In today’s rapidly changing society there is one factor that remains constant; children’s individual needs. These needs vary greatly from child to child, with some children needing lots of support to achieve a little. The Salamanca Statement (1994) believes that every child has unique characteristics, interest, abilities and learning needs. It carries on to state that every child has a fundamental right to education and the education systems should be designed, and programmes implemented, to take into account of the wide diversity of these characteristics and needs.
It was the Warnock Report (1978) that first placed emphasis on a greater integration of pupils with special educational needs into mainstream schools, and has had a wide ranging influence on policy and practice that has followed in subsequent years.
The SEN Code of Practice (2001) supports the Warnock Reports (1978) inclusion in to mainstream schools by providing ‘guidance on policies and procedures aimed at enabling pupils with special educational needs to reach their full potential, to be included fully in their school communities and make a successful transition to adulthood’.
One of the most important frameworks that schools are bound to in supporting children’s individual needs is the Every Child Matters (2003) framework. The Every Child Matters green paper was published in 2003 as a response to the report by Lord Laming into the death of Victoria Climbie through being mistreated and abused. The paper proposed a range of measures to reform and improve children’s care. This framework resulted in the Children’s Act (2004) and provides the legislative spine for Every Child Matters.
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The aim of Every Child Matters was to create a joined-up system of health, family support, childcare and education services so that all children get the best start possible. Even though it arose from a child protection issue it is essentially for all children and is based around a few fundamental principles. Firstly, society should pursue five goals for all children:
- Being happy
- Staying safe
- Enjoying and achieving
- Making a positive contribution
- Economic well-being
Secondly, services for children and their families need to be organised around the child’s needs. Thirdly, ECM aims to create an effective working practice between different practitioners.
These fundamental principles relate very closely to the SEN Code of Practice (2001). ‘The Code sets out guidance on policies and procedures aimed at enabling pupils with special educational needs (SEN) to reach their full potential, to be included fully in their school communities and make a successful transition to adulthood’ (SEN Code of Practice 2001).
It would appear that the SEN Code of Practice (2001) and Every Child Matters framework support the work that each does. The arrival of the Every Child Matters framework signalled a change in the context that the SEN Code of Practice (2001) functioned. The focus is now on making sure that all children are supported, well taught and make progress, and this applies to children with special educational needs.
Children with special educational needs and their families often need support from a range of different services if they are to overcome barriers to learning and participation. The creation of Sure Start Children’s Centres and Extended Schools through the Every Child Matters framework will extend the range of services to children and families and bring them together in single locations, enabling children and young people with SEN and disabilities and their families to have better access to the support they need, when they need it and where they need it. This is a prime example of the Every Chid Matters framework providing support to the SEN Code of practice.
For the SEN Code of Practice (2001) to be fully functioning and effective, it needs the Every Child Matters framework also to be fully functioning and effective. Both work together towards the same goals, for children to achieve their full potential despite any hurdles that may be in their way whether social, physical or emotional. An umbrella of support is provided, for the children and their families to strive towards the goal of providing a better future.
Children today are faced with many challenges outside of school that affect their ability to come into school and learn effectively. Recent years have seen schools providing support to children other than as an educator. The Every Child Matters agenda is there in schools to support every child whatever their background and ability.
There are a group of children however, who have additional struggles that affects their ability to learn; and these children are provided with extra support from the SEN Code of Practice (2001). These children will have been identified as having special educational needs (SEN), and will have been placed on the schools SEN register with their parent’s permission. From this, differing levels of support will be given depending on the child’s code of practice stage. The support provided will enable them to access the curriculum within school.
The aim of this child study is to consider the learning needs of a child and to assess how these needs are met in their school. To carry out this task effectively there were a number of factors that needed considering.
Firstly, the child chosen for the study and their school will be introduced. For the purpose of this study, the child will be known throughout as ‘Child A’, and their school as ‘School A’. Numerous observations were carried out of Child A within different contexts of the curriculum (see Appendix One).
Then, the study will look at learning theories and styles. This is to help build up a picture of how children learn in general. From this, and coupled with the observations of Child A, their preferred learning style will be identified. To link into this, the teaching styles within School A will be highlighted and the impact of this on Child A’s capacity to learn will be discussed.
Finally, conclusions will be made on the impact of the Every Child Matters framework on School A and how this has affected Child A.
Child A and their School
Child A’s school is a much larger than average school due to the amalgamation of the infant and junior school in 2004. Most pupils come from a socio-economically mixed catchment area on the edge of the central town area. While most pupils are White British, over a third come from minority ethnic backgrounds. This proportion is increasing year-upon-year with most of these pupils also having English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils within school having learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below average. There is provision for children in the Early Years Foundation Stage; this is provided through the Nursery and in three Reception classes.
