Last month, the Commons Education Committee released its review of the special education needs (SEND) system in the UK. The review concluded that the reforms to support children and young people introduced in the 2014 act were the right ones, but poor implementation has left local authorities, schools and families struggling to work with a system that is contributing to poor educational and social outcomes for some students. One of the issues highlighted was a lack of guidance and training for teachers and schools across the country struggling to provide adequate educational services to SEND students.
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While the review paints a particularly difficult picture for education professionals, the recently announced £780m increase to local authorities’ high-needs funding from government provides fiscal support to help address these challenges. So how should schools invest this funding in ways that help to boost inclusion and improve learning outcomes for SEND students in the classroom?
Investing in pupils first
With almost 15% of all students in the UK having special education needs, schools are under increasing pressure to invest in solutions that can deliver. While it can be tempting to introduce new gadgets and technologies, it can be hard to know how best to create a level playing field and equality of access for SEND students.
The reality is that there is no single technology solution that can address the needs of SEND students. What’s needed is a blended approach of providing administrative and management solutions which can help teachers spend more time in the classroom, and classroom technologies which can help SEND pupils experience equal access to the curriculum.
With almost 15% of all students in the UK having special education needs, schools are under increasing pressure to invest in solutions that can deliver.
The school’s management information system (MIS) can play an important role in supporting SEND students. It provides teachers with a single point of information about SEND student requirements, as well as helping to spot behaviour patterns and identify where students might need extra support. This is particularly relevant where peripatetic support services are being used and multiple individuals are involved in supporting and monitoring SEND students’ progress. The MIS should ideally also help streamline and simplify administrative activities – which combined with better management information should reduce the amount of time teachers spend inputting and analysing data, and increase the amount of time they can spend focused on what happens in the classroom.
When it comes to providing equal access to the curriculum for students, it’s important to employ solutions and technologies that are flexible and can adapt to different needs. For example, by incorporating visual elements in a presentation to promote engagement for students with ADHD or ensuring that digital information is available via text-to-speech software for visually impaired students. It can also be useful to look at some basic components of IT infrastructure.
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Training teachers to use technology
While some technology investment is without a doubt of real benefit to SEND students by helping create an inclusive classroom environment, simply buying new equipment alone is not necessarily helpful. Investment is crucially needed to make sure teachers are supported and trained to not only understand SEND needs, but to ensure they can use technology effectively. Investing in technology to support SEND students requires the same planning and forethought as any other investment in technology – and without a clarity of vision and purpose and understanding the specific outcomes they want to achieve schools may struggle to implement meaningful change.