Trainee teachers rate SEN as one of poorest aspects of their training

Learning how to teach children with special educational needs is one of the lowest-rated aspects of teacher training for primary school trainees, according to new statistics.

The Newly Qualified Teachers Annual Survey 2014 reveals that of the 2,883 primary-trained NQTs in the last year, 40% rated this aspect of their training as good (40%) and 24% as very good. The two figures of 64% compares to 68% in the 2013 survey, described in the report as a, "small but statistically significant decrease." This difference relates mostly to good ratings, with a decrease of five percentage points although over time, since 2010, there is an increase in the proportion of positive responses to this question.

teacher train
From The Annual Survey of Teacher Training 2014

Those training for teaching in Higher Education were the least likely to say that their training was good which is concerning, considering the fact that the new Education, Health and Care Plan doesn't cover HE. And, although the cuts to DSA have been put on hold until after the election (as if we're fooled by that), there is no guarantee that the next government won't shred it to pieces as soon as they think the coast is clear.

This means that SEND students who have successfully achieved GCSEs, A-levels and university entry, will not only to miss out on statutory support that a peer who has chosen a paid apprenticeship will have, they will also be taught by lecturers who don't know how to identify or support them.

Some primary school teacher trainees commented that not enough time was given by their training provider to prepare them to teach children with special educational needs, while others did not have the necessary experience in their placement schools.

"Aware of P levels on training. However felt totally unprepared on how to plan and set work for SEN children." (SCITT, postgraduate)

"The thing that has let me down most with the training was not knowing enough about intervention strategies and dealing with SEN. We had 3 major sessions at college but it wasn't practical enough in helping you deal with 6 SEN children with very different needs in a class of 29 with very little TA support!"

"The school I trained at had a low level of SEN too which meant I wasn't exposed to this in a major way." (EBITT, postgraduate)

"A real lack of compulsory training on special educational needs in [this area], especially when considering the significant proportion of sen in [this area]" (HEI, undergraduate)

"Perhaps more extra workshops on topics such as SEN and EAL with practical examples of how to help these pupils in your class." (HEI, postgraduate)

"I ticked satisfactory for some points on Standard 5 because neither of my placements allowed me to teach children in these groups. I am aware that we experienced one day in different SEN and EAL schools to provide this opportunity, however don't feel that this was sufficient time to prepare me." (HEI, postgraduate)

However some trainees responded with positive comments about the strength of their training and support offered in placements. One in partiular had had training in an SEN school:

"School placement in SEN school for 3 weeks at the end of the final placement has totally altered my career! This was a outstanding opportunity and should be made compulsory, so more people have understanding and knowledge of how to work with pupils with sen/ behaviour." (HEI, postgraduate)

"The specialist training received as part of the [SCITT] was particularly strong and relevant to my current role. Both [trainers], who delivered much of the SEN training, provided a high level of expertise and were also very supportive.  amount of time spent on placement was also very useful and I feel there was a good amount of time spent both in schools and in the classroom. The opportunity to train in a special school was particularly useful and has had a great impact on my success in my current role as a special needs teacher. (SCITT, postgraduate)

The reason, clearly, that these two trainees had so much positive to say is that they actually trained in special schools so it would be astonishing if they didn't gain good experience! In fact, the first positive commenter said that s/he feels it should be compulsory!

This information is timely as feedback is currently being considered from a DfE consultation on Initial Teacher Training that closed last month. It's to be hoped that a bright spark at the DfE will notice these findings, flag them up and actually do something about them. Just in case, this is it being flagged up! (Of course, I'm not a bright young thing, I'm just a gnarly old SEND parent, so what do I know?

How do you think ITT should be changed to be more suitable for teaching children and young people with SEND?

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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