Postcard From Vienna - Philippa Stobbs

At the bi-annual meeting of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education in October, a new project was launched. The title, Preparing All Teachers to Include All Learners, struck me as resonating with current intentions in England, whether realised or not, and with whole school approaches more generally. In mapping the territory for the new work, the Agency identifies the topic as being a significant priority for all Agency member countries.

The importance of this issue is also apparent in other Agency projects, for example a recent piece of work on school leadership identified the importance of ‘commitment to on-going professional learning for all teachers and other stakeholders’and of all staff taking, ‘responsibility for the success and well-being of all learners.’ A good juxtaposition of both the anticipated responsibility of all teachers and the necessary preparation for taking that responsibility.

Because there is a lot of discussion about Warnock, 40 years on, I wondered what she and her committee had said about both the responsibility of all teachers and training for it. With a focus very much on those who were already in ‘ordinary’ schools and perhaps not having had their needs identified and met, she talked about the ‘likelihood of children requiring special educational provision being identified for the first time in school,’ the need for ‘close and continuous observation’ of all children by their teachers, and the early assessment of needs:

We believe that this knowledge and appreciation should be taught to all teachers in the course of initial teacher training and during their induction into their first teaching post.

Where do we articulate all this in our current expectations of teachers? And our commitment to training and preparation?

Well, the responsibilities are set out in the teacher standards.Teachers are expected to:

  • set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions
  • have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an additional language; those with disabilities; and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.

Responsibility for training to some extent seems to fall back on teachers as they are also expected to:

  • take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development…

A colleague then assured me that the responsibility of all teachers was in the Code of Practice, ‘All teachers are teachers of children with special educational needs.’ It’s not in the 2015 Code! Or I couldn’t find it. Was this omission intended? I had to go back to the 2001 Code of Practice to find the statement:

All teachers are teachers of children with special educational needs. Teaching such children is therefore a whole school responsibility (para 5:2 for primary schools, and the equivalent for
secondary schools in para 6:2, substituting ‘pupils’ for ‘children’).

So I found myself thanking Damien Hinds, again, for his speech this July, in which he made the clear statement:

Every school is a school for pupils with SEND; and every teacher is a teacher of SEND pupils.

As ever it seemed to me that the benefit of some of the discussions across Europe, as with research, is not necessarily to move to a different place but to better understand the place where you are.

As I attempted to get a ticket from the machine at the Bahnhoff to get myself to the Flughafen, such a reminder might have calmed my fraying nerves, or may be have increased my anxiety.

Wish you were here!
Philippa Stobbs