‘Inclusion &SEN’ How can this reduce (rather than add to) teacher workloads?
By Ian Harris
Supporting students with additional needs and those with EAL and poor literacy skills need not be another thing. Better to tweak ‘mainstream’ techniques that benefit all students, including those with additional needs and, at the same time, reduce teacher workloads. Sounds crazy? Read on.
All the teachers knew it, I knew it, the parents knew it. There were too many students with additional needs, EAL and poor literacy to provide one on one support and too many to extract for specialist support outside of the mainstream class. We had to find a better way to include them in the mainstream classroom. The answer, we discovered, was to identify and use techniques that would improve the learning experience of all students, including those with moderate learning needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, Aspergers, Autism, ADHD, etc., with EAL and those with poor literacy skills.
All I did was recognise that we needed to flip things around and stop pushing a rock uphill — stop trying to do the impossible task of asking already overworked teachers to pretend that they could also provide individual responses to 35 – 40% of their class.
Twenty Five years ago…
We discovered that there was no such thing as ‘SEN’ teaching techniques. We focused on using teaching methods to enable teachers to include these students in the learning activities alongside their peers when tweaked or adjusted slightly.
By looking at things from this perspective, supporting and including students with additional needs was transformed from being another-thing-for-teachers-to-do to simply being a better, smarter way of working.
I was very, very lucky to be working with a supportive leadership team who valued the experience I bought from the world of SEN. I was even luckier to be tasked with working with the school’s head of literacy. Val Hill (now retired) was quite simply a brilliant teacher and an inspirational colleague to work with.
When I left the school, the headteacher wrote: “thank you for being an inspiration” on my leaving card. She was wrong. It was the head herself and colleagues like Val who were the inspiration. All I did was recognise that we needed to flip things around and stop pushing a rock uphill — stop trying to do the impossible task of asking already overworked teachers to pretend that they could also provide individual responses to 35 – 40% of their class. This was 25 years ago. Maybe things have changed. If things have changed, then this collection, these techniques, along with the contextual descriptors and the professional learning tools around them, are not for you. If, on the other hand, you see your situation in what I am saying, then you may want to log in to take a look.
Graphic Organisers (GOs) have been around for quite a while. Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Darwin used them. The opportunity cost of using GOs is small. The rewards (increased engagement, motivation, understanding and better results), are quite simply massive. But are they best used?