Sunday, 17 November 2013


Lots to grump about

Norman Perrin is the only person in what some would call a 'senior' position in Conductive Education to make public comments on the depressing socio-political context in which CE struggles to survive. His most recent posting on this stemmed from a junior minister's slippery oral reply in the UK Parliament to a question from opposition MP Emma Lewell-Buck to what I would have thought a fundamental question –

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the training and support available for the teaching of children with special educational needs.

As I often do, I felt compelled to respond.
Perhaps in 2013 teachers in the UK know so little about special pedagogies (through not having received appropriate training for so long now) that they are as a group year by year less and able to offer an informed opinion on whether they are adequately trained or not.
I doubt the the Minister has much idea of what he is talking about and I have looked up Ms Robinson, and would not expect her to hold much of a conversation on such matters either, if I have spotted the right lady...
Norman replied –
I do so agree, Andrew: teachers 'are as a group year by year less and able to offer an informed opinion on whether they are adequately trained or not.' As far as I am aware, the SEN element of initial teacher training is predominately disability rights, history of disability and inclusion studies. There simply is no disability-specific ITT in the UK (other than some excellent opportunities for ITT in sensory impairments). I would be delighted to be proved wrong.
And in my turn –
What might lie beneath could even more horrifying. Never mind teachers and what they know and think, at best in most cases no more than useful adjuncts to what happens outside of school). What a bout a society that may no longer believe, legislate, provide etc. on the basis that at least some developmental disorders, and even developmental delays, are not amenable to conscious, material, psycho-social intervention.
Could anyone possibly imagine such a ghastly dystopia?
Norman and I often have such little conversations on line, on our blogs and our Facebook pages. Do we express ourselves so because we are getting old. Or because we are men? Is 'grumpy' the right word.
Maybe other people express much contrary views, just as publicly, and I do not know of them. Where?
Not his finest hour

Edward Timpson is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families in the Department of Education.

For the sake of completeness here is the complete transcript of the interchange between Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields, Labour) and Edward Thompson (Crewe and Nantwich, Conservative)

Emma Lewell-Buck. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the training and support available for the teaching of children with special educational needs.

Edward Timpson. Teachers tell us that the quality of their training in has improved significantly, with 69% of primary teachers and 74% of secondary teachers rating their training as “good” or “very good” in helping them to teach pupils with SEN. That compares to as few as 45% in 2008.

Emma Lewell-Buck. Just over 1,900 pupils in my constituency have special educational needs. Those children need teachers who understand their unique requirements as learners and adapt their lessons appropriately. Does the Minister accept that such pupils lose out in schools that have unqualified teachers who have never undertaken any special educational needs training?

Edward Timpson. No

A few minutes earlier, Mr Thompson faced a further question on 'special educational needs', this one from Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, Labour)

Michael McCann. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of education for children with special educational needs; and if he will make a statement.

Edward Timpson. Many schools provide excellent teaching for pupils with SEN, but we know from reports by Ofsted and Brian Lamb that too often pupils are classified as having SEN but do not make progress. That is why our SEN reforms, including education, health, and care plans, focus on the involvement of families and the agreement of concrete outcomes, so that parents are clear that their children are genuinely making progress.

Michael McCann. I am grateful for the Minister's response. The 17 October debate in this Chamber on funding support for deaf children and young people highlighted areas of excellence in deaf education across the country, but sadly that is not the case everywhere. What steps will the Minister be taking to support, promote and ensure that we can distribute best practice for deaf children across the whole country?

Edward Timpson. The hon. Gentleman has a huge personal interest in this issue, and he made an excellent contribution to that debate. He is right that we need to ensure that, where there is excellence, it can be spread as widely and deeply as possible. That is why we are providing £1.1 million of funding to the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, to help to benchmark local authority service and provide guidance on good practice to support sensory support services, in an effort to get more children to benefit from the excellence that we know exists.

Christopher Pincer (Tamworth, Conservative). I am sure that my hon. Friend will pay triibute to Dig-iT, the dyslexia group in Tamworth, which does great voluntary work for dyslexia sufferers in the town. Does he agree that we need a level playing field in the teaching of children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, so that they get the best possible chance of success?

Edward Timpson. I have no doubt that Dig-iT in Tamworth is doing some incredible work to support children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, and we recognise that we need to do more to ensure a level playing field for those families who require extra support. That is why, over two years, we are providing £5.5 million to a number of different voluntary, including the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, so that they can give free advice and training on key aspects of SEN, to make that level playing field a reality.

Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak, Labour). I congratulate the Government on their education, health and care plans, which could make a real difference. The Minister will know that parents who are used to struggling for support are worried that the plans may be too difficult to access. Given the intention to suspend them in custodial settings and to abolish School Action and School Action Plus, there is a fear that the brave new world could be limited to too few. Will the Minister take those concerns on board? In fact, in this instance, why do not we try to work together and do what is right for those with special needs?

Edward Timpson. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his co-operative spirit on this issue. It is important that Parliament and Government give a single, clear message on ensuring that all children with SEN get the support that they need and deserve. I am aware of a number of concerns that have been raised, by parents and others working with children with SEN, during the passage of the Children and Families Bill. The important thing to remember is that we are not reducing or diluting any of the existing protections or rights. In fact, we are expanding them in many cases, particularly for those young people over the age of 16. We will continue to work on some of the remaining issues as the Bill continues its passage through the other place.

So that's all right, then.

The 'other place', by the way, is British Parliamentary language. Here it refers to the House of Lords.

And a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State?

No one who hasn't been a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has any conception of how unimportant a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State is.
(Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire)

The lowest of three levels of government minister in the United Kingdom, the first step up the greasy pole (or not as the case can so often be).

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Blogger NormanP said...

I very largely welcome the provisions of the Children and Families Bill. Much that it set out to do needed doing. There are various possible endings to the sentence that begins "If we were really serious about special education, we would ...." My suggestion would be around disability-specific initial teacher training. What I'd really like to see is conductor training being a possibility within the "Training Schools" programme. Anyone interested?

Sunday, 17 November 2013 at 22:46:00 GMT  

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