Child A is a Y5 pupil whose birthday is in the summer term. The child comes from a stable and affluent background where both parents live together, and is the eldest of three children (a brother in Y3 and a sister aged 8 months). During Y3 of Primary School, Child A was highlighted as being a ’cause for concern’ and was eventually placed on the school’s SEN register in February 2010 while in Y4.
Child A has also been placed on the ‘Gifted and Talented Register’ for creativity. This is due to their Y4 teacher assessment of Child A’s unusually detailed pictures and Design Technology skills. Child A also excels in gymnastics.
In April 2010, Child A was assessed for the first time by the local authorities ‘Learning and Language Team’;
Reading: 1 year and 1 month below that expected of a child of their chronological age.
Spelling: 3+years below their chronological age.
Writing: right-handed using a reasonably neat print style with good spacing between words.
The initial summary stated that Child A appeared to have some indications of specific learning difficulties in literacy (Dyslexia), Dyslexia can not be diagnosed as a one off event; rather it will follow on from a cumulative assessment over time (taken from Child A SEN file, see Appendix Two).
For the purpose of this study and from advice from School A’s SENCo, it will be assumed that Child A will receive support for that of a dyslexic child, with programmes tailored towards Child A’s strengths and weaknesses. The Local Education Authority states in its dyslexia policy that ‘difficulties with dyslexia occur on a continuum, from mild to severe, and estimates suggest that between 4 and 15% of all pupils are affected’.
The Theories Showing How Children Learn
Before the learning needs of Child A can be identified, the ways in which a child learns must be analysed. There are two main theories of learning that this study will focus on; behaviourist and cognitive.
The Behaviourist Theory
This theory suggests that learning is gained by associating a stimulus with a response, as with Pavlo’s dogs www.nobelprize.org (Accessed 6th October 2010). Skinner suggested that reward and reinforcement of a response increases the frequency of response; this is known as operant conditioning, and assumes all behaviour (e.g. learning) can be controlled in this manner. These are the principles of conditioning that form the basis of the behaviourist approach to learning.
These assumptions of the behaviourist approach can be seen and are easily applied in Child A’s classroom. For example, the Teacher would use positive and negative reinforcement to strengthen the behaviour that conforms to classroom expectations. Positive reinforcement is also used to increase motivation; for example reinforcing good performance with praise may improve confidence and thus motivation within the next task which is essential for Child A who suffers from low self esteem.
However, the validity of the behaviourist approach must also be questioned. It assumes that all behaviour (e.g. learning) is under the control of reward and reinforcement, ignoring genetic inheritance.
The Cognitive Theory
Pollard (2010) states that ‘this theory suggests people learn through an interaction between thinking and experience, and through the sequential development of more complex cognitive structures’. Piaget developed the notion of cognitive stages to describe the child’s cognitive structure at different stages. These stages are the sensory-motor (birth to 2 years), pre-operational (2-7 years), concrete operations (7 – 12 years) and formal operations (12 years upwards). Piaget also devised the term ‘schemas’, a unit of knowledge, each relating an object/experience in the world; For example, a child my have a schema relating to eating a meal at a restaurant, this schema will have a stored pattern of behaviour (looking at the menu, eating the meal).
Vygotsky disputes Piagets cognitive stages, implying that social interaction plays a more important role, instead of trying to fit a child into a ‘box’ based on their age. Vygotskys theory places more emphasis on social contributions to the process of development. His theory views interaction with peers as an effective way of developing skills and strategies. He suggests that teachers use cooperative learning exercises where less competent children develop with help from more skilful peers – within the zone of proximal development (ZPD).
Vygotsky believed that when a child is at the ZPD for a particular task, by providing the appropriate assistance (scaffolding) it will give the child enough of a “boost” to achieve the task. Once the child, with the benefit of scaffolding, masters the task, the scaffolding can then be removed and the child will then be able to complete the task again on his own. Child A relies on scaffolding within their learning and has shown that this does aid their success at a task. However, working with their peers is something Child A does not find comfortable.
Jerome Bruner, another cognitive theorist, also disputes age related stages, tending to lean towards Vygotskys’ view. Bruner states that what determines the level of intellectual development is the extent to which the child has been given appropriate instruction together with practice or experience. Again, Child A requires this but in an adapted format. In his research on the cognitive development of children (1966), Jerome Bruner proposed three modes of representation: enactive representation (action-based), iconic representation (image-based) and symbolic representation (language-based). Modes of representation are the way in which information or knowledge are stored and encoded in memory. This is related to how the VAK theories work.
