A poll carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that more than 80 per cent of almost 600 staff believed that children are being failed under the SEND code of practice. Despite this, the onus on schools to deliver on SEND reforms remains considerable. Dr Adam Boddison, chief executive at nasen, explains why professional development for all SEND staff is therefore vital.
According to the Department for Education (DfE), in England there are 1,228,785 pupils with special educational needs, which means that every teacher is likely to teach a child with SEND at some point during their career. Therefore, it’s crucial that all teaching staff, including those who are newly-qualified, receive regular CPD, in order to ensure they can appropriately manage the complex needs of students with SEND, and they can all be effective ‘teachers of SEND’.
As educators, we hope to meet the needs of the children we teach by giving them the information and skills required to achieve academically and independently.
Pupils with SEND need teachers and SENCOs that deliver a specialist and tailored education, which is why, as evidence-based practice for SEND becomes more important, effective CPD must be a requirement, rather than an option.
With teachers and practitioners being held responsible for delivering high-quality provision by the SEND Code of Practice, and with Ofsted placing significant emphasis on achieving progress and raising aspirations for SEND students, it’s now crucial that they have very specific skills and understanding.
CPD not only improves the quality of provision by arming teachers with the knowledge, expertise and skills to develop their own provisions and become effective ’teachers of SEND’, but also supports those professionals who need to extend their abilities to become the adaptive, flexible thinkers that schools and their pupils need.
Providing SEND staff with regular CPD opportunities relating to the latest developments in education and SEND provision is also important when it comes to retaining staff. It shows them that they’re valued members of the team, working as a part of a professional learning community where their continued professional improvement is a priority.
With today’s teachers being professionally curious and wanting to know how to be the best teachers possible, they’re increasingly being regarded as ‘research practitioners’. CPD gives them the chance to nurture their curiosity and develop their understanding of how best to teach children with SEND, in order to achieve the best learning outcomes.
An effective approach
CPD should be an ongoing process and, therefore, it is most effective when a graduated approach is used, following a cycle of: assess, plan, do and review. This method encourages teachers and practitioners to embed practices into their daily experiences, enabling them to utilise this reflective cycle autonomously, in order to inform and develop the best practice for meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND. A graduated process when adapting teaching is far more valuable and effective than trying to impart limitless knowledge and expecting an immediate change. As the aim of CPD is to develop teachers’ provision and enable them to then apply these approaches independently and confidently in the classroom, CPD must contain material that is relevant to teachers’ day-to-day experiences and should be tailored to suit the needs of the staff and educational setting.
Collaboration is also very effective when it comes to effective CPD, so teachers should be given the opportunity to engage in team-working activities, both during and after training, to test ideas from different perspectives, develop new ideas and inclusive practices, and as a method of providing a professional support network.
Teachers are often some of the most time‑poor professionals due to their increasing workloads and commitment to the classroom, so CPD opportunities need to be known about as far in advance as possible, so teachers can manage their time and commitments efficiently.
Free online CPD
‘Focus on SEND’ is a free online CPD resource covering all mainstream education settings from ages 0-25 across England that has been developed by nasen, with funding from the DfE. The training is based on principles identified by extensive research into what constitutes good CPD and has been designed to offer an alternative approach to teaching. The resource contains approximately nine hours of learning which will be available 24 hours a day, with modules covering: high quality practice and what this means for SEND; identifying needs and the role of assessment; the process for arriving at meaningful outcomes; participation and engagement, both of children and young people, and of their parents and families. To help support the SEND practitioner to consolidate their learning, guidance for reflection is also provided.
SEND practitioners and leaders have a commitment to providing the best teaching and learning for all children and young people; this dedication needs to be upheld and supported by schools through the delivery of high-quality CPD provisions. The entire school workforce needs to be trained to meet the complex and diverse needs of children with SEND and need to be explicitly aware of their responsibilities as SEND practitioners. Therefore, regular and continuing professional development for all SEND staff is important in the development of effective strategies, for delivering high‑quality SEND teaching provisions, and for ensuring that pupils with SEND are given the education they need to become independent, capable young adults.