Last week OFSTED made headlines when it’s review of Special Educational Needs and Disability suggested that children just needed better teachers rather than specific support. There was an immediate backlash against the headlines caused by this review including the General Secretary of the National Teachers Union saying “Teachers do a great job in often very difficult circumstances to meet the needs of all their pupils, and for Ofsted to suggest otherwise is both insulting and wrong.”
Following the story in the press, you might have assumed the review only covered school age children, however it also addressed some issues regarding special educational needs and disability in colleges. Although these comments were not as critical as the headlines suggest, they do highlight opportunities for improvement and development.
The observations/recommendations include;
- Access to additional services should not always depend on a formal process of assessment or medical diagnosis.
- In the colleges visited, the young people who received additional learning support achieved as well as other students on the same courses. However, the colleges did not routinely keep data to show how far these students had become more independent as learners.
- Many of the disabled students that inspectors spoke to who wanted to progress to higher education at the age of 18 said they had difficulties in the transition period and were uncertain whether the support they would require in order to be successful would be available. Arrangements to support their transition and to obtain the disabled students’ allowance (DSA) were variable.
- A great deal of work still needed to be done to ensure that, at Year 11, all young people had real choices. For many of those with complex learning difficulties and/or disabilities at the age of 16 and over, the choices of courses and other opportunities were very limited.
- Where transition to adult services post 18 was most effective, schools and colleges were preparing students well for independence with practical courses relating to everyday life and an emphasis on strengthening their functional literacy and numeracy skills.
- Learning was better when the children and young people were given a say in deciding the support they needed at any particular time, often including identifying times when they would like to be left alone.
- The many restrictions on young people with special educational needs mean that schools and colleges are an important provider of informal social opportunities…. For example, in one case study, a student with physical care needs could text his assistant when required and did not need her to be in constant attendance. This enabled him to have social time with his peers, free from an adult presence. Some providers set up email messaging systems for students. When these were particularly successful, they led to increased opportunities for young people to meet up outside school or college.