Howard Gardner suggests that there are eight learning styles; interpersonal, intrapersonal, mathematical and logical, visual and spatial, kinaesthetic, musical, naturalistic and linguistic. He suggests that many people have elements of some or all of the above. Gardner’s approach recognises the diversity of children and appreciates that ability and intelligence should not be dominated by language skills. Gardner’s theory seems to be backed up by Riddick, Wolfe and Lumsdon (2002) whom state ‘it is generally accepted that providing teaching in a variety of styles is the most effective way to develop students learning.’
Child A and the Learning Theories.
Where does Child A fit in to the learning theories? Stated throughout this section are references to how Child A may fit into these theories. Child A, it seems, strives for an essence of all the theories discussed.
From the behaviourist point of view, Child A responds well to positive reinforcement and would help to improve to a certain extent their low self-esteem. From the cognitive point of view, Child A craves scaffolding, constantly looking for help from adults within the class when unsure. It does help Child A to successfully complete tasks, and this proves why Child A relies heavily on scaffolding. Again, it helps to improve their low self-esteem. With regards to Gardner’s multiple intelligence’s, child A leans more towards the bodily kinaesthetic and visual spatial elements of his theory.
Therefore, Child A’s learning must come throughout these areas to help learning and understanding to be effective
The Assertive Teacher
The assertive discipline method of behaviour management was pioneered by Lee and Marlene Cantor in the 1970’s. The goal of assertive discipline is to teach students to choose responsible behaviour and in so doing raise their self-esteem. This in turn should lead to an increase in their academic success. Having a good classroom environment in which to teach gives the pupil the best possible chance of learning effectively.
A basic principle of assertive discipline is that pupils need to know your behavioural expectations. They must be given limits and the teacher must be consistent in his / her approach at all times. Pupils need positive recognition and support as well as discipline so that they are motivated to behave well. It is very easy to criticise a pupil for being badly behaved but some teachers fail to comment on good, appropriate behaviour.
The teacher who uses assertive discipline effectively has a classroom plan, which she shares with pupils so that they are clear about the consequences of their actions. The teacher will have a list of classroom rules on display and will remind the pupils what they are at the start of the lesson.
The Non-Assertive Teacher
When a teacher reacts to pupil’s disruptive behaviour it is known as either a non-assertive or hostile response. The non-assertive response is one where the teacher is passive and does not give clear directions; the teacher responds to inappropriate behaviour as and when it happens. She will be inconsistent in her response and will allow poor behaviour to go unchallenged one day and respond angrily another. When a pupil thinks that he can behave in any way he chooses and not suffer any consequences then he will see how far he can push the boundaries at every opportunity.
The Hostile Teacher
The hostile teacher is one who keeps the class under control but only through intimidation. They do not set a good example of how to behave and often put down pupils with remarks that lowers their self-esteem and hurt their feelings. They promote negative feelings and expectations where pupils believe that they cannot achieve goals or succeed. The hostile teacher rarely makes a positive comment and takes every opportunity to make a negative one.
Teaching Styles in School A
Assertive teaching is shown and encouraged throughout School A based on various observations throughout the school. It is also evident in the school behaviour policy in the form of an assertive discipline routine. There are strict guidelines on the wording of personal reminder, final warning and then time-out for those children that are failing to follow school rules; this is consistent throughout. Positive praise of good behaviour is a strategy used to try and encourage other children to do the same.
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Child A responds very well to this style of teaching; behaviour problems are never an issue with Child A, who follows school rules at all times. Child A also benefits from the teacher having control over the class; as stated in Child A’s SEN file (see Appendix Two) there is a preference to work in quiet which is quite common for a child with dyslexia (Reid, G 2010, Learning Styles and Inclusion Sage Publications Ltd: London, P23).
There is evidence to show that behaviour management strategies, such as the assertive discipline techniques, do help to improve behaviour, achievement and attainment. Good behaviour leads to good attainment because there is an effective learning environment, and therefore the child achieves. It states in the Steer Report (2005) that ‘a consistent experience of good teaching engages pupils in their learning and this reduces instances of poor behaviour’. It also relates to the Every Child Matters strand of Enjoy and Achieve. This identifies that children should feel safe, be healthy, and enjoy and achieve in school.
The Learning Needs of Child A
According to information received (Booth, Personal communication, 8 September 2010) Child A’s learning style is that of a multi-sensory learner. This is also stated in the SEN file of Child A (Appendix Two) in a report from the Senior Learning Support Teacher.
