A small twitter debate erupted following the 2018 ResearchED National Conference when someone pointed out:
DYT’s presentation was the dyslexia one mentioned in the tweet, but why weren’t there more?
The latest data from the government’s annual survey of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) found that teaching SEND learners was an area in which ITT has not prepared NQTs sufficiently and only 40 per cent reported that they felt prepared to assess the progress of SEND pupils. If initial teacher education isn’t equipping the school workforce with this information, then surely professional development events like ResearchED should?
But maybe, as with many SEND-related discussions, this is actually an issue of labels. Whilst there may not have been many workshops labelled SEND, there were plenty that addressed key ideas of how to best teach SEND students in the mainstream classroom (remember, eight out of ten SEND pupils attend mainstream school).
For example, within sessions I attended, Daniel Muijs talked about research that Ofsted are undertaking into SEND pupils’ access to specialised provision in mainstream and Stephen Tierney talked about working memory and cognitive load theory – key principles in much SEND teaching.
If specific labels are used to identify SEND CPD is taking place, might this risk an ‘us and them’ mentality? Good teaching is essential for all pupils, and all teachers are teachers of SEND. We need to find a balance; whilst the NQT data above highlights a need for more specialist training on various learning difficulties to develop teaching skills further, we also need to ensure all CPD builds-in inclusive elements and refers to children with SEND so it is not ‘bolted on’.
There could also be more onus on SEND in the questions that are asked of the research and practice that is shared. For example, School Minister Nick Gibb’s ResearchED speech included celebratory remarks about early literacy and the 87 per cent who reach the expected standard in the Year 1 phonics screening check. He did not mention what he plans to do for the 57 per cent of pupils with SEND who fail to achieve the expected standard, and no one asked.
So, if we are all teachers of SEND, we may not need our own conferences or conference stream, but we do all need to be asking these questions.