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Introduction to SEND - Current definitions of special educational needs and disability and criticisms of these

Defining SEND, specific learning difficulties and their conceptual orgins

Georgina Spry

on 4 October 2017

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Transcript of Introduction to SEND - Current definitions of special educational needs and disability and criticisms of these

Current definitions of special educational needs and disability and criticisms of these
Lecture Structure
Does the use of medical discourses cause some problems?
Medical approaches to impairment may promote a concept of people as individual objects to be treated, changed or improved so that they can be made more normal
An example of this is the case of thalidomide.
The Tragedy Model
The departmental committee on Defective and Epileptic Children debated such things as segregation, use of teaching assistants, diagnostic labels, the best placement et cetera.
The committee decided that 'imbeciles' were best in asylums, 'feeble minded' best in special schools and 'idiots' ineducable and hence outside the remit of the education system.
1989 - Egerton report
Concluded that the state should provide separate special schools for deaf and blind children but some
educators argued that these children made more progress in ordinary schools.
Quite often decisions were made on the basis of what was most value for money.
The Eugenics movement was popular in the UK from around 1910 but didn't gain parliamentary support.
However in Scandanavia, the US and Germany it influenced social policy and legislation
Essentially, the Eugenics movement supported the idea that the mentally, physically and morally defective should be sterilised to prevent them from spreading their deficits among the population
An excerpt from a 1950 pamphlet disseminated by the Human Betterment League of North Carolina, a private group that promoted the sterilization of the state's "mental defectives." George H. Lawrence, superintendent of public welfare for Buncombe County, was the group’s founding president. Image courtesy of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation websit
1921 - 1944
Testing times and protecting children from themselves
What models of SEND were operating at the time the people in the video were children?
1944 Education Act
Abolished certification and use of term 'mental deficiency'
Eleven new categories emerged
Categorisation still carried out by medics
Partially sighted
Educationally subnormal (severely or moderately ESN -S ESN - M)
Partially hearing
Physically Handicapped
Speech defected
The 'special educational treatment' they received was to be based on the single categorisation applied to them by medics.
1945 - 1970
Special Schools

Schools for mental defectives were renamed 'special schools' and the word 'defective replaced by subnormal/

In 1947, 12,060 children were in Educationally Subnormal (ESN) Schools
In 1955, 22,639 children were in ESN schools with another 39,000 awaiting a place. Many of these were being considered because their ordinary schools were not providing well enough for them.

What was meant by

ESN children were identified as those who were 'retarded by more than 20 percent for their age but were not so low grade as to be ineducable or to be detrimental to the education of their children' (DES, 1977)
Evelyn King had a physical impairment that limited her ability to walk and her speech.

In 1951, age 5, she was given an intelligence test and classified medically as an imbecile.
She was sent to a mental hospital
1970 Ineducable no more

1970 Education (Handicapped Children Act) finally brought all children within the framework of education.
1871 - 1987 - The creation of Special Educational Needs

Module Learning Outcomes:
On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
•Demonstrate an analytical and evaluative consideration of one specific learning difficulty drawing on appropriate theoretical approaches.
•Explore the potential barriers to learning an individual with a specific learning difficulty may face.
Session Learning Objectives

To be able to explain the current legal definition of SEND and SpLD
To be able to identify the medical and charity/tragedy model of SEND and its relationship with SpLD
The term SEND represents a very diverse range of learners some of which have specific learning difficulties
In current policy and legislation, SEND is applied to a continuum of difficulty.

Some children's learning difficulties will be signifcantly greater than others to a more exceptional degree

Other children's learning difficulties will still be significant but to a less exceptional degree.
In summary for this section of the presentation, the term SEND is applied to a very wide and heterogeneous group of learners with very wide and heterogeneous levels and types of difficulty.
In principle, it is supposed to be a mutable term with a mutable state.
It is supposed to help us think flexibly about learners and recognise the way in which we must continually adapt our practice around the actual needs of our learners without making any assumptions.
Currently, around 19% of the school population are identified as having SENDs with around 3% having very exceptional needs.
In current policy (for example the National Curriculum, 2013) there has been a sustained interest in reducing the number of children identified as having SENDs through a call for more effective classroom practice.
Those with very exceptional needs have exceptional levels of resource and an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. Over 60% of learners with an EHC plan are in mainstream schools.

