For my placement I was based at Mayfield Special School in Torquay. It has around 100 pupils aged 2-19. Many of the children will attend the school for the whole 17 years. The children at the school are divided into 2 broad groups.
Those with severe learning difficulties; communication, visual impairment and developmental delay, often with associated challenging behaviours. (SLD).
The other group is comprised of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties - the majority of these pupils need high levels of support in all areas, most are unable to stand, or walk and many need assistance in personal care and medical needs. A lot of the teaching for (PMLD) is based around a sensory curriculum.
Mainstream Policy and SEN Children
The issue of the integration of children with special educational needs (SEN) into mainstream school initiatives has become not just a contemporary political question about the best way to run the education system, but is, for some, also a debate on social justice (Conner and Ferri, 2007). This is one reason I chose to take part in the complementary placement at Mayfield School. Rachael Hurst, project director of Disability Awareness in Action, feels that only when every child with a disability or special educational need has the right to all mainstream school policy will real equality have been achieved in the education system (Inham, 2009). Similarly, Oliver (1996), argues that in being denied access to the same curriculum and initiatives as everyone else, the educational opportunities of children with SEN will remain limited. This means they are not treated as equals to other children, and is what brought me to decide to use my history and geography specialisms and knowledge of making connections with outside agencies to produce a Learning Outside The Classroom (Lotc) initiative on their behalf.
Relationships with teachers and other Professionals
I wished to develop my skills in communicating between different professionals and in dealing with differing opinions. I therefore turned my attention towards the attitude of the teachers as well as other educational professionals inside and outside the school, including non-recorded talks and more formal Dictaphone recorded interviews with Speech Therapists, Physiotherapists and Educational Officers, which aided the production of all work undertaken (Frost, 2005)(Appendix 10a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h).
Baker and Gottlieb (1980), along with Galloway and Goodwin (1987), have argued that because educational professionals are responsible for implementing any government policy within the education system, they have an enormous influence over whether they are successful or not (Leyser and Abrams, 1983; Vlachou, 1997). Professionals' attitudes also play a fundamental role in the success or failure of the moves towards learning outside the classroom, as well as other government policy. As such, the aim of this project was to examine the attitudes of all involved to aid the production of the initiative (Thompson, 2003).
Gaining a better understanding of "SEN" and the differences in teaching and learning at Mayfield Special School compared to my mainstream pedagogy.
While this was not something planned in the initial enquiry, it became extremely relevant when trying to produce work on behalf of the school, and definitely defined my attitudes on special education needs that I hadn't first thought of in my professional development. The definition of SEN is defined In the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES, 2001a). It states on the one hand, that 'there are no hard and fast categories of special educational need', that 'every child is unique' and that 'there is a wide spectrum of special educational needs that are frequently inter-related' (DfES, 2001a, Section 52). Farrel (2003) highlights these as important points when trying to provide for any child with an additional need, or indeed any child in your care, and this became extremely important when working on the aims of the project. It states, however, that 'there are specific needs that usually relate to particular types of impairment', and that 'individual pupils may have needs which span two or more areas', nevertheless, the 'needs and requirements can usefully be organised into areas' (DfES, 2001a, Section 53). These include communication, cognition, behaviour, and sensory. It should be noted, however, that it is often the case that all children, regardless of the SEN statement, could suffer in one or more of these areas, and it is good practice to know how to deal with these areas for the benefit of all children (King-sears, 2008). This is something I completely agree with, and learning how to teach children with severe learning needs whilst on placement will help me teach all children in my future practice, and also aided the production of all the work undertaken on placement.
This brings me to the conclusion that the question for this project remained as follows;
In conjunction with other professionals identify inclusive outdoor learning opportunities on the school grounds as well as possible local resources that can be brought to the school and finally possible site visits, all of which can relate to the school's curriculum and philosophy (McGee et al, 1987).
The initial aims for this Project, recorded in the proposal included the following:
My Preliminary Aim:
Identify outdoor education opportunities currently on offer throughout the school.
Identify learners' needs.
How are the activities monitored/linked to the curriculum?
Check the risk assessment procedures.
Meet with class teachers and other professionals.
Look at all curriculum plans (particularly History and Geography).
Accompany classes on existing visits.
My Secondary Aim:
Identify and assess where certain local resources linked to the curriculum could be introduced.
