Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Ofsted Utter a Few Home Truths



Some of my friends are retired teachers and two specialised in the area of 'special needs' teaching. One insists more provision should be available and the other insists there are far too many children labelled 'special needs' for no reason other than they are unable to grasp a subject as quickly as their peers. Many times she has argued that removing a child from its peer group can lower the child's confidence and a better solution would be to involve parents immediately the problem is identified. Of course parents are not always able to help their children with homework and that's when the school has to decide how to progress. One way is to have a short after school class for those requiring extra help.

In the past few years I've listened to these two retired professionals discussing this subject and one point with which they agree is the amount of children listed as special needs has risen dramatically in recent years.

The latest Ofsted report may shine some light on the reasons.

More than 700,000 children listed as having special educational needs would not need extra help if they had better teachers, the new report says. Nearly half the schools in England are classifying pupils as in need of extra support unnecessarily. In one school, all the pupils at risk of failing to get their target grades at GCSE were listed as having special needs so they were given extra mentoring for the exams.

There are 1.7 million children in England identified as having special educational needs. The vast majority come from disadvantaged homes. In 3% of cases (250,550) the need is obvious and acute, such as blindness or deafness and these children receive the help they need speedily.

However, in the past eight years the numbers said to be needing less intensive support has risen for 14% to 18.2%. Ofsted adds: 'As many as half of all the pupils identified for school action (special need provision) would not be indentified as having special educational needs if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all - with individual goals for improvement.

The report mentions some schools felt it could boost their rankings in performance league tables by proving they have made great strides in improving the performance of pupils with special needs. If this is accomplished they receive a higher ranking. So the more special needs pupils they identify the greater chance they have to rise up the league tables.

Christine Gilbert, chief executive of Ofsted and chief schools inspector, said: "We found that schools are identifying pupils as having special educational needs when they just need better teaching and pastoral support.

"If they had been identified better in the first place, their needs wouldn't be so acute later on. More attention needs to be given to identification."

She added that there was a "poor evaluation at all sorts of levels of pupils' needs".

"With over one in five children of school age in England identified as having special educational needs, it is vitally important that both the way they are identified and the support they receive work in the best interests of the children involved.

"Higher expectations of all chilren, and better teaching and learning, would lead to fewer children being identified as having special educational needs."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT said: "Teachers do a great job in often difficult circumstances to meet the needs of all their pupils and for Ofsted to suggest otherwise is insulting and wrong."

Why are there so many children from disadvantaged homes being identified as special needs? Are children being labelled special needs because of their home background instead of their learning abilities?

Children's Minister Sarah Teather is to launch a Green Paper to review special needs provision in schools. The debate should be interesting.

Note: As far as I know there has been no report on Scottish, Welsh or N Irish schools as yet.


25 comments:

INCOMING!!!!!!! said...

SR an acquaintance of mine decided to go for an OFSTED inspector position way back in 2002. Two things struck me at the time.

Firstly she said that from the classes and children she had seen, in many parts of the England then, we had a lost generation of adults coming up who were empty vessels in the most profound sense. No morality, no thought, no ability to act independently other than to create havoc passively.

Secondly although she never, ever said so much I thought OFSTED, from what she related, to be itself a curious contract based private, public faced, entity. To this day I am convinced OFSTED is a CP agency designed to be part of the dialectic in the controlled break down of the family. Just look at the figures, every year more and more children are divorced from their families and more and more families just disappear from existence as more and more effort is put into “helping” these families.

Peculiar don’t you think? It is like the drug trade. The bigger the war against the drugs the more turn up!

Mummylonglegs said...

Parents, teachers and Government would all rather label children as special needs. It means none of them have to address the fact that parental skills, teaching skills and education in general has declined to such an appalling degree that children entering senior school do not even know basic manners, maths or reading and writing skills. Why admit that the system is a shambles and that you couldn't be bothered to discipline your child when you can simply blame the child and label them special needs instead. Everyones a winner, well except for the child, who will grow up illiterate with poor life skills and a get out of anything 'I is special needs' attitude. They will go on to have their own children, will fail to educate and discipline them, will have them labelled 'special needs' and thus the cycle will continue. All the while parents and teachers who do go that extra mile will see their bright and polite children/pupils left at the back of the line whilst all the dross leapfrog the system and take priority, because of their 'special needs'

The whole system is just criminal.

John said...

+ of course, it seems that schools get more money for ESN pupils than no-ESN and have all sorts of non-teacher assistants and specialists grafted on. So, the bigger the budget and staff nos = the bigger the salary of the head.

Hamish said...

Just a little (true) story from the past. Many years ago, my late aunt was a Special Needs teacher at an Edinburgh school. She had been helping a young pupil who had reading diffculties. One day the mother came to see her looking worried and haggard. "What's wrong?" my aunt asked, "You're daughter is coming on fine." "I know" said the mother "but she keeps asking me to help with her reading, and I always say I'm too busy, so I'm working my fingers to the bone. You see I'm ashamed to tell her that I can't read myself".
My aunt replied "Would you like to learn?". So the mother came in after school for lessons for a few weeks.
Problem solved.

