0 to 25 special educational needs and disability system. Statutory guidance for local authorities and organisations providing services to children and young people with SEN.

SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years (2014), (Dept for Education and Dept of Health, England).

Special educational needs code of practice for Wales (2004), (Welsh Assembly Government).

Supporting children’s learning (2010, revised edition), Scottish Government.