The role of the Specialist Teacher – a

worthwhile expense? In the first of our regular looks this month at the many sides of SEND, Education Today is delighted to welcome to the magazine independent Specialist Teacher and Assessor JOANNE GLADDERS, who looks at the role of Specialist Teachers.

The role of the Specialist Teacher came to the fore as a result of the review undertaken by Sir Jim Rose in 2009. In “Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties,” Rose recommended that teachers had additional training to take on this role and work across a number of schools within an area. A Specialist Teacher is one who has specific knowledge and

advanced skills of teaching and learning and behavioural issues that can arise from additional learning needs or disabilities. The original intention of Rose was to have Specialist Teachers

working across clusters of schools, sharing expertise and providing support for children with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. Nine years on, is this the reality? I trained as a Specialist Teacher and gain my AMBDA (Associate

Member of the British Dyslexia Association) status following completion of my Post Graduate studies in Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia). Initially I used my knowledge and skills in the school I was teaching in within a Resourced Provision for children with specific speech and language difficulties. I subsequently became an Independent Specialist Teacher and Assessor for children with learning difficulties, in particular dyslexia. My role as an Independent Specialist is incredibly varied,

challenging and rewarding. I assess for learning difficulties, teach 1:1 and small groups, complete disabled student allowance reports and test for access arrangements. I work right across the age ranges. From my experience as an Independent Specialist, practice varies

from school to school. The majority of my Specialist Teaching is in secondary schools, with young people who clearly need specialist intervention. The change in the curriculum demands from primary to secondary provision is huge and many young people cannot achieve due to their poor literacy skills and more importantly and worryingly, have a poor self-image and self-esteem as a result of this. Many, possibly, choose to go down the poor behavioural route as a mechanism to detract from their literacy skills. In this climate of budget cuts, especially for small schools and

primary schools in particular, is this level of support feasible? Something has to give and maybe the money just isn’t there to pay for specialist assessment or support unless absolutely critical. Where the role of Specialist Teacher complements and works with

a school, I have seen pupils make progress in developing their skills. For example, a Year 11 pupil has just sat his GCSE English, which prior to my involvement would not necessarily have happened. At primary level, working closely with a school, assessing a pupil’s needs, putting in place targeted intervention based on need and providing specialist intervention over and above current intervention in school has also made a difference to pupil outcomes. A Specialist Teacher can also provide training and work alongside staff to develop their knowledge and expertise, which in turn will enhance the teaching and learning of all pupils. Specialist Teacher – a worthwhile expense? Consider the future

for a pupil with a specific learning difficulty or need who can’t access the specialist support they need. Now consider it with. Which would you choose?

June 2018 Standing up to

disablist bullying In her regular column on all things SEND, Assistant Headteacher and former SENCO KATE SARGINSON this month calls on schools to put an end to disablist bullying.

There is a significantly increased risk of being bullied if you have SEND. Children and young people with disabilities are reported to be twice as likely to be bullied as people without. What can schools do to address this? Under the Equality Act (2010), schools have a responsibility to

ensure that children can learn in an environment free from prejudice. Children are members of a society where derogatory language is commonly used and reflects prevailing disablist views. Schools have an opportunity to promote inclusive messages through their ethos, curriculum and personal example. Themes spoken about in assembly, topics covered in PHSE, the use of intentionally positive language by staff who recognise their position as role models in how they treat others. These on-going measures can all contribute to the success of inclusion and therefore reduce the existence of poor attitudes towards difference which fuel disablist bullying behaviour. As well as upholding inclusive values, staff need to have a clear

understanding of what constitutes disablist bullying, and its additional considerations. Knowledge of children with SEND is crucial, as signs of bullying can be missed or misinterpreted. Changes in mood or behaviour might be attributed to the condition or disability itself, and therefore overlooked. For children who experience communication difficulties their ability to report incidents of bullying and give a clear account of events can be impaired. Bullying is not something that children should have to learn to live with, and sadly, many pupils with SEND change schools as a result of their claims about bullying being ignored by teachers. Anti-bullying policies should recognise the potential difficulties with recognition and reporting that children with SEND might experience. It is naïve to think that bullying does not exist even in the

friendliest of schools. The topic should not be shied away from. Rather, it provides a learning opportunity, where children with SEND can be taught about bullying awareness so they know what is wrong, and be supported to find the confidence to challenge behaviour directed towards them that they are unhappy with. Disablist bullying can also go undetected if the victim is unable to understand, recognise and correctly label what is happening to them as such and additional support may be required in this area. Social skills can be an area of difficultly for children with SEND.

Again, schools have a responsibility to support pupils with SEND to develop and sustain positive relationships, as well as having sensitivity and awareness of pupil preferences is needed. By actively adopting the social model of disability (the view that

disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment), the culture in schools can be one where children embrace and value difference. In order to protect the more vulnerable, SEND should be referred to explicitly in school’s anti-bullying policies, and not assume that all children are protected equally as there are additional considerations that specifically apply to disablist bullying. All approaches to reducing and eradicating disablist bullying need to target the core issues of discrimination and prejudice, as well as focus on the effects. 19

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