According to OFSTED, over half a million kids in the UK are being wrongly diagnosed as having Special Educational Needs.
Well – I can sort of sympathise with that to an extent, because I do think that there are a nunber of kids who are misdiagnosed with conditions like ADHD who have nothing of the sort. What they have is an inability to understand the word “no”, probably because it’s never been said to them, or if it has been said, it’s not been reinforced.
But that, of course, isn’t what they’re talking about.
No, it’s “let’s bash teachers” time again! Because apparently, it’s all our fault.
Apparently these kids wouldn’t need the extra help they get (or are supposed to get) when they’re “labelled” as having SEN if – wait for it – they had better teachers.
I work in a school of extremes – there are a few really bright kids, and rather a lot more kids who are very disadvantaged, not just in terms of their academic ability, but economically. Just today, I’ve had kids in two of my classes who have felt sick and light-headed and who it turns out, have not had any breakfast because there was no food at home, and in the case of one lad – had nothing to eat all day because his mum has no money to buy any and doesn’t get paid until Friday. (Okay, so that kid should probably be on free school meals and I don’t know why he isn’t – but that’s another issue.)
But tell me – how the hell does “better teaching” make a difference with something like that?
There are also different types of SEN. Making an incredibly crass distinction, there are the kids who have learning difficulties because they have (I hate this, but I can’t think of another way to put it) physical or mental problems, and the kids who have learning difficulties because they can’t behave or sit still long enough to learn anything. Okay, so those kids often also have other difficulties too, but putting the first group in with the second does neither group any favours at all. The kids who need the help (who are usually the quiet ones) end up not getting it because the staff are too busy dealing with A who keeps trying to punch B in the face who in turn is trying to throw C out of the window.
Often, those kids respond very well to one-to-one tuition. But when you’ve got eight of them in a class and there’s one of you (two, if you’re lucky enough to have a TA with you), that’s just not possible.
So whoever produced this report should just shut the hell up about these kids needing “better teaching”. ALL kids deserve good teaching – not just the below-average ones. The state sector is seriously failing very able kids, yet nobody seems to kick up a stink about that.
I’ve worked in five different schools since 2005 when I started teaching. There are, undoubtedly, some ineffective teachers out there. But the vast majority of those I’ve met – and I’ve probably met a lot more in my short career than many other teachers who’ve stayed in the same place for longer periods than I’ve been able to – are very hard-working, dedicated and have the best interests of the kids at heart, no matter how we grumble about them.
It’s no wonder that teachers in this country are vilified by so many kids, parents and members of the public. Practically everything that’s reported about us in the media says that we’re crap at our jobs, not well-qualified or well-trained enough. The country is bloody lucky that some of us are prepared to do the job with everything it entails while the media shovels shit at us.