SEND Support in Mainstream Schools

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

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Mainstream Education.

There have been financial cuts to schools, which could have an enormous impact on the education of children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). Thus, in this blog post, I want to focus on SEND education in mainstream schools and EHCPs.

In addition, The National Statistics for Special Educational Needs in England: January 2020 states that: “the most common type of need for pupils with an EHCP is autism spectrum disorders”.

Mainstream Education.

As a mother of an autistic child, with an EHC Plan, (and from previous experience working as a 1:1 Learning Support Assistant within a mainstream school); I believe that attending a mainstream school can be an overwhelming process for autistic kids, with many learning opportunities missed.

Although it can be difficult, everyone has a right to fulfil their true potential in life, no matter what their school choice is.

Main Challenges.

I believe that the main challenges that schools face within mainstream education (in my opinion), to provide inclusive education are:

  • Lack of funds.
  • Teacher shortage.
  • Inconsistency in training.
  • Not utilizing resources effectively.

Lack of funds.

In my opinion, the lack of funds makes it difficult for schools to invest in teachers, and adequate resources to meet the needs of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Equality Act and Education Act.

We are seeing more news articles highlighting schools excluding autistic children. Furthermore, it is unlawful to exclude children who have additional needs without making reasonable adjustments. (it must be in the best welfare of the pupil, Equality Act 2010, Chapter 4).

Teacher shortage.

I feel that teachers are undervalued, overworked, and underpaid. With endless amounts of workload, it is no wonder why we have an issue with recruiting teachers. Therefore, it is my opinion that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in the UK.

Recruitment Agencies.

We are seeing more schools investing in recruitment agencies to temporarily cover their staff to child ratio, (legal requirement). In other words, this can sometimes mean that the person’s investment in the school could differ, as they are only there on a temporarily placement. (my opinion).

SENDCOs.

The SEND Code of Practice ensures that every school has a SENDCO, who represents children who have special educational needs and disabilities. In addition, ensuring that all special needs provisions met in schools.

There are SENDCOs, who are taking on two job roles appose to solely being a SENDCO. The SENDCOs stretched to their limits. Therefore, how can we ensure that autistic children have a fair opportunity to thrive in mainstream schools?

Inconsistency in Training.

Training Modules.

To start a job in a school you have endless amounts of paperwork to fill in, and training modules to complete. Therefore, I feel like the training is rushed. (from my experience as a Learning Support Assistant). Furthermore, there is an eagerness to get you in to start and work. Thus, sometimes the knowledge from training not retained.

Lack of Understanding.

I feel that there can be a lack of understanding of autistic pupils in some mainstream school environments, and a lack of support. Conversely, there are also brilliant teachers too who do understand the needs of autistic children.

Specialist Teacher.

At least one specialist teacher per school should be employed within mainstream education. In addition, a specialist teacher, employed to work in mainstream school, ensuring the continuous implementation of training, and assist with incorporating sensory integration and specific learning.

The specialist teacher could educate others about sensory sensitivity with focus on vestibular and proprioceptive input . Lastly, a specialist teacher could make recommendations for reasonable adjustments to help autistic children.

Resources.

Firstly, a valuable resource that must not be overlooked are parents. Yes! You are experts and have a unique insight into your child. In other words, parents are partners with teachers, and should be encouraged to talk to teachers to share ideas.

Communication, Routine and Structure.

My son flourishes best with structure and routine. Although he, at times, struggles to understand other’s perspective. In addition, he attends mainstream school and does learning to help develop his understanding of social skills and emotions. Even teaching him inferences and metaphors requires a different teaching approach to conventional methods. Additionally, once taught in a style that suits his needs, he can understand the learning material.

Lastly, without strong communication between the parents and teachers, and working together, it is difficult to move things forward for the child.

Inbetweener.

I would class my son as an inbetweener, meaning he fits in between mainstream and special school. My son has this amazing ability to remember conversations word by word from years ago. So, I utilize his skills as a way to help facilitate how to teach him in a logical and relatable way to him.

From previous experience, I feel that the resources available in schools are not being utilized effectively. Furthermore, I believe this is a training issue from lack of understanding of how to use them for autistic pupils.

Early Intervention and Early Years.

Early intervention (and from early years) is fundamental to help support autistic children access education. In addition, I believe that some resources used in Early Years can be used throughout the school years. Examples are:

Pupil Passport.

A pupil passport allows every teacher who works with a child/young person to know their likes/dislikes/what helps them learn/what helps them relax. Here are two templates that I have made:

Visual timetables and Now and Next boards.

Here are two Now and Next templates that I have created:

Interactive and sequenced learning games.

I have created an interactive alphabet activity. (just to give you an idea) Furthermore, the interactive game is an example of kinaesthetic learning, which is more tactile style of receiving information.

Instructions:

  1. Print off the alphabet activity template.
  2. Next, laminate the sheets, and print the template off on card or paper.
  3. Cut out the letters.
  4. Apply Velcro onto the back of the letters and onto the grey boxes on the second sheet.
  5. Place the letters onto the grey squares, leaving a few empty squares.
  6. Now you can play fill in the missing alphabet sequence.
ABC interactive school activity
ABCs activity.

Finally, the alphabet letters can be mixed up to encourage the person playing to sequence the letters in the correct order.

Alphabet Activity Template.
Emotions Activities.
  • Emotions activities and traffic light systems are great resources too to use in mainstream education.
Fidget Toys.

Encouraging movement breaks and the use of fidget toys helps too within school. (mainstream education and special).

Conclusion.

There needs to be more willingness to understand autistic pupils (and individual style of learning) in mainstream schools and training. Additionally, more money needs investing into resources and specialist teachers need to be employed to help promote continuous training. (ensuring that the resources are being used effectively). After that, this will contribute in helping autistic children accessing the curriculum. Lastly, giving them a chance to thrive in mainstream school in a more flexible way, which promotes choice and individuality.

Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and based on personal opinion. Always seek professional advice and support from legal, social, health and educational providers.