A dropout rate of one in three teachers in schools throughout the UK is expected within the next five years, according to a survey by the National Education Union. This worrying trend has also been witnessed across the SEN sector too, with a growing shortage of teachers specialising in children with mental and physical disabilities.
The number of children with an EHC plan has risen by 10% to 325,600 in 2021. This increasing upward trend of children requiring SEN support has meant that further resources and strategies have needed to be put into place to accommodate those pupils assessed to have mental or physical learning difficulties.
Local authorities are obliged to educate SEND children in mainstream schools wherever possible, but for many, specialist schools which cater for specific challenges are the only route to allowing the child to holistically thrive.
The pressure of the previous ‘expected progress measure,’ however, has been removed from performance tables and instead, progress is now measured by class teachers and reviewed at the end of each term.
The qualities which make an outstanding and inspirational SEN teacher include an in-depth knowledge of children who present with educational and behavioural challenges. The ability to communicate clearly is vital, as is the implementation of structure, rules and boundaries. There will be a range of difficulties an SEN teacher will encounter which will include social, sensory, emotional and physical as well as mental health needs. Therefore, adaptability and empathy are important qualities to make interaction with these students possible and enjoyable for both sides.
According to Resilienteducator.com there are 6 management strategies which have been developed by SEN professionals for teaching special education classes. These include:
- The formation of small groups of two or three children assembled according to skill levels. This removes the pressure to compete with more able students and allows everyone to work at their own pace.
- Blending basic subject matters with specialised instruction: this strategy involves teaching general concepts to the whole group before adding individual instruction according to each student’s proficiency.
- Create classroom centres: each centre would be self-contained and assisted by volunteers or parents and specialise in specific skill levels. The teacher would rotate through the centres to ensure standards are maintained.
- The rotation of lessons: while lessons are rotated within different groups, the teacher would introduce new learning material to one group while keeping an eye on the others as they work through their activities.
- Thematic instruction: A single interesting and relevant theme is threaded throughout multiple subjects, demonstrating its relevance to the world in general.
- Provision of different levels of learning materials: each classroom will contain students with a variety of proficiency levels and ensuring all levels of learning materials are accessible to all students will mean every child will be able to choose the textbooks with which they feel comfortable on that day.
Allowing classrooms to be flexible enough to cater to the individual learning capabilities of students will encourage confidence to grow in an environment which feels secure and nurturing. Most children with special educational needs thrive on structure and familiarity in their daily routine. Expert SEN teachers who are able to provide this, ensure the classroom becomes a haven of peace and progress.
‘The Beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.’