An interesting article in the TES caught my eye a few weeks ago . The opening paragraph stated:
‘Twice as many poorer children have special educational needs…’
This grabbed my attention, not only from a SENCo point-of-view, but also from the perspective of how the media can manipulate and distort figures to create sensational headlines. I immediately began reading the article with a defensive poise.
As I read the article carefully, I found I needed to read it again, and again, due to the statistical barrage I was presented with. This showering of data, and the confusion with the specialist/segregation agenda, left an unpleasant taste.
For me there are some important distinctions to be made here. Some specific needs cross all boundaries of class and culture; autism for example. I would agree that those from more deprived areas of the UK probably do have higher rates of SEN in respect to specific learning needs and language delay. This may be for a whole host of reasons. I always think back to my early teaching days when I was an NQT in a secondary school serving the then second biggest council estate in Europe – many parents and carers would readily come to open evenings and announce ‘…well I could never do maths as a child, no wonder they can’t.’ In the five years I taught there, never did a parent or carer announce that they couldn’t read. The social acceptance that maths, science and other subjects are ‘difficult’ or that it is ‘ok’ to be bad at them, continues now, but so does the stigma attached to being unable to read and write.
So I do not deny the fact that some areas of the UK are likely to have more young people, with special educational needs − however this is a wide reaching debate and one that is not given a fair trial in the 500 or so word article.
But, my overarching thoughts were this: let’s stop looking for ways to excuse or link causes and effects that have so many different influences. Let’s focus on supporting the communities that schools serve by being more pro-active and inclusive. Don’t excuse or justify; support and embrace. I often think back to the origins of my thoughts on inclusion and provision and the Salamanca Statement;
‘Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system’.
Let’s not worry about wealth, social-class or status – let’s support each individual child as per their need. Let’s help to build more inclusive communities, not provide excuses to ‘blame’ and ‘justify’.