Children Who Experience Learning Or Behavioural Difficulties

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Robin Hood Primary school is located to the western edge of Nottingham. It has approximately 370 full time pupils and a 60 place nursery. The local area is characterised as having a high level of social deprivation. The composition of the school is as follows:

70% of the children are white British;

8.8% white other;

6.3% white and black Caribbean;

4.1% black Caribbean;

2.2% other black African

1.6% black and any other group.

The above figures show that few children come from ethnic minority backgrounds. The proportion of the children who have EAL is 5%. There are approximately 5 different languages recorded in the school, predominately Eastern European. If we compare this figure to the NALDIC statistics for 2010, approximately 16% of children have EAL in maintained primary schools (see appendix 1). Even though there is a marked difference between both figures, there is an indication that the school is growing in cultural diversity.

The EMAG team at Robin Hood Primary was disbanded a couple of years ago. Despite the absence of EMAG funding, there are support arrangements available for EAL children. This is to ensure that they are not at risk of under-achieving and can access the curriculum effectively. For example, the SENCO is available to offer support and guidance to the teaching staff. This may involve advising a plan of action, if there are concerns that there are barriers to learning. One of the key provisions the school has in place for EAL children (and for those with certain learning difficulties) is their 'Narrative Group'. They attend this session for 1 hour every week and work with a member of the support staff. Activities include: reading stories, singing, encouraging talking and creating scrapbooks. This Narrative Group is an influential tool in developing their language skills. This is because it promotes a safe environment where children can feel at ease in the speaking and listening activities. This reinforces the DfES documentation (2003) 'Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Minority Ethnic Pupils'. It notes that school environments which promote speaking and listening opportunities for EAL children results in their language skills developing effectively.

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It should be noted that the majority of support arrangements can be reflected in the classroom practices, which I have observed. For example in my base class there is an EAL child who speaks very little English. The teacher uses: visuals, sign-language, differentiated activities and encouragement of speaking and listening discussions to facilitate progress. These are all good examples of how I can apply this to my own practice and ensure that I adopt an inclusive approach for these diverse needs (Q18.Q19).

What support arrangements are made for children who experience learning or behavioural difficulties? Does this vary from classroom to classroom? Why?

The behaviour at Robin Hood Primary is generally very good. It has an effective whole-school Behavioural Policy in place to promote positive behaviour; which enables the teaching and learning environment to be safe and sound for staff and children. The school's ethos is to encourage positive behaviour as they recognise that some children come from unsettled backgrounds; therefore want to ensure children develop high self-esteem. In addition, it is considered by focussing on the positive behaviours and rewarding this, high expectations can be maintained. They have a variety of incentives for all children including:

Verbal and non-verbal praise: to reinforce positive behaviour;

Happygrams: these are awarded for a variety of reasons such as behaviour effort, progress and achievement.

Golden Happygrams: these are awarded to children by the Head Teacher who have behaved or worked outstandingly.

Golden Arrows: These are presented in their Friday's achievement assembly for those children who have displayed good behaviour or work.

Rainbow Reward Cards: Children get issued 'reward points' to reinforce their positive behaviour or contributions in class. There are different coloured cards the children must complete. After they complete the final violet card they are entered in a prize draw for a large prize at the end of the year.

There are also sanctions in place for those children who elicit unacceptable behaviours. Minor cases are dealt by the class teacher or in an extreme instance dealt by the Head Teacher or a member of the Senior Management Team. A meeting with the child's parent or carer may also occur as mechanism to resolve any underlying behavioural problems. The school recognises the importance of working with parents or carers to enhance the well-being and educational potential of the child.

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Children with additional behavioural needs who do not comply with the Behavioural Policy may be placed on the school's SEN register. However, there are two Learning Mentors who have a key role in supporting children with behavioural or learning difficulties. They work with children to address any issues to overcome barriers to learning. They also work with teachers to formulate a plan of action to mitigate behavioural problems. The strategies employed by the Learning Mentors include; talking to the child, allowing them 'time-out', or engaging in a therapeutic task such as making a scrapbook. Where possible, they discuss issues with their parents and help resolve any underlying issues. The flexibility of the Learning Mentors enables them to deal with difficulties that arise throughout the school day. As a result, many issues can be nipped in the bud effectively.

There is also a lunch time Rainbow club, which is usually run by the Learning Mentor. This is to help children who experience social difficulties, although can facilitate those with behavioural difficulties too. This club is not optional and has a high success rate with building children's self-esteem and socialising skills. The activities the children engage in are; craft activities, games and role-play exercises.

