Through the Looking Glass, written by our Director, Christopher Rossiter, examines the recent reports on literacy that inform the education agenda and asks – is universal provision what it seems? We look at what we mean by literacy, by being ‘disadvantaged’ and ask where those learners with SEND, most of them in mainstream school settings, fit into the picture. Are the conventional assumptions accurate, or is the ‘Looking Glass’ world very different?
All the reports we analysed are well-intentioned and aimed at raising literacy standards. However, if we are not precise with our language, if we don’t examine the nuances and complexities behind the definitions we use and if we don’t include children and young people with SEND in our aspirations, we will not raise general literacy standards. In addition, we will not use the limited funds available wisely, and most importantly, we will fail those learners with SEND who are capable of great success even though their reading and writing skills may not be comparable to those of their peers.
Our aim is always to be practical. Therefore we have made a series of recommendations that we believe, if followed, will make real changes to the literacy landscape and to those learners with SEND, particularly those with literacy difficulties. We pride ourselves on being collaborative and so we welcome the views and opinions of others on the issues we have raised.
An analysis of the text in 21 strategies, policies and initiatives from some of the leading educational and policy organisations in the country identified the following key themes:
Influencers and policy makers
1. Publish a national literacy strategy that reviews current and proposed strategies for literacy and ensures that they set goals that relate to the needs of all learners (including SEND), and address the requirements for those who may not be able to reach SAT or GCSE standards for literacy.
2. Review the role of the SENCo to ensure that the current roles and responsibilities actually deliver evidence-based practice
for SEND learners.
3. Ensure that any government strategy on literacy is coherent with the SEND Code of Practice and vice versa.
4. When funding or considering commissioning research, ask whether the work includes SEND learners who are likely to need
5. When funding literacy initiatives, include specific funding criteria that will encourage bids from those looking at truly universal approaches and approaches that make best use of specialists.
6. Review the number and availability of SEND specialists in the system and how these are being used.
7. Develop a strategy to ensure specialists are available and embedded across the school system, including mainstream settings.
8. Ensure that SEND and literacy strategies work harmoniously, with a particular focus on how learners, who may never reach ‘mandated’ standards in literacy, are supported.
9. Consider how funding could be used to boost the number of specialists across a cluster of schools.
10. Increase targeted sharing of effective practice in relation to literacy between for example, SENCos, faculty and subject leaders across curricula and educational settings.
Sarah’s speech tackles the wider policy debate focused within the report and is a call for action to policymakers and those who formulate policy to focus on those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Chris’ speech asks the question “if we want every child to have a good standard of literacy at the end of primary school, go on to attain good GCSEs and otherwise lead a prosperous life, should we not address the needs of every child?”
Hannah’s speech focused on the theme of “making the invisible, visible” and how every teacher should be a teacher of SEND.
Hannah Wilson is the Headteacher Designate for Aureus School, Didcot and Regional Director of the Oxfordshire Hub for GLF Schools. Aureus is a Year 7 start-up school which will be opened in September 2017.
Hannah is also the Co-Founder of #WomenEd, a grassroots gender equality movement that connects aspiring, emerging and serving women leaders in education.
Our 10 recommendations for policy-makers, funders, specialists and schools.