Importance of SEN provisions in schools
What is SEN?
Special Educational Needs (SEN) or Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) covers any individual with a learning disability or difficulty. The impairment of individuals for special educational needs, has a direct effect on the individual’s learning experience. For instance, an individual with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may struggle with hour-long sessions sat in a classroom trying to decipher the underlying connotations of ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’.
What is an SEN provision?
An SEN provision is an area, department or school, specifically-built to offer a safe and empathetic place for students to learn. Some provisions offer adapted mainstream curricula, others offer SEN-specific curricula, which may be less focused on academia, and more focused on improving independence and basic living skills. A number of schools or specialist schools offer SEN provisions, with varying levels of support and services. What does this mean? This means that ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ can be taught to all students, no matter what; perhaps, it can be broken down into snippets, or acted out.
Why is a provision for individuals with a learning difficulty/disability important?
All students can thrive when correct support and educational provisions are provided. With the right processes and systems in place, both nerotypical and SEN students are able to achieve their potential by attending university, completing an FE/HE course, getting paid employment, living more independently, or whatever else the goal may be. On top of this, there is a legal obligation to provide education for a child, regardless of their needs in both the UK (EHCP and Children and Families Bill) and Canda (FAPE and IDEA).
In the UK, the Department of education figures from 2014 show that whilst permanent exclusions do still occur, the number of SEN students with a disability statement is now considerably lower than that of students without one. ‘0.25% of pupils with SEN without a statement received a permanent exclusion in 2013/14 compared to 0.15% of pupils with statements and less than 0.03% of pupils with no SEN’. This shows that learners who receive an EHCP and are being placed in provisions with more adapted facilities and staff are achieving more.
What is an EHCP?
An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is drawn up with the student’s best interests, for all the professionals and parents/carers involved (or perhaps going to be involved) in that young person’s life. Good practice when curating an EHCP is to include the students in all decisions, regardless of age; this also coincides with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
An EHCP can be issued to a child or young person between the ages of 0 and 25 years and is led by the individual’s local authority. EHCPs are for children and young people whose special educational needs require more help than would normally be provided in mainstream school.
What are FAPE and IDEA?
Free Appropriate Public Education (for children with disabilities) is exactly what it says on the tin; it ensures that all children have access to RTN (relevant to needs) education. This falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which made it a federal law that all schools serve learners with an educational need, if enrolled. It is the school’s responsibility to evaluate/assess SEN students and of course at no-cost to the parent/care giver of said individual.
So what does this include, once assessed?
Once an individual has been identified as having an SEN, the school must provide them with special education and related services (like speech therapy, occupational health, etc.) to meet their unique needs. According to Ontario’s government website on education, this is to ensure the success and progression of all students.
According to UCAS there are approximately 40,000 students with SEN at Universities across the UK, including that of Oxford and Cambridge, which equates to approximately 3%* of students with a special educational need. Of mainstream students, approximately 21%* attend university. Whilst it is great to know that a large number of SEN students are taking their educations through to university, it is my experience as an SEN teacher that a vast majority of students are still not achieving their full potentials, due to the lack of provisions at schools, universities and work placements. If we can increase the number of well-adapted provisions, we can inevitably increase the number of students' needs being met, and allow more SEN students to self-actualise (reach their potential).
(*figures used from the Department of Education 2015)
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