Investigate sensory and affective learning in outdoor education.
My Final Aim:
Report back with findings in an initiative to Colin May to be delivered to all staff.
In reality, these aims did change. It was decided that some would stay, others would be adjusted and more were added as the placement went on. A reflection of the aims that were finally carried out is as follows:
Early Aims (first 2 weeks)
Identify outdoor education opportunities currently on offer throughout the school, as well as new possibilities. (Appendix 1a)
Identify learners' needs.
Meet with class teachers and other professionals.
How are the activities monitored/linked to the curriculum? (Appendix 1b,2a,b,3a,b,c,d,5a)
Accompany classes on existing visits. (Appendix 10b,h)
Latter Aims (informed by early aims)
Look at and review the History and Geography plans for the primary department. (Appendix 2)
Development of learning on the school grounds and the polly-tunnel. (Appendix 3)
Identify and assess where certain local resources linked to the curriculum could be introduced on more of a long-term basis, as part of the secondary curriculum review. (Appendix 4,5)
Create risk assessment guidance for school visits and creative partnerships. (Appendix 6)
Create a learning outside the classroom policy (Appendix 7).
SEN Children and Learning Outside the Classroom.
The DCSF (2008) define learning outside the classroom as:
"The use of places other than the classroom for teaching and learning p.3"*
*This has since been changed to include the use of external education professionals in the school environment.(Lotc, 2010)
Learning done outside the classroom is often the most memorable learning experience. (Clark, 2003) It allows pupils to make sense of the world around them, (Richardson, 2006) making links between feelings and learning. (Hooper-Greenhill, 2007) It can also influence children's values and allow them to transfer learning experienced outside the classroom and vice versa. (Austin, 2007)
In regard to Mayfield and its school philosophy there was huge potential for children to improve their understanding of the world, their skills, values and their affective domain based on enhanced experiences and achievements. (Barrett, 2006, Buckley et al , 2003, Bilton et al, 2005, Denham & Weissberg, 2003, McGee et al, 1987, Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1995).
LOTC's importance "can be even greater for people whose outlets are restricted by physical, mental or sensory impairment, than for other members of the community" (Pearson, 2004, p.4).
It enables the children of Mayfield to "cease thinking of themselves as inadequate people compared with able-bodied, and can come to recognise that they have their own particular contribution to make" (Pearson, 2004 p.5).
Learning outside the classroom is not an end in itself, but rather a vehicle to develop the capacity to learn. (Austin, 2007) (Appendix 9) It's a framework that encourages the use of surroundings and communities outside the classroom. (Heath, 2004, Sefton-Green, 2008) It is also a fine opportunity for young people to construct their own learning and allow them to live successfully in the world that surrounds them (Swain, 1993, Sonja et al, 2009, Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1995).
It also had, and will continue to have, good opportunities for the children of Mayfield to add context to classroom learning. It can lead to a deeper understanding of concepts that span beyond traditional subject boundaries, which are frequently difficult for some children. (Durbin, Morris, 1990, 1996, Braund, Reiss, 2004, Nesbitt, 1988, Virginia, 1988) Learning outside the classroom allows for a different pedagogy, which will promote real achievement for all learners, including subject based learning, thinking and problem solving, life skills such as co-operation, interpersonal communication and sometimes facing conditions that we are not used to. (Parkinson & Manstead, 1992, Pearson, Aloysius, 1994)
Learning outside the classroom is, by its very nature, an inclusive practice, which allows the breaking down of barriers to participation, (Pearson, Aloysius, 1994, Carnegie UK Trust, 1985, Richardson, 2006) it allows a multi-sensory approach to learning through what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and emotionally "feel". This is due to the physical, visual, naturalistic and emotional nature of learning outside the classroom. (Bilton et al, 2005, Austin, 2007, Playwork Partnerships, 2005)
What are the benefits for SLD and PMLD children?
When experiences are well planned, safely managed and differentiated to meet the needs of every child at Mayfield, children will be able to:
Improve academic achievement
Provide a bridge to higher order learning
Develop skills of independence in a widening range of environments
Make learning more engaging and relevant to young people (Appendix 9)
Develop active citizens and stewards of the environment
Provide opportunities for informal learning through play (Appendix 9)
Stimulate, inspire and improve motivation
Develop the ability to deal with uncertainty
Provide opportunity to take acceptable levels or risk
Develop a level of empathy and emotional intelligence.