Furor Teutonicus said...

In one school, all the pupils at risk of failing to get their target grades at GCSE were listed as having special needs so they were given extra mentoring for the exams.

Why are there so many children from disadvantaged homes being identified as special needs? Are children being labelled special needs because of their home background instead of their learning abilities?

I thought that was OBVIOUS?

If a school is in danger of being "marked down" as "Not satisfactory" or "not achieving" by the Stalinist organs of the Westminster dictatorship, because so few pass the exams. Then to all of a sudden find that half the school are "special needs" cures their little problem over night.

HAY PRESTO!!! They get top marks for having to deal with all those problems and STILL have as many as a sixteenth of the school pass a GCSE.


But HAY! I was BORN a cynical and calous bastard.

subrosa said...

You're possibly far nearer the truth than many would admit Incoming.

What I've never understood (and it's the same in the caring industry) is why these agencies inform their client groups prior to inspections. In my industry there was no prior warning, the suits just arrived. They saw the business as it was run on a daily basis.

Yet I know teaching friends put in so many extra hours prior to Ofsted visits. Why? Makes me wonder, that's all.

subrosa said...

Hi MLL, good to see you. The system is criminal and our politicians are happy to see it exist as it is. Although I must add I'm pleased to see Gove is reintroducing technical schools. Long past time that is.

subrosa said...

John, I never thought about the head's enhanced salary. Silly me.

subrosa said...

Hamish, I knew a father who could do arithmetic well and although self-employed, he knew it held him back. A similar thing happened to him because his daughter had problems with maths. It was all done after school and the daughter wasn't removed from any classes.

PS The man went on to be one of the biggest dental suppliers and is now retired.

subrosa said...

Well I thought it was obvious Furor but my assessment could well differ from others.

Naw, you were just born a cynic. Not a bad think in this world. It's important people question endlessly even though we seldom receive answers.

Hamish said...

Just a little addendum if I may.

(Be warned this comment contains politically incorrect language).

One day, my aunt (the Special Needs teacher) heard one of the mothers describing how her son had been for an assessment. This had decided that he could continue in mainstream education.
Her description was: "Willie was tested for the daft school, but he failed!".

Rightwinggit said...

@Furor Teutonicus..

Hey. not hay.

Oh, and Stalinist organs...I saw what you did there..rockets galore!

Are you Prussian?

subrosa said...

At least she was honest Hamish! The 'daft' school is Dundee back in the 50s and 60s did a wonderful job for those unable to cope with mainstream education. It saved the sanity of my best pal's parents because their eldest had serious difficulties. It also supported him for years afterwards with arranging reunions, helping with jobs. They were always there for the parents and also the child when he was adult. The true experts they were.

subrosa said...

I don't think so Rightwinggit, I think he's British but lives in Germany. Mind you I could be wrong.

Rightwinggit said...

Subs, google Stalins organs.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...

Macheath said...

@mummylonglegs

Everyones a winner, well except for the child, who will grow up illiterate with poor life skills and a get out of anything 'I is special needs' attitude

Well said! Once instilled, the victim mentality poisons everything. The problem is the way it is fostered by the system.

The proper response to an unruly pupil who argues, 'is it 'cos I is special needs?' should, of course, be 'no; it is 'cos you is an a***hole' Job done, with a sense of humour; he has not lost face, the class is entertained and order can be resumed.

The approved response would be to reassure the pupil without damaging his fragile self-esteem - and probably turn yourself in to the authorities for causing him to ask the question in the first place.

SR, I'm late to the party, but great post!

Macheath said...

re previous:

cos you is an a***hole

or words to that effect, obviously. You don't want to lose your job, after all.

subrosa said...

I will rightwinget when I've a spare minute.

subrosa said...

Late party goers can be the most interesting Macheath.

Sheila said...

Re Scotland

We don't have Special Educational Needs any more - we've had Additional Support Needs since 2004.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2004/06/19516/39190

Any further comment will turn into a rant so I'll leave it at that...

subrosa said...

Morning Sheila. Thanks for the information. Same difference as between a frock and a dress I suppose.

Off to read your link. Appreciated as always.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Rightwinggit said...

@Furor Teutonicus..

Hey. not hay.

Oh, and Stalinist organs...I saw what you did there..rockets galore!

Are you Prussian?


Family German (Prussian), Swedish/Norwegian. Me German/Swedish, lived in U.K for years due to parents jobs.

Furor Teutonicus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Furor Teutonicus said...

Furor Teutonicus said...

And actually you are correct, I dis spell it wrong. It should have been "Hej".

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Follow the money.

If you subsidise something, you get more of it.

That is why there are so many "special needs" pupils these days.

(That, and the breakdown of all discipline, which means those who were formerly just a bit slow but could be helped along, now cannot be helped because of the prevailing atmosphere of chaos and disrespect.)

But mainly it's the money.

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