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- Alison Carr
Children with Disabilities or Specific Requirements
Today, mainstream schools educate numerous children with specific educational needs or disabilities. For some time it has been enshrined in our domestic law that children with such needs should not be discriminated against and have the right to be treated fairly. Every child has the right to an inclusive education.
The Legal and Regulatory Requirements
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to all children and sets out basic entitlements and rights for example;
Article 12 – the views of the child should be taken into account. Along with The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, the Conventions also set out specific rights for disabled children underscoring promoting equality of treatment and more specifically, Article 24- Education requires that children with disabilities are entitled to be educated within an inclusive educational system, receive support accommodating individual requirements to facilitate an effective education and so to maximise academic and social development.
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Article 7 specifies that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration and Article 9 requires that children with disabilities have equal access, without barriers, within a school to the physical environment including communication, information and technology.
The various rights and entitlements under these conventions underpin our domestic legislation in the areas of special educational needs. The most recent legislation is the Children and Family Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) which places schools under a duty to make arrangements for supporting children with medical conditions and in meeting this duty schools must have regard to the statutory guidance – Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions. Further to this there is additional provision in relation to children with a disability defined under The Equality Act 2010 ”…a physical and mental impairment that has a substantial long term and negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”. The relevant part of this Act is that schools must have reasonable adjustments in place to prevent children with disabilities being treated differently or at a disadvantage to other children. Further children with disabilities must not be victimised, harassed or discriminated against.
The 2014 Act also introduces Education, Health and Care Plans. These plans have come into place in September 2014 and will make a statutory assessment of that child’s special educational needs then also communicating with the relevant health and social care teams to bring all the information together into one plan. The difference between a statement and an Education, Health and Care plan are overall family centred, gathering information from all services involved at the point of referral. The aim is to help improve outcomes and this will replace Statements of Special Educational Needs. Children who currently already have a statement will go through the transition process to achieve an Education, Health and Care Plan.
It is our duty to children with disabilities and special educational needs who are placed in a mainstream educational setting to fulfil a positive developing experience in an inclusive practice.
Where the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (June 2014) focuses on inclusive practice, it states that the government in the United Kingdom have a commitment to inclusive education of disabled children and young people, progressively removing barriers to learning and the participation of pupils in mainstream education. For settings to succeed in achieving this, adults will need to work together closely as a team to ensure appropriate education and care for such children.
It is important for children with a disability or special educational needs that they are given the same expectations to succeed as their peers. This will promote and develop social skills to enable positive confidence and transition into adulthood. Therefore leaders of educational settings must undertake the correct training and collaborate the right support aiming towards successfully including all children with disabilities and special educational needs in mainstream schools.
Settings will need to take into account extra-curricular activities, school visits and trips.
‘It is through this inclusive ethos that all children feel secure and able to contribute and in this way stereotypical views are challenged and pupils can learn to view differences in others in a positive way.’ OFSTED Report 2003
Partnership with Parents and Other Professionals.
The Children’s Act 2014 aims to ensure the welfare of the child is paramount having a greater emphasis on parental involvement.
Subsequently the Children’s Act 2014 states each local authority is responsible in setting out a ‘local offer’ available to Early Years settings and schools for families to access easy-to-understand information with options available to help support children who are disabled or have special educational needs and their families who need additional help. This provision will include transport services and leisure facilities. If parents or carers cannot access the internet for any reason this must be available in another format. Inevitably the goal is to ask the child and their family what assistance they feel that they need and receive feedback on their ‘local offer’ so this can then improve even further.
Within the ‘local offer’ parents and children will receive a greater choice and control over their support in their provisions and home life, this includes personal budgets.
Parent forums set up in local areas are a great way for discussing contacts and communicating with other parents who may be in similar situations.
Early Years professionals, Teachers along with the provisions Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator and in some cases any other professionals involved must take part in structured conversations with each child and their parents. Individual Pupil Profiles and Individual Educational Plans must be signed by all parties with participation and involvement in all areas of the profiles and plans.