Pupils with dyslexia learn best when all the senses are used; this is the VAK model of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning. VAK is an accelerated learning approach where visual learners learn best through pictures, charts, diagrams, video, ICT etc; auditory learners learn best through listening; kinaesthetic learners learn best through being physically engaged in a task. There is further research by Glazzard (2010), stating that teachers should aim to make a child’s learning multi-sensory, catering for all the VAK learning styles.
With regards to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence’s, a dyslexic child will have a greater imbalance of strength and skills. It is important that Child A is provided with the opportunities to develop their preferred learning style so to work to their strengths. Support should be provided in areas of weakness with specific teaching and a demonstration of strategies that aid learning. This is also evident in the Local Authority Dyslexia Policy stating ‘Some pupils who have dyslexia can frequently display marked differences between their abilities.’ It goes on further to state that ‘it is important to identify strengths as well as weaknesses, in order to make the most effective provision’ (see Appendix Three).
It has been suggested that Child A has access to a structured, cumulative, multi-sensory programme of work with opportunities for ‘interleaved learning’ and ‘repetition’ (see Appendix Two). Interleaved learning is a psychological process where new and old materials are practised together. It is also important to remember that to help with Child A’s self-esteem issues, extra measures of support provided within the class should be available for Child A to access them when required, and not draw attention too.
Child A also has low-self esteem that requires attention. The Local Education Authority Dyslexia Policy also backs this up by stating ‘we recognise the particular links between dyslexia and low self-esteem’ (see Appendix Three). From what is known about Child A and through research, it can be stated that when looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1968) diagram (see Appendix Four), Child A has had the biological and physiological needs, also safety needs and belongingness and love needs satisfied. On the other hand, esteem needs have not been realised and as this continues to be a problem, the child’s self-actualisation stage can not be fulfilled. Again, positive reinforcement and working with School A’s Learning Mentor to build up self esteem is required. It is vital, as a teacher, that Child A’s successes are shared with the class/school to help improve self-esteem.
Impact of Every Child Matters Framework in School A
There has been a great impact on School A since the Every Child Matters framework was introduced. Some aspects were in place before, but a lot has changed in recent years. A holistic approach has been taken by School A to implement the Every Child Matters agenda. A significant commitment has been made to the nurturing and education of the whole child.
Through the curriculum the children receive at least 2 hours of exercise a week. Also, they receive education on health, drug awareness and sexual health education. Healthy snacks are provided free to children in foundation stage and KS1. Children in KS2 are offered fruit juice at morning break for a minimal cost. Most recently, the school has had a kitchen built which now allows for food to be cooked on site, giving the school greater control on they type of food being provided.
There are child protection measures in place that all staff are aware of. Three members of staff are contacts for child protection issues that may arise. Any concerns would be expressed to these people and the appropriate action would then be taken by them.
Other support within school is provided by the Learning Mentor. This role encompasses many of the aims of the Every Child Matters Framework. The Learning Mentor is part of the Child Protection Team. The Learning Mentor has created a ‘Peer Mediators’ team created of Y6 children to help support children in the playground when problems arise. There has been a big emphasis placed on the prevention of problems arising in the playground through the creation of play leaders, friendship and singing squads; again, this is through the support from the Y6 children who carry out activities with the younger children at playtime.
Enjoy and Achieve
Special Educational Needs provision kicks into action when there are concerns about an individual child with regards to behaviour issues or academic difficulties. Under the guidance of the schools SENCo this would involve the child monitored as a ’cause for concern’. If the child showed no improvement or deteriorated, they would then be placed on the schools SEN register with the parent’s permission. ‘School Action’ would see the child receiving extra support from within school to support their learning and well-being, and again if the child showed no improvement or deteriorated, they would be place on ‘School Action Plus’ which then brings in the involvement of outside agencies to help and support the child.
Again, the Learning Mentor plays a crucial role here, working very closely with extended schools, helping to provide after-school clubs with family involvement. A homework club is also run for children who regular fail to complete homework for a variety of reasons. Another critical role that the Learning Mentor provides for under the Every Child Matters Framework is liaising with parents. As well as involving them in family clubs after school, she will also provide support for them on an individual basis. This area has an additional staff member to help, the Parent Support Advisor.
