A central theme in the training debate is the extent to which initial teacher training (ITT) prepares teachers to embed a graduated approach to the needs of CYP with SEND, in their classroom practice. SEND campaigners, including parents, highlight the lack of consistent opportunities available to trainee teachers to develop their practice in this area. The Driver Youth Trust has been at the forefront of this debate since publishing The Fish in the Tree report in 2014. The report found that just 52% of trainees surveyed received any training on dyslexia and yet 84% thought it was important to do so.
The Driver Youth Trust commissioned this report to understand the extent to which teacher trainees received training on special educational needs and disability, particularly dyslexia. The study found that while teachers overwhelmingly thought it important they received training to help teach children with dyslexia, over half revealed they had received no specific training at all. For nine out of ten teachers surveyed, initial training on dyslexia amounted to less than half a day.
To download the full report click on the image on the right. To see our key findings and recommendations, and to read our second research piece Joining the Dots: have recent reforms worked for those with SEND? click here.
Fish in the Tree, which asked the question ‘Why are we failing children with dyslexia?’ (click on the cover to download)
ITT providers should lay the foundations for teachers to practice in line with their responsibilities under the Teacher Standards. These are too vague, and do not give teachers a ‘pathway’ to progress towards achieving those standards, nor do they set out professional expectations or instil an inclusive professional culture.
A change in attitudes cannot be taught or bought, but attitudes to SEND can change when there is tangible evidence that demonstrates success, for learners and their families, especially when teachers themselves are equipped and engaged in a process to deliver just that.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that help teachers and schools manage learning and growth on an individual or team basis.
According to the Teacher Development Trust, most of the money spent on school staff development and training in England doesn’t do much to help improve classroom practice. When CUREE conducted a snapshot of training provision for the TDA, they found that barely 1% of training they looked at was effectively transforming classroom practice.
It is also worth noting that a recent report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found out that teachers in England work an average 19% longer than those in other countries. The heavy workload results in teachers missing out on training and development – spending just four days per year on courses, observational visits and on-the-job training compared with an international average of 10.5 days. In comparison, teachers in Shanghai spend 40 days per year on training and development – ten times more than in England.
Author of the EPI report, Peter Sellen, says:
“Instead of focusing on workload, we should focus on the quality of CPD. Not only is it more objective and easier to measure, but the link between good CPD and unmanageable teacher workload could also make CPD a useful litmus test for how hard staff are having to work more broadly.”
The UK Government produced a CPD Standard in 2016 which sets out a view of what effective CPD looks like. The standard recognises that all teachers undertake CPD training and that this is an important part of improving both knowledge and skills for teachers, and educational outcomes for learners.
The standard distinguished between direct and indirect impact of CPD on learner outcomes. Direct being, for example reading instruction and indirect being leadership development. They concluded that training needs to follow the standard and that it should be about direct impact on learners.
What is CPD? Most CPD in relation to SEND is about awareness raising as opposed to practical strategies for the classroom. Through our flagship programme, Drive for Literacy, we are doing this by way of training and providing free resources.
Should it just be about direct impact? No. We believe it is important to provide indirect CPD training in order to develop leaders and specialists, including SENCos and Literacy Leads, who can think strategically about the school system and how they can have an impact on its structure so that ultimately learner outcomes improve. For example, leaders need to understand the importance of a SENCo having administrative support so that they can support teaching staff to deliver those outcomes.
Teaching assistants (TAs) play a key role in supporting learners with literacy difficulties. Evidence from the EEF report, Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants, shows that TAs can have a positive impact on educational outcomes. However, these effects can vary widely depending on the role, from TAs generally supporting in the classroom to those who support individuals and small groups.
Recently, Maximising TAs, Unison and NAHT have published a set of professional standards for TAs. They help to define the role and purpose of TAs which should help schools ensure their impact on pupil outcomes.
The Driver Youth Trust welcomes these standards, recognising the central role many TAs play in supporting SEND pupils, and therefore incorporates TA training within the Drive for Literacy model.