Over the last decade and a half I have taught classes from Nursery through to Y7 (with the exception of Y4 that I have somehow missed). In every class in every age group whether the children have set/ banded/ grouped or of a complete mixed ability there has been a wide range of academic ability. In my opinion I generally think that the ability gap gets bigger the further up the school the children go – I suppose when children are 3 they could be a maximum of 3 years behind and probably, with a few genius exceptions, no more than about 2 years ahead – a span of 5 years. By the time you get to Y7 they can be more than 5 years behind and also further ahead giving a wider gap.
It is really tricky trying to sort lessons that adequately teach all of these ability levels and ensure that all children make progress (in every 20 minute lesson!!) and that behaviour is managed and that adults are sufficiently directed whilst allowing them to adapt resources/ support and still enable a child to become independent.
As a SENCO I become a significant part of helping, leading, organising learning and closing the attainment gap, and getting these children to make accelerated progress. I’ve been doing this job officially for 8 months but unofficially for about a year and a half and there are days when I hold my hand up and say that I am not achieving that at all.
In September there was a new Code of Practice relating to the education of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, in it there are a few changes, some significant, from the old one. One of these is that all teachers are now teachers of children with SEN and that the class teacher is responsible for the progress of the children in their class (even if they are educated in a group outside of their classroom). This means getting differentiation right has become more crucial.
Differentiating a work sheet into easy, bit harder, very hard and then almost impossible for those who finish early isn’t too tricky. Unfortunately children don’t all seem to respond well to a diet of worksheets (even if they have pretty pictures on) so a variety of tasks have to be arranged. Organising children and adults so that tasks are prepared with open ended tasks for some but very structured tasks at the relevant level for others is tricky.
There has been lots written about the use of TAs in class and how in some instances the children with SEN, the ones who need the most input and help from their teacher get most of their lessons delivered by someone else. I know this doesn’t happen in all classes and I have seen exemplary practice around. I guess that as I am supposed to be co-ordinating the SEN in the school I had better start doing that a bit more explicitly!