This article discusses the GTC's Making SENse of CPD resource, which includes a summary of research findings about the effectiveness of CPD for SEN, as well as the emerging themes in CPD for SEN
As reported in a recent edition of SENCO Update, the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has developed a resource to support professional development for special educational needs of teachers in mainstream schools called Making SENse of CPD.
The resource draws on the work of schools that employ particularly successful strategies for SEN-related CPD and has the potential to be added to with further practice examples.
The resource has been developed as part of GTC work that aims to:
- gain a better understanding of the professional development needs of teachers regarding special educational needs in mainstream schools
- support mainstream schools to build capacity for relevant professional development
- share experience and good practice in special educational needs.
The resource will be further extended with the publication, through the GTC’s Engage network, of an information bank aimed at early career teachers (see the panel opposite for a preview of this resource). This includes a specially created matrix linking the core standards to inclusion, SEN and disability which provides information and guidance for teachers. The resource itself will be available by the end of March.
In addition to the practical materials, Making SENse of CPD includes a briefing paper that summarises findings about the effectiveness of SEN. These findings are outlined in the box below.
Evidence for the paper was collected through literature searches and school visits. The literature search was undertaken in three sweeps. The first used search terms including: SEN; special education and teaching; teacher effectiveness and special needs students; career development; teaching skills and special needs; special education and mainstreaming.
A second sweep used the search terms: access to education; conductive education; individualised methods; outreach programmes; specialists; special schools and inclusion.
The final search used medical databases to search for learning difficulties and causes; dyslexia and causes; dyspraxia and symptoms.
Other emerging issues
In addition to the issues reported under the main themes in the box below, three other concerns or issues emerged:
1. The major concern arising within the schools visited is the apparent increase in SEN presenting within the mainstream. This is attributed to the closure of special schools and whether a mainstream school has the ability and capacity to cater for a broader range of need. The schools identify an increase in mental health issues, more autism, speech and language difficulties, and more ‘unspecified global delay’.
2. Within the literature other issues emerged which are not reflected within the schools that were visited. For example, teachers in the mainstream are more concerned with children and young people with behavioural difficulties than those with physical or sensory impairments. Significant curriculum differentiation is necessary to meet the range of needs presented. Some teachers appear to have major difficulty in achieving this.
3. The potential impact of greater survival rates for pre-term births and foetal alcohol syndrome on the incidence and type of SEN is not widely recognised in schools but does feature in the literature.
These last three issues resonate with those reported in a number of recent research studies and reports.
SEN support for early career teachers
The GTC Engage Network has created an online SEN information file specifically for early career teachers. The aim is to help early career teachers relate their immediate context and practice to the national professional context. It draws teachers’ attention to the Core Professional Standards, relevant research that can support inclusive teaching and the Inclusion Development Programme from National Strategies. It will also include examples of inclusive practice from early career teachers around the country.
The information file gives ideas to help recently qualified teachers to develop their inclusive practice within the new core standards (introduced in September 2007). A summary of the key elements of each theme within the core standards is included with related questions that teachers have asked. Relevant information and guidance on how teachers can begin to address these questions is also offered. It may also help teachers to identify a specific area of development related to SEN, to clarify this and seek appropriate information and support.
Emerging themes in CPD for SEN
Creating and sustaining a positive vision and ethos of inclusion for all, including those with SEN and disabilities
Provision of effective, relevant, strategic and sustained professional learning and development for all staff working with children with SEN and disabilities
Building the capacity and capability to offer a flexible, innovative and creative curriculum and pedagogy in response to specific identified needs of all children and young people.
Find out more about the GTC’s work on CPD and SEN and the Making SENse resource file. The GTC welcomes further examples of practice and comments on the resource.