Special Needs being incorporated into teacher training?
It is interesting how when you type in “teacher training for special needs children”, Google offers courses for specialist teachers of SEN or for Teaching Assistants. However, since the 2014 Code of Practice the emphasis has been on inclusion and not intervention through withdrawal for small group or one-to-one teaching. Therefore, the landscape of teacher training should have changed with the Code of Practice: but is this the case?
In the past
Understanding how to teach SEN students has always been a module of teacher training. There has been a standard to meet by trainee trainers since the emergence of the post graduate certification required to enter the profession. This tends to be an assignment where the trainee is asked to research a specific area of special need and then form a plan for teaching that child.
The case study is limited to that area of need and that child, so inadequate in some respects. However, the methodology of the assignment is the perceived good practice the teacher should then employ when receiving information about classes. So, upon noting a need in a class, the teacher should research and form a profile of good practice for that student.
Has training changed since 2014?
There is a lot of recognition in schools that teachers need more help with teaching special needs children. Therefore, although the methodology may not have changed dramatically in Universities, the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers in schools has been intensively focused on SEN teaching.
This has been helped by OfSted, who have placed an emphasis on closing the gap in provision and outcomes for special needs children. Therefore, schools have been compelled to respond.
How are teachers trained for the teaching of SEN students?
Best practice in the CPD of teachers is a mixture of theory mixed with exposure to outstanding practice in the area. Therefore, teachers are being given a fundamental understanding of the difficulties faced by individual children in the classroom. It is important that teachers know what it feels like to be sat in a classroom when the learning is filtered through the difficulties that SEN students face. From this knowledge, teachers are able to apply common sense and experience to adapt the practice for their classroom.
However, trainers in schools recognise that exposure to outstanding practice with students with greater needs is the best means of sharing the best practice. Therefore, videos of these teachers and invitations for teachers to join these people in the classroom is becoming the norm.
Issues in schools move slowly and two years is only two cycles of school life. Therefore, the change to more inclusive practice will be slow but teachers are starting to be given the tools they need to be effective teachers of special needs students.