All posts tagged: disability

Looking for Impact? Structure Matters

Why do school structures matter when it comes to reading interventions? Sometimes the obvious answers – or ‘the way we’ve always done it’ – turn out not to be the best solutions. Take reading interventions at secondary school. Usually, interventions for students who are reading at a low level are located within the SEN department, based on the following assumptions: Students who have difficulty reading likely have a disability of some kind (one of the many variants of ‘dyslexia’, for example); Students who are reading at a low level do so because they are less intelligent, and therefore should be taught within the ‘special needs’ context; Low-reading students are less likely to make progress and therefore less likely to assist the school’s results, so it makes sense to identify them as having special needs when accounting for their progress (or lack of it). I’ve pointed out elsewhere why these common misconceptions are wrong, and how they hinder the progress of students. But when we consider that nationally, 20% of students arrive at secondary school unable to …

Reflections on Hidden Potential

One of the themes I have been reflecting on is the great tragedy of modern education: the wasted potential of literally millions of students who underachieve because they were not taught to read properly. There are two main reasons for this: poor reading strategies in early reading, and artificial ceilings caused by low expectations derived from low reading performance – in short, labels. The natural home for reading interventions (and it’s not SEN) challenges this practice of assigning students a disability label based on how well they are reading. The evidence is that when taught explicitly and systematically (and when faulty ‘guessing’ strategies have been addressed) nearly all but a handful of students can read at the ‘normal’ level for their age. Without doubt, this post generated the strongest reactions from readers. “You will always have students who will fail” deals with low expectations based on poor behaviour. By making use of basic principles, more specialised strategies, and effective whole school systems, it is possible to turn students around. And when we consider that poor …

Improving outcomes for low attainers

Here are the slides and notes from my session from ResearchEd yesterday. I found the warmth and enthusiasm of everyone at the event very refreshing. And Swindon Academy did themselves and their community proud!   The talk was arranged in seven sections: the first was a short intro explaining that I am not an expert, but that my opportunities to come to grips with education and special needs certainly had that ‘threshold’ effect on me: they completely changed my view of teaching and learning. It is clear that if we use the precision required for empirical, data-based methods, we can have a significant effect on the competence and confidence of students who have struggled at school. The second section dealt with the key underlying principle, which is that lower progress learners require much more sensitive assessment and progress measures. Lessons, tasks and learning goals need to analysed at a fine level in order to ensure that underlying gaps in knowledge are addressed, and foundations are coherent and strong. The key point in the third section was to use morphology when teaching vocabulary, since …

A Call for Accuracy

Disagree if you like, but let’s get the facts right. One thing that I have enjoyed about Twitter and blogging is the constructive educational debates that occur from time to time. I am grateful for the feedback and comments on my recent series of posts challenging the view of reading disabilities as lifelong impairments. However, I am reluctantly writing this short post to correct misrepresentations of my position by @JulesDauby here. Readers may or may not be interested but given that these comments directly impact on my professional standing I feel that I have to point out the following errors: 1    I have never said that children of low intelligence can’t read. This is a completely false representation. I have made it quite clear in the examples in the post, my website and other posts that all children can learn to read. I am passionate about this fact. Accepting that a few children of “significantly low intelligence may not be able to learn to read” is NOT the same as “children of low intelligence cannot learn …

SEND the right message

It seems that SEN is the Cinderella of education. Both physically and metaphorically, SEN provision is often relegated to the margins of the school. In the past it has been a somewhat arcane business in many schools, where leaders were reassured by an ethos of sympathy and bamboozled by the bandying of labels. This has begun to change, but there is a strong case for bringing SEN much more into the heart of the school – again, both physically and metaphorically. They key to this is the extent to which we invest in skills. My teaching background includes both primary and secondary special education. I have worked in a fabulous primary school that fully embraced mainstreaming. We had a number of students with Down syndrome and others with ASD. I have also worked in a secondary school that had an attached physical disabilities unit and was a resource teacher for (amongst others) students with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. In both of these settings, mainstreaming worked very well – because the schools were well-resourced with staff …

A question of progress

Students’ progress can be inadvertently limited by the things we do as teachers. For example, if we pitch work at too low a level, students spend time working on skills or knowledge that may already be in their repertoire. If we do not allocate enough time to practising a skill before moving to the next level of difficulty, students are likely to struggle and become demotivated by unexpected failure. If we do not have enough practice materials, we can create an artificial limit to the amount that students achieve in a given time – a ‘ceiling effect’. A less visible but very powerful limit on students’ progress is teacher expectations. If a teacher has low expectations of a student’s abilities, they will be satisfied with limited progress: ‘Not bad considering the dyslexia / dyspraxia / dyscalculia / ADHD [insert label of choice].’ (You can read more about the effects of labelling here). One way in which teachers tend, consciously or unconsciously, to estimate student ability is through the student’s skill at reading. It is often assumed …