About Me

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I have been working to support disabled people to live as independently as possible and realising their individual potentials for over 20 years. I am qualified in Health and Social Care Management and Ethics and Social Welfare. All blog entries are my responses to issues I see affecting those I support and indeed myself as I joined the disabled community after surviving a stroke.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My Response To Ofsted Report on Special Educational Needs

Firstly I must apologise to my regular readers (if I have any), for my lack of blog last week. I was a bit poorly sick and couldn't raise myself to a level of energy to tap my keyboard. In lieu of that I am blogging on a Tuesday this week rather than Thursday because of the news that has come through today that Ofsted are reporting too many children are being tagged 'special educational needs' and that children are falling behind due to poor quality teachers. This ties in with the recent opening of a specialist college in Wales comprising solely of autistic students. I had the pleasure of being involved in the opening and early organisation of a similar college in Swindon some 5 years ago, and was amazed to find how many of these young people had fallen through the net and not had the relevant support from their schools until they were towards the end of their compulsory education, and only then after parents have endured long hard battles with the authorities to acquire support for their child.

Ofsted have claimed that 25% (1.7m) of children in England would not be labelled 'special educational needs' if teachers focussed on teaching all the children. Christine Gilbert, Ofsted Chief Inspector stated 'Although we saw some excellent support for children with special educational needs and a huge investment of resources, there needs to be a shift in direction'.

I agree with Christine Gilbert there does need to be a shift in direction but perhaps not in the way she believes. The shift in direction should not come from reducing the support provided to children who require supported teaching (and I use this term because I personally hate the term 'special needs', because every child has their own individual special needs whether they are disabled or not. The shift should be from rating children based solely on academic results and looking at the bigger picture, the child's emotional development, social intelligence (what used to be called common sense in my youth and many other factors that make up a child's development. We are not all academic geniuses (and to prove it I had to look up the plural of a genius) and we shouldn't be tagged as 'special educational needs' or given any other label on that basis. The emphasis should be on providing our children with an education, not just teaching them how to pass tests and exams

I cringed this morning when I heard the news headline because although I agree there should be changes, I fear the wrong tree is being barked up. The report will sit particularly uncomfortably with the parents of children with conditions like Asperger's Syndrome who are still battling to get the relevant support for their child, but instead of looking at that, Ofsted are looking at the other end of the scale.

Looking positively, removing children who have been labelled 'special educational needs' will unclog the system, but based on past experiences, I do not believe it will be done without casualties and children in genuine need not receiving the supported teaching they require, but I solidly believe that my own recommendation of giving children a more holistic education and not just based on test and exam results would see a dramatic reduction of 'special education needs' referrals rather than reducing the list via more testing.

It is only 7 years ago that we were told Every Child Matters, from that the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign formed in 2006. Let us not forget that every child disabled or non-disabled, academic or vocational, boy or girl does indeed matter, and not just for statistics, tests and qualifications.

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