Are children with SEN fully supported in the mainstream primary school classroom, or would they be better served in a special school?
The acronym SEN stands for Special Educational Needs, this term is used to describe a child who has a difficulty or disability that makes learning harder for them. Under the Special Educational Needs and disability Act 2001, the law specifies that if a parent believes that their child is not fully compatible with being in a mainstream school they can opt for a Special School. A mainstream school is one that welcomes all pupils regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, race or ability. A special school is one that will ‘educate children whose needs cannot be met within a mainstream setting’ explains Alex Grady, Education Development Officer at the National Association of Special Education Needs (2004). According to the government, there are 4 main types of special schools categorised in terms of their specialism, these are: communication and interaction, cognition and learning, social, emotional and mental health and finally sensory and physical needs. (The SchoolRun). The main difference between a mainstream and a special school is the types of students that attend it, mainstream schools accept almost all students that apply to them, special schools are schools that cater for SEN students, these schools are run by full equipped and professionally trained teachers that aim to offer maximal support to their students, currently in the UK there are only 2% of school ages children who attend special schools (The SchoolRun).In this essay I aim to critically analyse whether students with Special Educational Needs are better suited in special schools or mainstream schools.
With the introduction of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act in 2001, many schools took ‘reasonable steps’ in accommodating for students with a disability. The laws implemented aimed to allow students to feel no different from their peers within the classroom and since the introduction of the laws, it is said that schools have taken tactical approaches in accommodating to the needs of all students. These changes are visible in both the content side of schools but also in terms of the physical environment of the school. Improvements to the physical environment include lighting and paint schemes that help children who are visually impaired, for students who are physically impaired lifts and ramps are fitted to help them access areas in the school that they may not otherwise be able to and lastly for students with hearing impairments the carpeting and acoustic tiling of the classrooms are given extensive thought to maximise comfort and sound for the students NiDirect.(2018)- School Accessibility. The introduction of inclusive practice or inclusion in schools is another way schools aim to cater for all students, inclusion is a concept that can vary in definition, but for Knight., (1999:3) ‘ inclusion is a concept which views children with disabilities as true full-time participants and members of their neighbourhood schools and communities. The inclusion philosophy proposes that there not be a range of placements but rather all students be educated with their peers in the same physical location’. Many national governments and international organisations have dedicated themselves into helping to implement inclusive practice within schools to maximise progress. The Index for Inclusion by Booth& Ainscow,. (2002 Booth et al 2000) proposes that schools should aim to educate increasing numbers of students with some form of learning disability but more importantly should commit to creating a safe, tolerant, cooperative and stimulating school environment where all children find themselves being valued and pushed to do their best. Although the two differ slightly the idea that no child should feel excluded or outcasted remain the same. The steer towards personalised learning and inclusive practice stemmed from the idea that every child is unique, and has different needs that must be considered by teachers in order for every child to make significant progress. When trying to create an inclusive school, the involvement of fundamental changes to the approaches schools take to support and address the needs of a child are seen as vital. In order for inclusion to be apparent and successful within a school, there are effective models of inclusion that are used to not only benefit those with disability but also to create comfortability for their peers. One way that inclusive educational practices help promote inclusion is through the ‘respect for diversity’ InclusiveSchools.org,. (2015)- Online. The ability to discuss the differences between peers creates institutional respect for one another, this allows students to express themselves without the fear of being judged or humiliated. Openness about one’s disability and how they would like for it to be addressed in classes helps with building relationships with peers, it helps answer questions that other students may have and aims to create cohesion. The sooner children become more aware about their peers and develop an understanding , the sooner they are able to establish healthy and positive relationships with one another.