Above all, the school has a robust Behavioural Policy to overcome barriers to learning and enable all children to reach their potential. From my observations and experience within the school it has made me realise how significant these mentors are in securing the well-being of the children and facilitate learning (Q5).

Some children have a 'statement', produced by the LEA in order to specify provision for meeting individual needs. Are there children in your school with a 'statement' who have particular support arrangements? What are they?

There are currently no children who have 'statement' within the school. After meeting with the SENCO, statements are less common in the City of Nottingham compared to other Local Authorities. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCFS) 2009 data showed that 567 Nottingham pupils had statements, which is significantly lower compared to other Counties.

A child with a 'statement' does not always guarantee sufficient funding to meet their inclusion needs. Therefore the school accesses the Mainstream Support Group (MSG) for funding, which is perceived to have many advantages in benefiting the child. The school accesses this funding, if the child's needs cannot be met within the resources of the school. This level of support is classed as 'School Action Plus'. MSG is a funding system for apportioning resources to children with significant SEN; this does not require a formal assessment or a statmenting process. The school uses the received funding to tailor provisions such by allocating one to one support. In relation to this, the SENCO also supports and advises the development of Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Targets are set within the plan and an outline of the support they will acquire. It should be noted that IEP are also formulated for SEN children who receive a 'School Action' level of support. This is where their needs can be met within the resources of the school; by individual education planning and differentiation. Progress is closely monitored and reviewed in both situations. If there is little evidence of progression, the SENCO seeks advice from various support services. The school is dedicated with involving parents at every step in the process so they are informed of developments and how they can support their child outside school. Their prime importance is to ensure that SEN children can access the curriculum effectively and progress in learning. The school's ethos of having high expectations for all children reinforces this notion.

Meeting with the SENCO has provided me a greater insight into this role and how working in partnership can enhance the progress and development of SEN children (Q6, Q20).

What does the learning support staff do in your school? Make notes on the learning support staff and their roles, responsibilities and how this impacts on pupils.

The Teaching Assistants (TA) within the school primarily have a level 2 qualification and work closely with the teacher. They support children either with a small group, individually or with particular individuals if MSG funding is allocated. Some of the tasks they undertake include: one-to-one reading, implementing the Behavioural Policy, looking after children who are upset as well as other general administration duties. There are a couple of TAs who are qualified to a level 3 status; as well as carrying out their core duties they sometimes cover PPA, if needed. This aligns with the TDA descriptions where they maybe required to manage a whole-class (within the teacher's planning) as part of their role. The TAs can have a profound impact on the children's development. This is because they have a huge involvement with the children's learning and well-being; therefore can contribute significantly to their overall development.

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There are currently four Foundation Stage TAs. They also work closely with the teachers working within the EYFS framework. They are responsible for supervising activities and informing parents about children's progress. As with Key Stage 1 and 2, they can also have a positive impact on the children; as they spend a huge portion of the day working with them. As a result, they can develop positive relationships with children so they can feel safe and secure.

As already mentioned above, other support staff include the Learning Mentors who work closely with children either on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. Their work primarily involves overcoming barriers to learning and supporting children with behavioural difficulties. Hence, they also have a significant impact on children as they are a source of trust and support in mitigating personal issues.

In terms of my practice, it will be important for me to work closely with the support staff as they have a huge involvement with children's learning and progression (Q5, Q6, Q30).

What external agencies, specialists or other professionals are involved with the school?

After meeting with the SENCO, I discovered that it can be difficult to involve agencies and professionals as they have to buy these services. Therefore they have to carefully consider who to involve ensuring that it benefits children and the school. The SENCO liaises with external agencies for advice and support where necessary. For example if it is believed that a child's needs cannot be met within the resources of the school, external advice would be sought from one of the support services such as the Educational Psychologist. Other services the school may liaise with include: the Local Authorities Children's Service, the Speech Therapy Service, the Education Welfare Service, the Inclusive Education Service, Behaviour Support Services, Social Care and the Mainstream Support Group. The school sometimes accesses the Multi Agency Locality team (MALT) who can provide guidance for the emotional health and well-being of children. They also have access to the school nurse and physiotherapist. These services are dependent on each school and their children's needs.

From discussions with the SENCO, it has made me aware of the external agencies that work with the school to enhance the development of children. In terms of practice, it will be important for me to consider the role of external agencies to promote the well-being of children (Q5, Q6, Q21b).