The School employs a Parent Support Advisor (PSA) who runs activities at the Sure Start centre, and has particularly provided support to the Muslim community within School. This has taken the form of English classes to help those parents who struggle speaking and understanding English so they can then support their children at home with their reading and writing. The PSA, with the help of the Maths co-ordinator, ran a similar scheme for parents called Ocean Maths. This meeting provided parents with an understanding of how they can help their child at home with maths, and they were also able to purchase very cheaply a resource pack that will help support the child at home.
Wrap around care is also provided by the school in the form of breakfast and after-school care which has been running now for a number of years. This provides parents with the extended support that they may need to be able to return to work.
Extended Schools, through government funding, helps children to access activities that they may have been unable to afford in the past. During the summer holidays, activities were available for children to take part in; those children that receive free school meals were able to access these activities free of charge.
Extended Services have also provided support to Teaching Assistants within school by running a course on ‘Playground Games’ so that these may be taught to the children in the playground.
The school places a big emphasis on assessment and how it is used to ensure that pupils make the best possible progress both in the curriculum and in their personal development.
Assessment for Learning techniques are used in order to enable pupils to progress as individuals. Self and peer assessment techniques are especially relevant in relation to ‘reflecting on the process of participating’. The children know where they are ‘at’ in their learning and how to progress in terms of their next steps.
Make a Positive Contribution to the Community
There is a school council that is made-up of one child from each class. These children meet regularly to discuss how things can work better for the children. They also take views of the other children to these meetings and feedback to the children. A new recent development is the creation of ‘learning challenges’. These aim to let the children have the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to a range of different ‘real life’ situations that makes a positive contribution to an individual, class, school or a local, national global community. A big emphasis is placed on entrepreneurship being encouraged at all times.
Achieve Economic and Social Well-being
At a Primary school level, this is where the seeds are sown to help achieve economic and social well-being, by providing the children with literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. The learning challenges mentioned in the previous section also help towards meeting this.
There are many more aspects of school life that exist due to the emergence of the Every Child Matters Framework. Child A has benefited hugely from this having taken part in after school clubs with their family. There is the support network in place for Child A should they wish to access it, and the relevant people providing support for them already. This is also the case for other children, and has had a positive impact on lots of children throughout School A in supporting their learning.
This child study has highlighted the significant impact that the Every Child Matters framework has had on Child A, other children with and without personal and learning difficulties, and School A as a whole. Every Child Matters now underpins the whole school ethos, and provides support to children, their families and the school.
The understanding of how children learn is essential to my practice as a teacher so that the child’s education can be moved on and supported. There are elements of behaviourist and cognitive learning in School A through rewards systems of team points and positive reinforcement of good behaviour, and also through the assertive teaching methods used. The cognitive approach is seen in the pedagogy of the teacher through effective scaffolding techniques, which have been seen to help Child A in the achievement of tasks.
In a personal communication with the class teacher of Child A, intervention groups have been arranged so that the supported learning of Child A can take place not just through the effective inclusion of all pupils by quality first teaching.
As a teacher it is my responsibility to cater for Child A’s additional needs, and also to regularly review and assess them so that they are continually being met. It is also important that within my practice I regularly consult the class teacher, SENCo and the Learning Mentor who also aid Child A to overcome the difficulties presented, so that the best possible support is being given.
Child A has a positive approach to learning and does not display any of the behavioural difficulties that can be seen in some pupils who have learning difficulties (see Appendix Three).
Observations of Child A
Child A is someone who is very well behaved in class. There are no behaviour problems associated, and conformity is shown at all times. There is interaction between their peers in the class but this is very infrequent and short lasting. Outside in the playground this is the same; Child A has a small circle of friends who have played together for quite a few years. There is interaction between this group, but again, Child A takes a rather passive role of listening rather than initiating.
Child A again always gave the teacher their attention but fiddled with their pen in an undisruptive way. Facial expressions throughout suggested uneasiness. During observations of Child A in Numeracy it was quite evident that there is a low self esteem. Individual tasks saw Child A begin by looking around, gaining the attention of the teaching assistant and teacher to provide the support.
Working with a partner was something Child A seemed to shy away from. Child A’s partner seemed unbothered by this and was happy to discuss with others on the table. A little interaction did take place but this was towards the end of the task as their partner had realised that they must complete the task. Child A also had some number reversal, especially number five and 9.
Child A is very conscious of their problems with spellings as their reading age is far better than their spelling ability so when they read their work back they can see the errors. The child’s commitment and determination is excellent, and after a recent writing assessment was able to identify improvement points that were not linked to spellings. Child A also prefers to work in quiet, which they communicated to the previous year’s teacher.
Art and DT
A familiar pattern is also seen here; lack of interaction with their partner and a tendency to allow their partner to be more dominant and do most of the work.
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