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SEND Green Paper: what kind of training would help professionals better support children and young people?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 4 October 2022

Workshop participants in a session

Photo: Jason Ilagan for UCL Faculty of Education and Society

Miriam McBreen and Jo Van Herwegen.

In our third blog post responding to the DFE’s Green Paper reviewing the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) system, we consider what training the workforce needs so that practitioners are equipped to effectively support pupils with SEND. This involves considering the role of multiple educational professionals, including Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs), teachers and teaching assistants (TAs).

SENCOs play a central role in supporting children with SEND. They coordinate children’s provision, help implement the graduated response to need, and work with key stakeholders around the child. SENCOs are currently required to have a Master’s level qualification and it is important that this qualification be maintained. It helps ensure that they have access to up-to-date research, develop critical engagement with current issues in the field, and become reflective in their practice. Indeed, Esposito and Carroll demonstrate a range of evidence that SENCOs are critically engaging with research at the Master’s level to inform meaningful assessment, evidence-informed practice and evaluation of impact.

Other educational practitioners, such as teachers and TAs, also play key roles in supporting pupils with SEND. Our research suggests that many teachers and educational professionals endorse a number of incorrect beliefs about how children with SEND develop (often referred to as neuromyths) and that there is no difference between educators and the general public in holding such beliefs.

Initial Teacher Education (ITE) that includes training in special education may help counterbalance this and has been shown to support the achievement of pupils with SEND, for example in reading and maths. Additionally, teachers who received training in special education show improved knowledge of inclusion terminology and assessment adaptations, as well as increased confidence in meeting the needs of students with SEND.

Notably, this should include strengthened training for all practitioners in providing opportunities for language development and interactions from the early years, as this may improve outcomes for children with poor language skills. Training on how to foster motivation can also contribute to better outcomes, as motivation has been shown to be especially important for the learning outcomes of pupils with SEND.

Research also shows the benefits of training TAs to more effectively support the needs of pupils with SEND. Evidence-based, structured interventions delivered by TAs have been shown to lead to improved achievement, for example in literacy and maths. And providing training for TAs to enable them to effectively scaffold the learning of students with SEND may help students become more self-directed in their learning.

Finally, training is needed to help professionals work collaboratively with parents. Parents of children with SEND, in particular those on a low income, report poor experiences with the English SEND system, its policy and legislative context, and highlight that professionals lack the skills and understanding to work cooperatively with them. Kunwar Deer and Kamenoupoulou argue that to help improve parents’ experiences and perceptions of the system, professionals need to gain skills to help them work collaboratively with parents and to ensure that parents and children are placed at the centre of decision making. We need ongoing training for teachers to help them actively listen to parents and carers and work together as partners to achieve the best educational outcomes and well-being for children.

Key to supporting changes in practice is providing all participants with greater awareness and understanding of the SEND process, as well as training on how children with SEND can be supported. Several resources are already available. For example, at the Centre for Inclusive Education we have a number of online short courses for teachers on Developing Quality Inclusive Practice. Additionally, UCL’s Centre for Educational Neuroscience has created NeuroSENse, a compilation of resources to raise awareness of misconceptions related to neurodevelopmental disorders and SEND.

Additional co-authors: Gill Brackenbury, Susana Castro-Kemp, Rosanne Esposito, Vivian Hill, Leda Kamenopoulou and Mel Romualdez


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