The importance of inclusion, including equal opportunities and recognising and responding to diverse needs, has become increasingly recognised in schools. Consider any good examples of inclusion that you have observed.

Robin Hood Primary has an Equal Opportunities Policy and a strong commitment to inclusion across the school. Fairness is at the heart of its policy and practice:

'…all pupils should have equal access to educational experiences regardless of their race, religion, gender, age, social/cultural background and ability'. (Robin Hood Primary School's Policy for Equal Opportunities)

This statement demonstrates the importance of inclusion within the school and how they want all children to strive for excellence and reach their potential. I have observed excellent examples of inclusion within the school. In each class, children are grouped according to ability for literacy and numeracy. This enables the teacher to differentiate activities so they can progress and effectively access the curriculum. However, in other subjects the children work in mixed ability groups, this enables the higher ability to support the lower ability peers.

Religious Education and cross-curricular themes is another route where diversity is celebrated; to gain an insight into other cultures. This is so children can develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to play a fulfilling part in our diverse society. The school also participates in 'International Day' where each class learns about a different country in terms of their practices. A cross-curricular approach is embedded within the theme days, which enables children to have a fun learning experience.

Other examples of good inclusion include the reward structure, in particular Golden Arrows. This is a mechanism of including all children in terms of the progress they make and celebrating this with the whole-school. Another notable example is the role of 'class-monitors'; each child within the class regardless of background partakes in the class responsibilities for the day such as distributing the books.

Overall, the school is highly committed to inclusion for all children; which is reinforced from the above examples. My observations have demonstrated that promoting an inclusive environment is important to create a positive learning impact for all children (Q18, Q19, Q25d).

From your reading of the school's policies, and your experience to date, note 1 or 2 crucial points of good practice in dealing with bullying and/or racial harassment. Consider any good examples of inclusion that you have witnessed and note your view of what positive impact this had.

Bullying and racial harassments are not tolerated within the school and is taken very seriously if any incidents occur. The school has a rigid policy and procedure in place to tackle such issues. Any reports of bullying or racial harassment including those reported by a parent are recorded in the 'Bullying or Racist Incident Reporting form'. These are noted even if investigations subsequently show that no bullying or racial harassment took place. This is because all schools have a statutory duty to not only record abuse but to investigate them too. Strategies for dealing with these incidents include discussing the issues with the bully or victim to see if the underlying issues can be resolved. If unsuccessful, the parents may be requested to attend a meeting with the Head Teacher to discuss a further course of action.

It should be noted that the school has an ethos whereby it is everyone's responsibility to prevent occurrences of bullying and manage any incidents efficiently and effectively. I have observed good inclusion practices within the school. This is to enable children to develop morals and values to work in an environment where all cultural, social and equality beliefs are tolerated. The school as a whole follows the SEAL programme to enable children to develop the qualities and skills that encourage positive behaviour and effective learning. I think this is an effective programme as the materials covered include: 'new beginnings', getting on and falling out', 'say no to bullying', going for goals', 'good to be me', 'relationships and changes' (Primary National Strategies online, 2010). I believe this an effective way of securing and sustaining an inclusive environment and more importantly for the children to become responsible citizens which is a central aim of the National Curriculum.

Schools have policies and procedures for dealing with suspected cases of child abuse. Class teachers often play a key role in detecting and reporting first signs of abuse, but they always speak to a senior member of staff, who then liaises with a number of linked authorities such as the social services and the police. Note your school's procedures for dealing with suspected cases of child abuse.

The school's safeguarding and Child Protection Policy reinforces how all staff have a duty of care and a statutory responsibility to report any concerns in relation to a child's welfare. This fits in with the ECM agenda to ensure that the outcomes are high for all children so they can reach their potential by growing up in a safe and secure environment. All staff have received safeguarding training, including myself; which is important so that the early signs of abuse or neglect are detected (Q21b).

In accordance with the school's procedure, staff must monitor children's progress and behaviour to ensure that they are not at risk from being maltreated or suffer from health or development impairments. If it is suspected that a child is suffering any form of neglect or abuse, such as changes in behaviour or attendance patterns this is recorded in the 'Incident/Concern Form'. The Designated Officer (Head Teacher) for safeguarding is also informed, who then takes the appropriate action. This may involve further monitoring or working with key agencies in taking further measures. It should also be noted that the Nottingham Safeguarding Children's Board would be responsible for any allegations made by the school. This reinforces the DCSF 'Working to Safeguard Children 2010' policy that safeguarding is a shared responsibility by adopting a multi-agency approach.