(DCSF, 2008, Pearson, Aloysius, 1994, Carnegie UK Trust, 1985)
Legislation, disability and out of the classroom visits
Academic reading done during this module has taught me that, now more than ever, there is an opportunity for all learners, regardless of need, to benefit from learning outside the classroom (Pearson & Aloysius, 1994, Dcsf, 2008, Carnegie UK Trust, 1985).
This is backed by a push in government legislation to increase the inclusiveness of public areas of education, as well as more inclusive educational reforms, including the 1981 Act on Special Needs, 1988 Education Reform Act and the 1992, Education Bill, as well as Every Child Matters (2003) (Warnock, 1978).
The focus of any success of this project laid in the idea of understanding the learners' individual needs, children working to the QCA P-scales (2005), and also an ability to cross relate these needs to the other professionals we would use in the future, (Frost, 2005 & Thompson, 2003, Appendix 1b,2a,b,3a,b,c,d,5a).
Contemporary legislation including The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 and the amended Disability Discrimination Act 2005 ensured that as a school Mayfield could be more bullish in its approach to learning outside the classroom. This legislation makes it unlawful for education providers to discriminate against disabled pupils and to ensure disabled people are not disadvantaged in comparisonÂ with people who are not disabled.
This is supported by educational initiatives, namely the Special Educational Needs Code Of Practice, Excellence and Enjoyment, Every Child Matters and Learning Outside the Classroom, the 1978 Warnock report must also be taken into account. The Act on Children with Special Educational Needs, 1981, 2001, Education Reform Act, 1988 and the Education Bill, 1992 try and ensure that any child, regardless of need, could have their education provided for (DfES, 2001a), and should have the treatment of any pupil in respect to access and achievement (DfEE, 1999, DfES, 2001a,b, 2003a, 2004, 2006, DoH, 2001).
Possible future government policy also shows a need to continue producing effective plans to allow all children, regardless of need, to achieve mainstream initiatives like learning outside, with a "review of SEN provision" required (Alexander, 2009, DCSF, 2009).
It was noted during my time at the school that public learning services and educational officers have made huge strides in trying to provide for people with physical and sensory disabilities, with provision for visual impairment, in particular, blossoming. (West, 1994, Green, 1999, Clarke, 2003, Swain, 1993)
And while no special needs school can claim to have the same needs as any other, it was always comforting to be producing something that had been done by others in similar circumstances. This can be seen by Claremont school in Bristol whose timetable includes at least one school outing a week. This can be anything from a trip to the local shops or taking a group of children on a visit to a local area of interest. The ethos of learning outside the classroom is embedded in the school's curriculum and is seen as a crucial part of helping to develop the life skills of the 57 pupils aged between two to 19, who have severe, profound or multiple learning difficulties, it was this case study that allowed us to develop the learning outside the classroom policy with confidence. (Andalo, 2010)
Health and safety, risk assessment and Mayfield School
In recent years there have been a number of high profile incidents involving pupils from schools engaged in school visits. Some have tragically resulted in pupil deaths. The ensuing publicity has produced strong reactions (Appendix 10e). It has to be understood, however, that a large number of visits take place across the country each day without such media publicity, and to produce a balanced education for children learning outside the classroom is vital. (Braund, Reiss, 2004)
Of course there are risks involved in working outside the confines of a classroom. One result of the recent spate of high profile incidents is improved guidance and support for teachers. (DfES, 1998, 2002, 2003b, National Association for Field Studies Officers, 1998, Devon.Gov, 2010a,b,c, Techernet, 2010) This support was reviewed during the production of the risk assessment guidance on behalf of the school, but a point also taken into consideration, during the formulation, by my colleagues and myself was the opinions of the classroom teachers about the bureaucracy and the unease felt when taking children out. With this knowledge we ensured the easiest and quickest way in which to organise a visit as advocated by Shepherd (2010) (Appendix 6).
