Potential Energy (Part 6)

With apologies, first of all, for the gap in returning to the ASL Review, let us turn to Theme 5: workforce development and support. It is an obvious point that the success or otherwise of any child’s education is going to rely on the staff (teaching and non-teaching) involved in that education.

The review begins with a recognition that where things are working well for children with additional support needs that is primarily down to committed and determined individual staff members who make things work, in spite of the system (as opposed to because of it). That is quite a depressing thought, but also give some cause for optimism. Think how much better things could be once / if the other recommendations from the report are implemented.

The second point made is that, as pupils with additional support needs now account for over 30% of the school population, this cannot be regarded as a minority interest any more. Additional support for learning is not (just) for specialists: “The whole system must have the capacity and the will to be fully inclusive.”

However, the review also noted “the deeply uncomfortable fact” that not all professionals are “signed up to the principles of inclusion and the presumption of mainstreaming”. Unfortunately, that will be something which many reading this are all too familiar with.

From the teacher’s point of view, the review notes that there is “minimal requirement for focus on Additional Support for Learning as part of Initial Teacher Education (ITE)” leaving new teachers feeling “ill prepared in terms of knowledge, understanding and practice skills.”

A common thread in the evidence was that the very best teachers were the ones with “inclusive personal and professional values”, who built trusting relationships and had good communication with pupils and families. However, both in initial teacher education, and in ongoing development “these personal aptitudes are overlooked and assumed.”

The review goes on to consider the role of Pupil Support Assistants (PSA), noting at the outset that “they don’t feel recognised or respected within the system”. It highlights the need to clarify the role of the PSA, their remit and the division of responsibility with teachers.

The review notes recent funding announcements (£15 million for PSAs) while also highlighting research (Sharples, Webster & Blatchford, 2018) which is – at best – mixed on the efficacy of Teaching Assistants in England & Wales. And makes specific reference to considering the role for “one to one time” and “individual support”. It notes that PSAs may in some cases have the most contact and experience of a child in their educational setting, yet are rarely asked to contribute to planning for that child.

Recommendations

  • Teachers should have professional values of inclusion, and see this as a core part of their role.
  • Teachers should understand additional support needs, their role in identifying such needs and how to adapt their teaching accordingly for all learners.
  • Teacher education and development should include support learners with additional support needs as a core element.
  • Teacher education should include communication, relationship building and positive mediation skills.
  • A first teaching qualification in additional support needs should be made available.
  • New teacher career pathways should have a specific strand for additional support for learning.
  • New approaches to practice learning should include the participation of (and delivery by) children, young people, parents and carers.
  • The Classroom Support Staff Working Group must undertake a review of the role and remit of Pupil Support Assistants. This should include clear specification of how classroom teacher and pupil support assistant roles interact and complement each other. It must also consider standards of practice, learning pathways, career progression routes and remuneration.

Next up, Theme 6: Relationships between Schools and Parents and Carers.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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