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The Origins of Show Me #1 - Special School's Perspective

By Michael Scammell

Education of special needs children is itself a relative infant. The recognition and formalisation of specific requirements for children with special educational needs – an identification of specific special need or, in the more severe cases, a statement of educational, health and care needs – was introduced in England in the late 1970s. Before then, children demonstrating behaviour outside of what was deemed 'normal' were often categorised as ineducable and left outside the school system; either at home or, in more severe circumstances, in mental health institutions. SEN (Special Educational Needs) entered the legal framework of education in the Education Act of 1993 which set out guidelines for identifying and assessing pupils with special needs. SEN was formalised in the 1996 Act. It has since been refined and importantly developed in the 2010 Equality Act to ensure appropriate educational provision for SEND children.


As of the beginning of 2019, more than 1.3 million children have special educational needs. Nearly 15% of all school pupils. Of these, over 1 million children have an identified special need. Nearly 300,000 have a statement of educational, health and care needs, indicating a distinct and pressing requirement for specialist care. These children represent over 3% of all school pupils. Their group increased by over 17 thousand in the year to January 2019.


The emphasis in education of children with special needs and learning difficulties is not on learning dates of historical events, on learning a foreign language, or on attaining particular GCSE grades. Rather, it is on learning how to live, how to be, in a world that can seem frequently confusing, confronting, overwhelming, and frightening.


Timetables in special needs education are not based on bells and regimentation. They are flexible, necessarily malleable, and based on managing transition of children from their arrival at school, then from one activity to the next, and then to their departure. This can be an unpredictable procedure from day to day.


Specialist schools for these children have existed for only a few decades. The teaching, care, and administrative professionals who staff them demonstrate extraordinary dedication, patience, skill, compassion, and commitment to providing and delivering an appropriate and relevant curriculum. But time is extremely pressured, in view of the often chaotic nature of the school day, and limited for them to monitor and compare in detail children’s behaviours over an extended period of time, to collate and analyse data relating to the tools they use to educate the children, and so to provide accurate guidance on what educational tools work for any given child.


And this same puzzle, to know what works, also tasks the parents and carers of these children. To be continued...

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