There are now official guidelines on restraint of pupils. How would you deal with a child who is being physically violent to you or another pupil?

The school has official guidelines if physical intervention is required between staff and pupils. The staff has to implement the L.A code of practice if a child; attacks another pupil, adult or is in danger of hurting themselves or another person(s) and property. Some staff, in particular TAs have received positive handling and de-escalation training. It is unusual for such an occasion to occur where a child needs to be restrained. However, in such circumstances, depending on the severity, the Learning Mentor would be summoned to separate the children. This may involve diffusing the incident by talking to the child and removing them from the scene. If it escalates and the health and safety of other children and staff are compromised the child is taken to the 'calming room' where they are in a safe environment to settle down. Obviously, there may be instances where the class teacher or myself would have to act in such situations. If this occurred, the practice would be to call for 2 members of staff to diffuse the situation ensuring that the class remains supervised. The incidents are then officially recorded in a log and the parents are called into school to discuss the situation and next steps. In the extreme circumstance the child would be sent home.

Health and safety matters are essential to a well managed school. How does your school ensure compliance with health and safety regulations?

Robin Hood Primary has a robust health and safety policy in place, which is a high priority. Their policy specifies the duties and responsibilities for all staff to comply with the regulations to maintain a healthy and safe working environment. Staff are also required under the Health and Safety Act (1974) to take sensible care for their own safety, and considering the safety of others.

The Head Teacher is responsible for the overall health and safety matters or potential issues arising within the school. These issues are communicated at staff meetings or briefings. In addition, staff are responsible for raising any concerns they may have too.

Risk assessments are another legal obligation that must be complied with if certain activities or external school visits are undertaken. This enables appropriate control measures to be put in place to mitigate any problems. In relation to educational visits, they follow Nottingham City Council's safety regulations by ensuring these visits are planned in advance and that there are the correct ratios of adults to children.

Health and Safety messages are also embedded within the curriculum, especially within practical activities to teach children about taking care of themselves and others.

The above demonstrates how the school complies with the health and safety regulations and goes beyond this by reinforcing this throughout the curriculum. In terms of my practice, I will need to consider cross-curricular links with health and safety issues; which ties in with the ECM agenda (Q3a, Q3b).

Effective schools have a strong partnership with parents. What does your school do to gain and maintain the involvement of parents?

The school has a strong commitment to build partnerships with parents. This is because they can have a positive impact to enhance learning opportunities for their children. For example, the teachers and Senior Management Team are always available to talk parents if there are any concerns. The school prides itself on this flexibility to welcome parents. They make it a priority to be at the class door (or occasionally the gates) at the beginning and end of the day to provide parents the opportunity to talk to them if they have any issues. Even though this may appear a simple strategy, it is very effective at promoting positive relationships. Also, when a new child starts, the Head Teacher personally takes the family around the school to show the surroundings and successes of the school. This is another good way of forming partnerships with parents.

The school organises assemblies whereby parents are encouraged to attend, especially if it is a class assembly so they can partake in their children's achievements. They can then stay for refreshments and have an informal chat amongst other parents and the teaching staff. This encourages them to be more actively involved with the school activities.

The school also runs Family SEAL workshops, which are intended to strengthen the relationships with parents and children. This involves sharing ideas and participating in different activities. These workshops are organised by the Family Support Worker, who is a key mechanism in linking the parents with the school. This is a voluntary role but is highly regarded by both the school and parents for promoting stronger communication links.

Another successful initiative the school has participated in is the 'Share Group', which is a family learning programme. This enables the parents or carers of children in Nursery to help their children learn through play, spend more time with their child and more importantly take an active interest in their education. This is a prime example in how the school enriches its links with parents.

The cooking club 'lets get cooking' is organised by the Learning Mentor and encourages parents to attend with their children to learn about healthy eating but also building better relationships too. This is a very successful initiative due to the turn out and again strengthens the link between the parents and the school.

Overall, the school has effective practices in place that strengthen the relationships with parents. By encouraging these partnerships it can result in the parents being more involved in their child's education and other school activities; more importantly building a strong school community culture. This has made me realise the importance and value the contribution of parents and the Family Support Worker has to help secure the development and well-being of children (Q5, Q6).