Relationships with teachers as well as other professionals
Another aspect of this complementary placement was continued focus on my professional and collaborative working, and how to set up successful partnerships. This became such an important issue for my personal development but also became a point of research when dealing with Lotc and creating successful partnerships, Thompson (2003) defines the use of partnership as
"Meaningless unless they improve the services we provide." (Thompson, 2003, preamble)
And in relation to Lotc work;
"The core point of creating partnerships is making your goals towards learning more achievable or extending on the learning already taking place." (Thompson, 2003, p.3)
As advocated by the DCSF (2008) themselves, outdoor learning partnerships are a cross-sector alliance in which individuals, groups or organisations agree to work together to fulfil an obligation, or undertake a specific task; share the risks as well as the benefits; and review the relationship regularly, revising their agreement as necessary. It is about achieving more with a partner than you would manage by yourself (Thompson, 2003). It was this increased thinking that produced a guide for the teachers of Mayfield detailing how they can set up Lotc experiences (Appendix 8). It also helped me to develop my working relationships with many different staff members during my stay at Mayfield (Appendix 10e,f,g).
Through experience and studying literature I have since learnt that I can create solid and lasting partnerships with people because I am able to abide by the following good practices:
Have common aims, acknowledge the existence of a common goal and have a shared vision of what the outcome should be. (Appendix 10c,d)
Have an agreed plan of action or strategy to address the problem concerned.
Have flexiblity in that they seek to accommodate the different values and cultures of participating organisations (this has to work both ways).
Exchange information and have agreed communication systems.
Have agreed decision-making structures.
Share resources and skills
Respect, reciprocity, realism and risk-taking from both parties. (Thompson, 2003, Mills, 1996)
My creative interviews and their validity
When deciding which methods to use for the project it did not take long for me to settle on the idea of interviews and literature reading, because I generally favour techniques that gather qualitative data. Whilst reading about interviews, I identified the idea of creative interviewing used by Douglas (1985). The creative interview runs more like a conversation than a structured interview, there are no fixed questions and the flow of the interview depends entirely on the interviewee's answers (Holstien and Gubrium, 1995).
The focus in creative interviews is fashioning an atmosphere of intimacy and trust, in which the interviewee feels their knowledge is valued, in Douglas's words;
"The creative interviewer is the handmaiden of knowledge and wisdom who must become a supplicant to those who have both" (Douglas, 1985, p.55).
You go into an interview ready to listen and learn, not express how much you know on the topic (through educational jargon, or pressured questioning), otherwise you can make the interviewee feel like their knowledge is worthless or unappreciated. This will be very important when dealing with possible venues for outside learning, which may not have educational expertise, and this did work particularly well with interviews undertaken outside of Mayfield School (Douglas, 1985).
This method seemed appropriate for my topic, as I needed to discover what people's attitudes are, which can be problematic, as people are not always forthcoming with them. Douglas argues that people are naturally guarded and the interviewer must do more than simply ask a question to get a truthful answer. Therefore, the aim of the creative interview is to attempt to put people at ease so they can express their real attitudes, this tends to provide valid results, meaning the results will reflect the truth of the situation being researched. (Haralambos, 1983, Haralambos and Holborn, 2004) I did feel however, when speaking to members of Mayfield both in recorded interview and informal chats, that they didn't always give honest answers, I conclude that this is to do with pressure on teachers to be up to date with all government policy, and to not be doing so somehow makes you inadequate (Campbell et al, 1992, Mahoney, 1997, ATL, 2009), it was also interesting working with the only male teacher in the school, who often remained very guarded and stubborn on the subject of a Lotc policy in particular (Smedley, 2006, MacBeath, 2006, Mitchell, 2005).
Mauthner (2002) points out that in objective "scientific" methods there is little thought to whether a question, and the available answers, will mean the same thing to all the participants. In interviews, however, this doesn't matter as much, because people are given the chance to explain their attitudes without having to fit them into strict categories, such as "strongly agree", or "disagree", they can explain why they agree and how strongly they agree with an issue (Douglas, 1985). It could also be argued that interviews, if non-threatening and non-judgmental, can lead to people expressing thoughts they might not voice in everyday life for fear of judgement from other people. This is because they are given the chance to explain and defend why they feel a particular way, without fearing rejection from peers, this is something that worked particularly well with certain colleagues, usually off record but some evidence can be seen in Appendix 10e,f,g. This also shows a real sign of validity in any results gathered.
The downside to my in-depth, qualitative interviews is that while they are generally fairly valid they tend not to have representative samples, meaning they cannot be easily generalised to a wider population (Haralambos and Holborn, 2004). This has affected my assignment in that I am unable to engage with any quantitative data or explore any real themes. Furthermore, analysing data can be very time-consuming.
