Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

All Together Now

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

All Together Now

Article excerpt

We must ensure that mainstream and specialist schools work in tandem to enable children with SEND to thrive, says Simon Knight

Education can be a bit of a binary space at times, divided by the politics of "either, or". This can be the case in special educational needs and disability (SEND) teaching, where collaboration between the specialist and mainstream sectors is variable to say the least. This is unfortunate, as there are a number of ways in which working together can have a transformative impact, on learning and on communities. When I was deputy headteacher at Frank Wise, a special school in Banbury, Oxfordshire, we made sure these cross-sector relationships were built - and they had a significant impact on both sides.

Possibly one of the most important things we did with our mainstream partners was to ensure that all of our pupils had access to mainstream-based education, irrespective of their complexity of need, for half a day every week. Through the development of direct partnerships with academies, faith schools, comprehensives and the independent sector, across primary and secondary, our pupils joined together with their mainstream peers to learn through collaborative activities.

It meant that every week, approximately 350 children came together to work in partnership in a reciprocal relationship that involved us visiting mainstream settings and pupils from mainstream schools coming to us. This had a profound impact on both sets of pupils and the staff who work with them, breaking down some of the barriers associated with the perceptions of difference.

Interestingly, it has also led to some of those mainstream pupils growing up and choosing to work with children with learning difficulties, including one who was last year appointed as a teacher at Frank Wise.

In addition to this, some pupils had further periods of time in the mainstream settings to address specific educational and social aims, whether that be particular subjects in which mainstream input supported their broader development or whether it was to ensure that they felt part of their local community.

This approach also, at times, enabled us to offer programmes of education that were beyond our level of subject expertise and resulted in pupils getting qualifications that we would otherwise have been unable to provide. Without support from mainstream this would not have been possible. …

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