Parents can play a great if not essential role at all stages of their child’s education helping immensely in improving achievement. Parents can aid a learning community and help by positively engaging their child with staff and peers. Parents will then begin to understand the role they play in their child’s learning and development. There will undoubtedly be hurdles but with an excellent inclusive practice with a strong professional team in place, barriers will be resolved. These hurdles from parents contributing to and who are which supporting their child’s education may consist of a high level of educational aspirations for their child in which case settings need to ensure practical obstacles and professional attitudes are addressed alongside measures to support parents goals.
Every local authority must guarantee that everyone is involved in discussions and any decisions which support provision and learning for the individual child.
The ultimate result in an inclusive practice is for a best and positive outcome, making sure the child’s and family’s needs are met and for the child to prepare for adulthood.
Every existing educational practice should have a designated teacher holding the role of Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENco). This teacher should be trained in this area to be able to manage and support specific children and the staff team.
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It is vital that all teachers throughout the school and support staff have valuable training in all special educational needs areas. This training should be of a high quality and where necessary staff may have personalised training for each individual child to be able to achieve the best positive outcome for that child with their specific needs.
Each practice should be concentrating on four areas of development:
- Communication and interaction
- Cognition and learning
- Social, Emotional and mental health difficulties
- Sensory and/or Physical
These areas should then transfer into regular assessments for each individual child.
‘Once a potential special educational need is identified, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special education provision in place. This SEN support should take the form of a four part cycle- assess, plan, do, review. This is known as the graduated approach’ SEND Code of Practice 2014 0-25yrs Chapter 6- Schools.
All teachers educating a child with a disability or a special educational need should have termly meetings with the parents and the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator to discuss their child’s individual educational plan making sure positive targets are being met for the child. Also a meeting with the child present at certain points throughout their academic year to discuss their Pupil Profile to make sure everything is up to date and that the child is happy in their learning.
Ofsted will need to see evidence of individual pupil progress in every school from children with special educational needs. Clearly showing positive outcomes graduating into ongoing effective monitoring and finally evaluation of their special educational needs support.
When adapting an educational practice for a visually impaired child considering the surrounding environment for that child will be main priority. Around the classroom setting staff need to consider lighting, colour/tone and contrast. When the individual child moves between rooms will a dark room going into a light room or light room going into dark room affect the child? Will signage around the room need to be adapted?
Risk assessments will need to be carried out underlining the physical environment for example stairs, steps, fixtures and fittings.
Most educational settings now have interactive white boards. Seating positions for individual children will need to be taken into account.
In relation to adapting the setting, the position of the teacher’s chair is very important this should not be in front of an outside window as this will cause the teacher to become shadow like for the child. When the child is navigating around the environment edges need to be highlighted and activity areas need to be well defined. Movement around the setting needs to flow clearly and effectively.
Staff need to be aware of how adapting the environment will affect other children. Personal, social and educational development issues can be shared during circle times with every child included in the setting.
Learning tools such as braille books, Load 2 Learn reading books and treasure chests which focus on sensory learning will help support and encourage positive fun education.
Some visually impaired children may suffer with behavioural issues, this may need extra staff support and training and will need to be regularly monitored.
Other reservations in an educational setting to consider will be the child’s personal care, school assemblies, school trips, physical education lessons including sports day and hand over times both in the morning and after school pick up time.
With all special educational needs children there needs to be a contingency plan in place, in regards to a visually impaired child for example this may involve their glasses getting accidentally broken.
When staff are assessing each individual child’s progress they need to ensure the child has the correct resources for their target level making sure activities are not too easy or too challenging which may result in a barrier towards that child’s learning or participation.
In conclusion to this, inclusion is essential for each and every child under the special educational needs umbrella and we must adopted this ethos by working closely with parents to help support their child’s education and collaborating with all other professionals involved. Working together and having a flexible supportive team is the key to achieving an inclusive education for all children.
Unfortunately in some cases lack of knowledge and training from early year’s practitioners and teachers is one of the main barriers to inclusion. The special educational needs umbrella has helped professionals understand that training and support for children with disabilities and special educational needs is vital for every individual child’s positive progress and to reach their full potential in an inclusive mainstream school.
Finally underpinning the United Nations Convention Rights of the Child and the Children’s Act 2014 working with teaching strategies which are presently being used in mainstream schools can be adapted to assist pupils with disabilities and special educational needs therefore creating an inclusive practice throughout the school.
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