Quantitative data tends to produce percentages and numbers, which can make it easier to see trends, it also tends to have large samples because it takes less time to analyse the data, and this increases the likelihood that it will be more representative (Haralambos, 1983). I would, however, argue that the extra work for qualitative methods was worth the time, as my results seem more informative and valid.
Ethics was an important consideration, which I took into account by following good practice advocated by (Israel, Hay, 2006). I ensured when conducting interviews that I provided an information sheet that stated what I was doing, any ethical concerns that may be raised, how I would address them, and the details of the university, the project and myself. (Appendix 10i)
The ethical concerns that need to be taken into account when performing interviews include; gaining informed consent, reassuring the interviewees that the information would be confidential and guarantee their anonymity, and that the interviewee could withdraw at any time, including after the placement had finished (Oliver, 2003 & Farrell 2005).
My host and I also gave details about progress on a weekly basis. We gave anyone who was unsure about being interviewed an opportunity to discuss any issues, and withdraw if necessary (though this never happened in reality). The details of the university were made available, in the unlikely invent that I had behaved in an upsetting or inappropriate manner, and they wished to complain (Oliver, 2003, Mauthner 2002).
Data Findings and Conclusions
Mitchell (2005), MacBeath (2006) as well as some staff were critical of whether it is actually ever possible to be fully inclusive, and suggest that there are some barriers, to do with society and medical issues, that simply cannot be removed. (Appendix 10e,f,g)
Burr (2003) suggests that these exclusive barriers are founded in the social phenomena of our culture, and it is this that develops into social contexts, restricting access to minorities. This is otherwise known as social-constructionism. Burr goes on to suggest that, in the case of additional and complex needs, we have a social context into which we place children's conditions and behaviour, and it is this that decides what a child is or is not capable of, in "our" mainstream society, this is otherwise known as internal essences (Fromm, 2001), again this was seen, by some staff, as a possible barrier to carrying out the Lotc initative, this is also related to an ealier point in the rationale about staff having the power to implement changes (Baker and Gottlieb, 1980, Galloway and Goodwin, 1987, Leyser and Abrams, 1983, Vlachou, 1997), and is also a point that could be shared with my collegue Jen Bright, and her placement's findings.
Nind et al (2005) extend this point by asking; who decides what an additional or complex need is? The idea of whether a child is functional or not is context-dependent. Outside agents or creative partners can often fall victim to teaching children with "classic pedagogy" for a "common" class. However, any child who is unable to learn "normally" in those conditions is seen as disabled. In good practice or through social context, this may never be the case, and is a point Mayfield understand is their responsibility to get across to future Lotc partners and was included in the Lotc policy. (Appendix 7)
It is, indeed, argued that disability is a function of the environment in which children are constrained to learn, otherwise known as "the social model of disability". It is up to the teacher to break down the barriers that constrain children's participation, if we cannot always break them for the act of learning itself (Ainscow, 1999, Rose et al, 1993, Sebba et al, 1994). We ensured this was acknowledged when creating our Lotc policy, so these barriers could be broken down in collaboration with the service provider we were using. (Appendix 7)
Following the support from management, many staff and the school's philosophy it was always appropriate to ensure that the additional or complex needs of the children were not used as an excuse to lower educational expectations or distance them from learning outside the classroom (Hayes, 2004, Ainscow, 1999, Cheminais, 2007). Hayes suggests that self-esteem is to be found through educational achievement, it is important to notice that they mean a child's own "personal achievement." Hayes also suggests this is only possible through trying to limit barriers to learning (as medically achievable), by breaking down as many possible barriers to participation, otherwise known as having equal worth for learners (Rogers, 1983). There also needs to be a "positive and unconditional regard" for all learners (Hayes, 2004, p134, Griddens, 1998), and again it was this type of shared attitude for the project which brought us to produce the secondary curriculum review work as well as the Lotc policy in collaboration. (Appendix 4,7) But not only that, as a colleague suggested in a group meeting, who also worked at a SEN school, it is about not having "pity" for any child with an additional need, this is a trap a lot of mainstream practitioners can find themselves in, the lowering of educational and emotional expectations (McGee et al, 1987), and was something I learnt professionally during my time at Mayfield. (Appendix 10g)
We tried to ensure that as Nind et al (2005) and Bearne (1996) advocate, teachers at the school have the mentality to deem it unacceptable to use barriers to participation as an excuse for a child to be unable to take part in a Lotc activity, though it was understood that currently it would be unlikely for a mixed Lotc activity between SLD's and PMLD children to take place (Appendix 7, 10g).
