The huge increase in numbers of children with severe and complex needs is having a significant knock-on effect across not only schools but also services such as speech and language therapy.
Places in special schools are at a premium – and many children who, not so many years ago, would have been eligible for a place, remain in mainstream education.
Hubs/units/enhanced provisions (call them what you will) are springing up in almost every setting. For many the approach is clandestine: understandably schools don’t want to advertise the fact that they have a specialist provision for fear that the floodgates will open and they will be overwhelmed by children from outside their catchment area and then be unable to cater for the children already on roll.
Therapists, who traditionally gravitated towards either mainstream or special school work, now find themselves, in mainstream settings, faced with a continuum of need ranging from the severe and complex to the specific and specialised.
Both schools and therapists need help to design and deliver a curriculum to meet the needs of these children.
To establish such a provision presents enormous challenges of which funding is just one.
- Being clear about what staff need to know (and how they can find out)
- Attracting (and retaining) the right staff
There are lots of examples of good practice out there:
- Some mainstream staff have called upon the expertise in their local special schools
- This has been a huge help in establishing the right environment, understanding how to differentiate the curriculum and plan a meaningful timetable.
- How to identify what children can and can’t do
- How to measure progress (and help parents to see that their child is moving forward)
Speech and language therapists can help!
At Soundswell we have developed a practical toolkit to:
- Identify communication levels from the very beginning
- Track the acquisition of skills
- Signpost to appropriate strategies and interventions to consolidate gains & support progression