Friday, 15 August 2008

Providing for SEN - whose responsibility?

I am a governor in a Special School with pupils with a HUGE range of needs, many of which are overtly represented in the children's Statements (I don't want to go into 'many' 'most' or 'all' in this post - that's for elsewhere another time). Now a question that I have been raising is where the ultimate responsibility lies for provision of what you might call 'non-educational' needs. Let me explain what I mean - and I am deliberately caricaturing a position here to stimulate dialogue.

The caricature is that teachers are there to impart knowledge/skills and that everything else is either to facilitate the pupils' learning or to more generally help thier lives and development. The Statement will list the required provision - let's say Speech Therapy, Hydrotherapy, Physiotherapy, help with personal hygeine (toiletting), Psychological Support - the question is who must take ultimate responsibility for providing all this support?

One position, which I suspect may be the default, is that the school has (or at least accepts, explicitly or implicitly) responsibility. Another is that the various 'other agencies' outside the education service (and I mean that in the administrative sense) must accept their own responsibilities. For instance, Physio is often provided (or not - that is the point of this post!) by the Health Service - but what happens when they are understaffed or just incompetent and unable or unwilling to deliver the requirements of the statement? The school fills the gap, resulting in the efforts of our 'teaching professionals' being diverted from ther primary duties. Or how about hydrotherapy? Teachers are trained to teach, and SEN teachers have a special set of skills that do not necessarily include (nor, I would argue, do they need to include) supervising hydrotherapy sessions. But again, who else will do it?

One big challenge here is parental expectation, where often they do not understand the nature of the system and school staff become seen as being totally responsible for delivering a child's needs (we once even had a parent expecting us to arrange an optician appointment and get glasses for their child!).

I think that it is time that all support professions accepted their specific responsibilities and stood up to be counted when things are not delivered.

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