Links with the community can contribute to pupils' attainment and personal development. What community links enrich the work of your school?

Robin Hood Primary highly values the importance of community cohesion. They recognise how it enables children to learn about the diverse society we live in and become responsible citizens. Furthermore, they believe that it is important for the local community to be integrated within the school to build a strong sense of belonging and shared values. This reinforces the key messages of the DCFS (2007) documentation: 'duty to promote community cohesion', whereby schools are obliged to promote this to reinforce the aims of the National Curriculum.

There are numerous examples of how community links enrich the work of the school. For example, Notts County Football club visits the school on a weekly basis where they work with different groups of children to learn about football and team-working skills. This is a positive way to equip children with new skills and can influence their development too. I also believe it provides children with aspirations in terms of what can be achieved through hard work and developing high self-esteem. The school also invites the local Vicar to conduct some assemblies so that children can develop an awareness of Christianity and adopt strong values and morals that can transferred in life. In addition, they have volunteers who read to the children, which is a clear indication of the strong community ties.

The school also runs training courses for parents and other members of the community to enable them to build essential life skills such as literacy and numeracy. As mentioned previously, the Family Support Worker is the key to promote these services to the community. The school's fairs, festivals, website, and theme days are all other good examples of securing community links. I believe the examples discussed clearly show how the school is committed to put itself at the heart of the community. Where possible in my practice, I will need to seize opportunities for strengthening these partnerships (Q5, Q6, Q25a, Q31).

What opportunities are there for you to contribute to extra curricular activities in the school?

The school has numerous extra curricular activities which children can join: cooking, art, environmental, dance and ICT club. These activities can positively impact the development of children as it provides avenues to pursue their interests and skills.

I have the opportunity to partake in these activities. I have already attended their ICT club; which was a rewarding experience to witness and promote positive attitudes to learning (Q2). I felt that I could add value to this club by offering my ICT expertise so that children could develop new skills. The session I attended involved the children creating their own newspaper report. I believed my experience of press work enabled the children to learn new skills as I could offer inspiring ideas on how to develop and motivate their creativity in this area. I intend to participate in cooking and environmental club as these are my interests and I believe I can offer additional skills to help the children.

Every Child Matters (ECM) Outcome: Making a positive contribution. How do children in your school make a positive contribution - consider the role of the School Council.

There is a strong ECM ethos embedded with Robin Hood Primary. In terms of making a positive contribution, there are numerous examples where this is reflected. As previously mentioned, 'class monitors' and the use of the reward structures are all good examples. Another notable example is the specialised jobs for the year 6 children. They have the opportunity to apply for jobs within the school such as the position of an 'Environmental Monitor'. Those children with learning or behavioural difficulties are also encouraged to apply as it enables them to develop their skills too. This clearly reinforces how the school promotes an inclusive environment for all children.

The School Council at Robin Hood Primary is a prime example on how children can make a positive contribution (Q3b). There are usually two children from each class (or year group) in Key Stage 2 who sits on the Council. This encourages a diverse range of views from across the year groups. They are regarded as the 'voice' of the school and meet with a teacher to discuss issues, concerns or organise fundraising events. This provides children the opportunity to; develop responsible attitudes, improve behaviour and self-esteem, better pupil-teacher relationships, and most importantly to feel proud of their school. The Council have recently been involved with promoting fundraising ideas for Children in Need and producing their own resources like posters. In addition, they have been generating ideas on arranging a memorable send off for their Head Teacher Mrs Bell, who retires next year. This clearly demonstrates the extent of their involvement and the passion they have for improving their school; and more importantly how they are making a positive contribution. This ECM outcome states children to 'engage in decision making and support the community and environment' (DCFS 2004). The above examples highlight how Robin Hood Primary is providing opportunities to make this happen. In terms of my own practice, I will need to ensure that I maximise opportunities for children to undertake similar activities as this can have a positive impact on learning and contribute to their development too (Q18).

Conclusion

Overall, Robin Hood Primary school is committed to inclusion and has high aspirations for all children regardless of their background. The school has robust policies in place to make this happen. It also creates an environment for children to enjoy learning; therefore certainly provides secure foundations for all children to aim high. Observing the practices has provided me a greater insight into the varied role of a teacher; and how the school's added value contribution can make a positive difference for all children. Most importantly, it is crucial to have high expectations for all children so they can reach their potential.

Appendix 1

1.

Source: National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC, 2010)