Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research


Garner, P. (2013) Editorial. Support for Learning. 28(1), pp. 2-3. 0268-2141.

Item Type: Article
Abstract: A second reading and the subsequent debate of the Children and Families Bill (HM Government, 2013) in England is being held at approximately the same time as the publication of this issue of Support for Learning. This, alongside the announcement earlier of an extension of the existing SEN and Disability Pathfinders initiatives for a further 18 months, to run until September 2014, suggests a vigorous and single-minded policy orientation which is being championed as representing change for the better. There remains considerable disquiet, however, expressed at ground level by parents and practitioners, about some of the developments that the Children and Families Bill encompasses. In spite of this the Minister, Edward Timpson, in giving evidence to the Education Select Committee on these proposed SEN and Disability reforms, was recently in predictably self-congratulatory mode, observing that ‘the overwhelming view is that we are moving in the right direction’. For the best part of 15 years, successive governments have been regaling the teaching profession and others working with children with special needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families with tales of the benefits of ‘evidence-based practice’, recently effusing that such approaches comprised ‘Finding out what works, and ensuring that the interventions we and others make in children's lives are as good as they possibly can be’ (Lloyd, 1999, p. 1). While recognising the secure principles underpinning Lloyd's original assertion, one cannot help but feel cynical about the potent mixture of money and morality in what is being taken forward at the present time – and an absence of that data-led evidence which is so diminished by politicians and yet viewed as essential by practitioners (Asmussen and Weizel, 2010). On the contrary, there appears to be an unhealthy preoccupation with systemic reform, based on self-satisfaction. This emphasises a wholehearted belief that what has gone before has been ‘inefficient’ and has not addressed the core needs of children with SEND. In trumpeting as a ‘truth’ that these are moves in a positive direction for children themselves, it seems to have escaped the attention of those making such claims that there is scant evidence of ground-level benefits, in respect of such critical issues as curriculum access (let alone access to an expanding number of academies or free (sic) schools). What is being created, instead of a child-centred model which offers realistic chances of interdisciplinary action, is the machinery of bureaucracies masquerading as benign and socially meaningful intervention. Plus ça change … or, as one teacher recently wrote to me, ‘I've been at the fairground too long and I'm not getting on another roundabout … [I'm] too dizzy, disorientated and frankly disillusioned for yet another ride’. This is a sad commentary, coming so soon after that commendable outpouring of commitment in the autumn of 2012, when the UK at large was demonstrating its inclusive credentials in the (para) Olympic village. Has there been, one is inclined to ask, a concrete legacy as a result of ‘the Games’? But we persevere with enthusiasm, as witnessed by the contributions from a range of writers in the present issue of this journal – and the continued interest being shown by new authors in preparing articles: several of the contributors to the present issue of Support for Learning will no doubt be new to its readers. I think this reflects much of what goes on at a practical level in the field of SEND – and not just in England. Practitioners across the full range of services for children endeavour to create environments that enable children and young people to thrive as individuals and as community members. That they continue to do so against a background of shifting national values and priorities is altogether remarkable. So, to the present issue and its broad spectrum of articles relating to SEND and inclusion … Karen Broomhead's contribution represents a much-needed iteration of the challenges presented by what Tim O'Brien and Dennis Guiney (2005) referred to as the ‘hard cases’ in inclusion: those who exhibit challenging behaviour. She does this by examining the views of both teachers and parents. Parents also feature as informants in another of this issue's contributions – that of Alison Earey. Her focus, though relating to specific learning difficulties, is nonetheless a further attempt to demonstrate the value of listening to those most involved in the realities of SEND. Elsewhere there are articles that examine issues which are sometimes far from the minds of those charged with formulating public policy – which often is represented by generalisation rather than the specificities that ground-level stakeholders are required to manage. For example, school transition is often dealt with in a cursory fashion in the literature – yet it is of such importance in the learning pathways of all children in schools, let alone those experiencing learning difficulties. The same might be said of multiculturalism and its relationship to SEND: the matter is nowhere the subject of consideration within the new Bill (HM Government, 2013). Both topics are the focus of contributions by Laura Hughes and colleagues (in the case of secondary school transition) and by Kiri Fortune and Anastasia Liasidou (in respect of bilingualism and inclusion). The latter articles offer glimpses of both issues from an international perspective, and in so doing prompt us to revisit the virtues of drawing on material from beyond the UK. Finally, the rubric and protocols for the Children and Families Bill contain just one explicit mention of the term ‘curriculum’ … which is the subject of Marjatta Takala's piece. This explores issues of curriculum access via reading using writing as the catalyst. Reading this array of materials helps to cast light and prompts optimism. While no substitute for a creative, stimulating and child-centred learning experience for a SEND student in a classroom, they assist us in maintaining our spirit and drive, in the face of those who seek to reduce this work to numbers and balance sheets.
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC65 Social aspects of education > LC71 Education and the state
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC1200 Inclusive education
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC3950 Exceptional children and youth. Special education > LC4001 Children and youth with disabilities. Learning disabled children and youth
Creators: Garner, Philip
Publisher: Blackwell
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Special Needs Education and Research
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > Special Education Needs and Inclusion
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > Special Education Needs and Inclusion
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Education and Research
Research Centres > Centre for Education and Research
Date: February 2013
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 2-3
Journal or Publication Title: Support for Learning
Volume: 28
Number: 1
Language: English
ISSN: 0268-2141
Status: Published / Disseminated
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