The management of these "barriers to participation" is to be aided by two theoretical practices undertaken by the school. One, the basic concept of knowing your learners' (Norwich & Kelly, 2004, Nind et al, 2005) and differentiation of the curriculum to suit the class while on visits' (King-sears, 2008, Bearne, 1996, McNamara & Moreton, 1997) and, two, effective summative and formative assessment, informing future practice and the future partnership with the provider of the visit, again this is something we introduced to the Lotc policy. (Appendix 7)
King-sears (2008) actually states that "a variety of adaptable pedagogies are effective for students with and without disabilities" (2008, p55). Research has shown that the general education curriculum, with help from differentiation, can ensure that all learners are educated successfully (Cole, 2005). This has ensured that the work carried out while on placement, including the visit to Stover park and the science day (Appendix 9), will be useful to my future practice in mainstream teaching.
Improvement on my practise came in the form of understanding Rose and Meyer's (2000a,b) initiative of "universal design learning" which was undertaken at Mayfield. These are techniques based on three categories, firstly, how the learning is represented to the children (for example visual or tactile methods), secondly, the resignation to the fact that children engage in learning activities in varied ways, and thirdly, the simple fact that children may wish to express their learning in different ways (spoken, drawn or written) This is something that will be of a great use to my future practice, and informed my planning for the children's "science day". (Appendix 9)
Throughout this placement I have identified a number of issues, both for my professional role as a teacher, and broader outcomes relating to education, special needs education and learning outside the classroom. This project has helped me to think about learning and teaching in different ways and in a different context. Other issues which I feel have been significant have been the societal and governmental expectations of teachers, I will first list the main areas of learning and interest relating to this project (Appendix 11);
An increased identify for my History and Geographical specialism (Appendix 2)
A far greater understanding of special education needs children and how they achieve. (Appendix 1a,b,3,4,5,7,9)
I now know how to set up, work and use advice from partnerships in school as well as educational professionals outside of the school setting. (Appendix 10)
I have a better professional understanding of how to deliver to children with additional learning needs, and have increased my pedagogical knowledge, which allows me to be far more inclusive, and allows me to break down barriers to participation in class. (Appendix 9)
I understand the value of learning outside the classroom for all pupils and how it can benefit learning in the classroom and children's overall development to be a valued member of society (Appendix 1a,b,7).
While I understand the benefits of learning outside the classroom, I have also understood the practical obstructions to its delivery, namely access to the cognitive material on visits (Burr, 1995, MacBeath, 2006, Mitchell, 2005 Swain, 1993, Appendix 10e), access to some establishments still requires modification (Swain, 1993, Appendix 10e,h), individual teacher's drive to get behind an initiative (Baker and Gottlieb, 1980, Galloway and Goodwin,1987, Leyser and Abrams, 1983, Vlachou, 1997), fear of health and safety concerns (Shepherd, 2010, Appendix 10e,) and finally financial restraints (Mitchell, 2005, Appendix 10e). Though I have been able to answer some of these (Appendix 1a,b,4,5,7,8), they are often used as criticism to the learning outside the classroom philosophy, and to be able to answer them with practical strategies will be of a huge benefit in future practice (Swain, 1993, Austin, 2007).
I have also learnt the reality of medical barriers to some aspects of cognitive learning and national curriculum attainment, despite this, it is not something that should induce pity upon a practitioner or lower your educational expectations of children with additional educational needs.
I have a greater appreciation and understanding of the role of managers and subject coordinators than ever before, and I can engage them in developing delivery of the curriculum (Appendix 4,5).
I also understand that I need to improve on skills that can enthuse all members of staff if they don't share the same passion for something; it is a difficult skill as noted by (Austin, 2007), and one that will have to improve if I wish to coordinate in the future.