Another way that helps promote inclusion in mainstream schools is ‘behavioural support’ InclusiveSchools.org,. (2015)- Online. The implementation of behavioural support is essential for maximising success for students with behavioural or emotional disabilities. With strict school rules, high expectations and appropriate disciplinary steps, boundaries are established within the school and all students are made aware that all actions have consequences. However, mainstream schools do not always have teachers that possess the ability to plan and adjust their lessons depending on the progress on the few students with a disability. “some mainstream teachers also see a necessity for having special school provision” (Avramidis ; Norwich, 2002). This is a
It would also be useful if mainstream school teachers have the ability to teach a wide range of students based on their ability, “some mainstream teachers also see a necessity for having special school provision” (Avramidis ; Norwich, 2002). Within mainstream schools many laws were brought in to allow children with disabilities to have more access and to be taught the same as other students. Due to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 ‘it ensured that schools should take ‘reasonable steps’ that students with a disability are not disadvantaged when it came to teaching and learning.’ Self-esteem plays a major role with student’s ability to feel comfortable and able to interact with other students, within a mainstream school setting it suggests that students with dyslexia that esteem plays a major role. ‘Found that students with dyslexia in mainstream schools tend to show timid behaviour’ (Humphrey,2002) this may suggest that the student may feel uncomfortable within the setting and would be more comfortable if they felt included and treated the same. Research by Humphrey (2002) showed that students with dyslexia in mainstream schools had a low self-esteem whilst in a mixed reading ability group than those in a special unit. This research emphasis on the idea that students feel intimidated when they are in group with students with a different ability rather than when with students who are of the same ability group. Research showed that within mainstream schools that students with dyslexia experienced a higher rate of bullying and feelings of exclusion (Edward 1994, Riddick 1995 and Humphrey 2002). Mainstream schools are mixed with students from different ability groups, the research shows that students feel as an outcast based on their learning abilities. A Student ‘felt disappointed’ with themselves as they compared themselves to their peers, a student said “Well I felt like kind of disappointed with myself because I couldn’t do stuff, so because I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t bother doing it”, this shows that students felt intimated and felt like they were not as good as their peers. They lacked the motivation to try harder. Throughout their research Humphrey and Mullins (2002) found that students with dyslexia preferred subjects where their learning abilities were not shown as they felt more comfortable and involved with their peers. Vygotsky (1993) stressed that interaction with peers, he saw the main concern is peers being able to work with each other and try the best possible for them to communicate. As they are more likely to learn better with their friends. The influence of teachers plays a key role to help support students with ant type of special educational needs, studies have shown that some students in mainstream schools ‘felt humiliated’ by teachers as they would be yelled at. Mainstream school teachers do not really have the same training as teachers within special schools. So their method of teaching is very broad and limited to those who understand. The influence of peers and their method of support within the classroom, ‘majority of students have not experienced any verbal or physical bullying because of their bullying’ (Riddick, 1995). Students felt more support from their peers because they did not feel uncomfortable nor did they feel a stigma due to their dyslexia. Now students with dyslexia are entitled to support within the classroom, they usually have an assistant teacher to help support them with the work within the classroom and to encourage to try harder in lessons. “The support teacher may be part of a ‘special education team’ within the school” new reforms have been brought into help those with server dyslexia. The main focus for teachers in mainstream schools were shown through a questionnaire. The questionnaire showed that teachers found it key that students were taught phonics as well as writing skills, but to focus on students who have dyslexia more on a one to one basis so the pupil feel less intimated than when reading in a group (Shanahan, 2001). A child with dyslexia progress rate cannot been judged based on what they are learning, they are academically less likely to achieve a higher grade than a student who is more capable and understanding of the curriculum at hand, “it is not enough to say that the child can cope in an ordinary system; the child’s rate of progress and the relative results if more action is taken for a short time. (Chasty, Friel 1991). This suggests that looking over a child’s progress through a long period of time, to allow them the judgement and grading to be more accurate and less bias. For the child to be given the ‘best education that which is relevant to them the parent cannot insists what they think is best, is up to the government to decide what they think is best for them’ (Chasty, Friel 1991). Suggesting that children with SEN are treated differently to other students. “Every child should receive an appropriate education that is most suited to their needs wherever the location is and posits that the empirical evidence on the benefits of inclusion is rather controversial, especially in terms of academic achievement and socio-emotional development of the SEN children” (Lindsy, 2007).
