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SEN teacher round-up (October)

26/10/2012 Joanna
The month got off to a fantastic start with the news that the 'Teaching Assistant of the Year' award had been given to a special needs teacher who "has made a huge difference to the children in her care".

Christine Hussey from Willowcroft Community School in Didcot has spent 14 years working her way up from the person who sorted the paint pots to helping those with special needs achieve their full potential, the Oxford Mail reported.

Willowcroft head teacher Jane Hemery, who nominated Ms Hussey for the award, told the news provider that the teaching assistant was an example to everyone working in the special needs arena.

"Christine has made a huge difference to the children in her care. Without exception, every single child she works with makes progress," she said.

"I cannot believe there is another teaching assistant in the land with such a strong work ethic."

Education policy

Of course, those in support staff roles across England and Wales cannot succeed alone. Education policy plays a huge role in helping all children achieve to the best of their ability and that is why a group of teachers that met via the microblogging site Twitter have come together to call for positive change.

The new pressure group recently met at the offices of the Guardian to discuss their vision for education reforms.

One particular concern raised by the group, which is particularly relevant to teaching assistants, is that education secretary Michael Gove's new exam regimen will exclude those with special needs.

SEN workers fear children might be "consigned to the scrap heap before they start", Dave Whittaker, head of Springwell special school in Barnsley, told the news provider.

"We must be able to celebrate success at every level so that pupils with SEN aren't left without motivation or aspiration. This would mean a holistic view of achievement that can genuinely show progress over time and in context. It is not fair that our pupils' equivalent to the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) is a report that says 'never mind, you failed, but please try again sometime'," he said.

When the transition from GCSEs to EBaccs was first announced, the British Dyslexia Association warned that the scrapping of coursework and the introduction of a "rigorous" end of year exam would make it "exceedingly difficult" for those with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties that require the assistance of an SEN teacher to get passes.

Special schools

Recognising that children with special needs cannot simply be lumped in with their peers, a group of parents in the north-east has begun campaigning for a Free School for children with special needs.

Free Schools are all-ability state-funded schools established by committed teachers, charities, parents and education experts in response to demands from the local community.

Those behind the 'Make It Shine' bid in Holderness told the Hull Daily Mail that "a special school is desperately needed in this area because these children are having to travel too far".

Parent Hazel Cockill added: "It's not fair on the children, they are too young to travel all that way."

However, Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart, who is chairman of the government's education committee, said that it was important to ensure the proposal has a future.

"We need to be sure it would be sustainable in the long term after this dynamic and committed group of parents have moved on," he told the news provider.

Technology and special needs

As well as being supported by education policy and the right school environment, the role that the latest technology can play in SEN teaching was discussed at a conference hosted by ACS Cobham international school in Surrey, This is Local London reported.

Delegates were introduced to the concept of using tablet computers to help improve the learning experience for those with special needs. 

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