I also had an opportunity to work and learn about more long-term planning, something that would never have been possible on a traditional placement, and will be of huge benefit to me if I qualify. (Appendix, 2,4,5)
Finally it has been a real joy to participate and undertake some teaching of both SMD and PMLD children. (Appendix 9)
Finally I truly believe the future of Lotc for children with additional and complex needs has two issues in relation to its development. The first is that there needs to be a move towards improving access to the artefacts and the cognitive teaching that is supplied at visits, rather than the physical access to facilities, which as discussed in my proposal is much less of an issue in contemporary education, this is adovated by Pearson (1994) who states that through;
"Co-operation between individual teachers, curators and educators who have adapted existing resources and facilities to the needs of a particular group of children with special needsâ€¦ comes the greatest success." p.14
The second is that the government needs to take accountability and show seriousness to their legislation through funding or it just becomes rhetoric. Allow schools to introduce Lotc properly by funding them properly through training, allow schools to commit to the Lotc manifesto and ensure that service providers can adequately cater for SEN children's needs. (Mitchell, 2005, Appendix 10e)
PART B - Reflection*
Reflection has been key in this module in regards to focusing not only on my placement, but also on my own professionalism (Bolton, 2005 & Moon, 2004).
The placement was a perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding of learning outside the mainstream classroom, and also how this can be applied to benefit my own teaching. This placement was like no other I have encountered and pushed me into previously unknown areas within a school environment, such as working with other professionals (Guirdham, 1996), and working independently and collaboratively with many different departments (Macdonald, 1995). I saw how a school and other organisations run from top to bottom, and was made aware of a vast array of philosophies and opinions that were so beneficial to my professional development and progress as a teacher.
Reflection has been an aid to the whole of this placement (Appendix 11,12) as well as writing up part A of this assignment, and I now have little doubt that it will continue to be an important skill throughout my teaching career. Examples of the main areas of reflection informing both my conclusions to the placement as well as my professional development are below;
(Appendix 12a also shows a list of the Q-Standards that I have been able to achieve during this placement.)
* Please note CP4 and Final statement of learning attached (Appendix 12b,c)
1) Tackling the early worries and vulnerability of the school and myself
To my hosts and I, this placement and the Lotc ideals first emerged as a way to push the boundaries of the existing model of teaching. Traditional ideals on this placement would have been challenged and the true reason behind education for the children of Mayfield called into question, this is a very tough process for staff and management to go through, perhaps some staff were somewhat threatened by starting work with me. I sensed that this was borne out of feelings of vulnerability. (Campbell et al, 1992, Mahoney, 1997, Smedley, 2006, ATL, 2009) What are the truths in terms of what happens in a classroom? What do children of Mayfield take home with them when they leave? How much of it is really useful to their every day lives? Lotc was, if you like, a call to arms for those who were ready for something new. The debate on Lotc called into question what I value as an educator, particularly with children of additional and complex needs. Should we not be emphasising skills that were more transferable, and encouraging a much broader way of thinking about life and the problems it will inevitably throw at the children of Mayfield? Was that being acknowledged within a classroom of 10 pupils who spend six hours of every day in a room with the same adults? Some of these children were still leaving school without the skills they needed to lead a successful life; Lotc could diverge from traditional focus of education and place more value on skills that were not being taught effectively in the confines of classroom walls. Ultimately though, this journey that has been embarked on, is still unfolding and developing as I write.
I now find it comforting to know that we were working as a partnership and that I was just a cog or catalyst in a much bigger machine. At the beginning, however, I felt as though my own responsibilities had swollen overnight and the status of Lotc had been suddenly elevated and needed to be justified perfectly - I had to respond to these challenges. This forced me to ask myself whether I would have the skills to meet these demands that would be made of me. The school had high expectations after the early work completed, and the placement was a huge commitment, but at the same time nobody knew what it was going to involve and so it was going to evoke different responses in different people. Inevitably, closer working relationships were more readily established between some staff members than others. Individual levels of commitment to the ideals and practice embedded in Lotc vary and so did the understanding and interpretation, this was noted by my host and me when we evaluated the placement (Appendix 10g), it was unpredictable, especially at the beginning. This was exciting and after the initial worry I began to look forward to the new endeavours, and grow in confidence and identify what could be achieved through Lotc.