Special schools are there for students who have special educational needs, which need that extra bit of help from specialists. Who are trained to help children that may require that extra help such as students who have dyslexia. Children SEN attend special schools it creates social inclusion it makes the student feel valued and important as the teacher is qualified and able to understand the child’s needs, “pupils identified with SEN it should be considered to explore the term ‘social inclusion” (Vygotsky 1978). Within special schools there is an outlook on self-perceptions of which students have, a study ‘showed that students with SEN have a stigma which they have experienced in some form of abuse or rejection’ (Jahoda et al. 1988). Even though children with SEN are taught in special schools, it does not really hide the stigma behind the children with their special educational needs but, its disguises that they are treated differently. There has been limited research to train teachers to those with special educational needs, also be able to teach children fairly and equally in a special school. “Schools are complex systems that face significant challenges in supporting the learning and development of all students” (Fullan, 2009). Schools are looked at and criticised by a great deal by politicians and parents. “emphasising that special schools are the best and only option for some children” (Terzi, 2010, p. 156) he believes that students should be taught in special schools because they are more focused on as individuals and are able to understand in their own time. While a child is enrolled in a special school they are given two years, to show their progress and if a child is seen as making a reasonable change they are required to move to a mainstream school based on the level of difficulties they are experiencing (Nugent, 2008). It has been said that “special education services described below, children whose literacy skills fall below the twelfth percentile are eligible for learning support in their local school” (Nugent, 2008). This allows local authorities to give help to those children who need the help. Technology is now used to help create a more fun way of learning for students. ICT was brought in to help those who may have been disadvantaged than other peers within the classroom. Technology helps as it focuses on the child’s learning difficulties and a helps them widen their capabilities, it allows young people to promote their capabilities (Lindstrand & Bro- din, 2006; Brodin, 2010; Brodin & Lindstrand, 2008). Having the equipment such as the right gaming tools and learning programs. “Face the contemporary information and knowledge society it is important that teachers are given time to develop their technological familiarity and educational knowledge” (Glover, et. al. 2007), expanding on the idea that that teachers such utilise things such as; computers and tablets and engage students to try harder, be more understanding to their needs especially with those with dyslexia as they may not be able to understand things as fast as others. Within in special schools it may not be the best thing to introduce technology to teachers, as are they aren’t able to create the time as they might have other things which carry more of a priority. “It is often a complicated and time-consuming process” (Karlsudd, 2008). The support provided by schools with children with any forum of special educational needs had been criticised, it has been said that by Ireland (1976) children with SEN should be provided with the appropriate support in ordinary schools as they are provided in a special school. This shows that the support within special schools are more beneficial and help the pupil with their learning difficulties. “The development of mental processes is mediated by adults significant other in the context of social interactions with children” (Karpov 2005:10-11). The mental health of a child is significant and valued due to them becoming the next generation, the welfare and wellbeing of a child is important as dyslexia only effects the academic learning of a child and how they are held back because of it. Dyslexia could be a key motivation for a child to try harder in school and to work to the best of their ability.

Parental expectations play a major role within helping the children with dyslexia. Parents who come from a higher socio-economic background have a higher expectation ((McWhirter, Hackett, ; Bandalos, 1998; Ra ?ty, Leinonen, ; Snellman, 2002). Those with dyslexia have their own expectation as well as their parents, they feel more pressure and have the fear of letting their parents down. “They are given the opportunity to look ahead and choose what they want to do with their future and to allow them plan ahead as to what they want to become” (Hou ; Leung, 2011; Rojewski, 2005), the parental influence plays a major role in helping them build their child’s future. “parents can obtain proper advice from a number of local authorities, in the case of dyslexia the dyslexia institute or the Dyslexia Association “Chasty, Friel 1991) parents can get advice from many governmental bodies to ask for advice to see what best options are available for their child and to see what school would suit them the best.
In conclusion, children with dyslexia a taught differently in both mainstream and special schools. The support given to a child with dyslexia with in both schools very, mainstream schools provide a wide variety of help to the student by giving them ‘support teachers’ and teaching them individually. Throughout this essay I have covered many aspects as to whether students with dyslexia are better off in special schools or mainstream schools, there are factors such as a child’s self-esteem and the encouragement they have around themselves, to try harder and be in taught at their own pace so they are able to understand what is being taught. So, they have an easier way of understanding. Parental influence and control help with a child’s development within dyslexia. A parent understanding and support can make such a difference with a child who has dyslexia they need extra support to be able to understand things.

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