2) Working with management and other professionals
One immediate issue was for me to start a dialogue with the members of staff. I began to attend meetings with the dept. head and the educational visits coordinator, who would be heavily involved in the project. This was quite intimidating and took some adjusting to because, for a start, I didn't yet know how exactly I was going to be able to contribute. I think, in retrospect, the whole point of those meetings was to provide a forum for discussion and planning, just as Douglas (1985) states.
I realise now that I was developing skills that I would never have had an opportunity to had I not been involved in this placement. Would I ever have imagined leading a school and its management into including Lotc into their philosophy and long term plans? This was one of the exciting opportunities available to me as a result of this placement. A lot of what I have learnt, apart from the obvious things, has been to do with self-confidence and my identity as a teacher, history and geography specialist and now a Lotc specialist.
3 Conclusions to my professional development, and where I can continue to improve.
Lotc and this placement have given me greater ownership of the curriculum. Linking subjects in a relevant way has made the curriculum more purposeful for children with additional learning needs and has enabled me to spend more time enriching and extending learning, as well as increasing my pedagogical knowledge to the benefit of all children. The emphasis on key skills and multiple intelligences at Mayfield makes the curriculum more relevant and encourages Lotc learning, rather than focusing on acquiring knowledge. The evolution of the planning process in regards to Appendix 7,8 has developed my professional development with regards to planning and collaborative learning.
I've tried to work hard at being a better listener, with some of the early Dictaphone recordings being particularly hard to play back, when I hear myself continually breaking up my colleagues point with my own. Providing time and space for individuals to explore and express their own views and understandings had considerable value, ensuring people feel listened to must not be underestimated, and while it is something I have now recognised, I still need to apply it practically. (Douglas 1985, Bolton 2005, Mills 1996)
Professional questions I had to answer:
How far is the Lotc vision shared by all staff?
How do I/we convince people this is the right way?
Can we devolve leadership even more?
How can I/we make people feel confident and take risks?
How do I/we support year group teams who are feeling negative?
How do you support teachers in doing Lotc activities
Why are there varying views about the project, ranging from very positive to negative?
From answering these questions I feel more able to:
Tolerate and manage my own and other's uncertainty
Help to create and sustain a shared overall vision but allow divergence of approaches by others
Model Lotc approaches, processes and good practice
Undertake joint planning and delivery of targeted Lotc experiences
Evalute the impact of developments from my own perspective
Provide feedback for the school on new developments and proposals
School based support and advocacy, beyond just policy
Embed Lotc and support staff development.
The skills or qualities that I found most valuable in myself were:
Awareness of limitations
Identifying and accepting learning opportunities
Identifying and attaching real value to skills learnt
4) Conclusions to whether this placement will have a lasting impact at Mayfield.
I have now realised that much of the leadership had rested on the head teachers, and the educational visits coordinator. Much of the school-based leadership was also hinged on management, and perhaps this needs to be addressed if Lotc is to have a longer impact at Mayfield. I should have discussed ways in which leadership of Lotc could be more devolved. I'm particularly concerned that long term sustainability and embedding would only happen if leadership were devolved. I think it should be said that what is needed is for some sort of equivalent; someone who would "champion" and model Lotc. I hope this can be through [Nancy Harlow] whom I worked closely with throughout the placement, and with whom I created the long term planning ideas (Appendix 4).
It is essential that all staff members engage in the processes of change, take part in the debate and reflect on their teaching in order to move on and maintain a healthy, expressive learning outside the classroom experience. It is also necessary for leaders to take risks in order to create the climate in which Lotc can happen. The individuals within the school have to take more responsibility at a planning level, supported by a team and school acknowledgment that Lotc is something they all wish to achieve, this can't just happen through what I have written into the policy (Appendix 7), unless it is upheld. (Mills 1996, Thompson 2003, McGill, 2007)
5) Where my research could move forward
I believe my research into the impact of Lotc with regard to both mainstream and special educational need children's achievement and learning could have been aided by actively providing insights to museums and external educational professionals. It would also be a remarkable example of self-advocacy by consumers of Lotc services whose views are not usually heard (Pearson, 1994).
As discussed with my colleague during the module, who worked "on the other side of the fence" in relation to the Lotc "question", we believe that opinions and criticisms of children and students regardless of need should always be essential elements in designing educational provision for them, and, second, that it should always be acknowledged that pedagogy and adjustments to services which benefit visitors with disabilities could invariably enhance the museum experience for everyone. (Bearne, 1996, McGill, 2007)