Categoric terms in policy: their relationship with exceptionality
Profound and multiple
learning difficulties
Pupils who experience profound and multiple learning difficulties 'have' severe and complex learning needs, in addition they have other significant difficulties, such as physical disabilities or a sensory impairment. Pupils require a high level of adult support, both for their learning needs and also for personal care. Their ability to communicate is at a very early stage and may be pre-intentional.
Global delay in all areas of physical, intellectual and social development. Rate of progress is less than half the rate of other children of the same age. These children will have an EHC.
This includes children who have difficulties in all areas of learning. They make slow progress when compared to their peers and are usually in mainstream.
Pupils with SpLD may 'have' a particular difficulty in learning to read, write, spell or manipulate numbers. Pupils may also have problems with short-term memory, with organisational skills and with co-ordination. Pupils with SpLD cover the whole ability range and their strengths, difficulties and experiences vary hugely. Specific learning difficulties include dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia . However, the term SpLD is usually applied to learners who do not have global difficulties. Their difficulties are in the context of a broad range of strengths. Children with SpLDs are invariably in mainstream.
Definitions Quiz

Why is it true to say that children with disabilities may not have special educational needs?

What does 'significantly greater difficulty learning' mean?

What does 'special educational provision' mean?

Why is it important to consider SENDs along a continuum?

Why is it important to consider SENDs as diverse and mutable (mutable means changeable and unfixed)?
Sensory Impairment
Physical Impairment
Speech Language and Communication needs
Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Cognitive needs
Social, emotional and behavioural needs
There are many 'categories' of SEND but this module will explore the usefulness and accuracy of these
Read the two information sheets about learning difficulties
Which information sheet are the following statements most true of?
Disabled people's voices can be heard
There is a focus on conditions
Learning difficulties arise from something different within the person
There is a focus on deficits and problems
There is a rejection of labels
There is emphasis on the way that the environment creates or reduces difficulties
1981 - Education Act
Term 'special educational needs' used.
The aim was to create a more global and flexible term so as to bring an end to labels and categorisation.

Educational provision was to to be mapped around the complex, unique and multilayered nature of the whole child (rather than focusing on their impairment).

It was hoped that this might reduce the dominance of the medical model

Did it?
People who had experienced the effects of thalidomide were angry about attempts to normalise them. For example, prosthetic limbs were designed that had cosmetic rather than adaptive purposes.
Is the language of defectiveness completely gone?
Read the two information sheets about learning difficulties
Which information sheet are the following statements most true of?
Disabled people's voices can be heard
There is a focus on conditions
Learning difficulties arise from something different within the person
There is a focus on deficits and problems
There is a rejection of labels
There is emphasis on the way that the environment creates or reduces difficulties
1. What is the meaning of the term 'SEND' (in current legislation)?
2. What potential problems does
the term 'SEND' create?
3. What is meant by 'disability' in current legislation?
4. What alternative definitions of 'disability' exist?
1. What is the meaning of the term SEND?
Legal definition (current)
In policy, SEND is conceived as a continuum.
The amount of
additional and different
resources provided
is related to the degree of the difficulty (i.e. how exceptional the learning difficulty or disability is).
3. The problems with the term 'SEND'

Many critics of the term 'SEND' note its medical and deficit overtones.
The term places the 'problem' within the child and the focus is on the 'resources' to meet the 'needs' rather than the extent to which the child's difficulties might be caused by the environment (inappropriate teaching, negative attitudes, labeling, stereotypes, inaccessible buildings)

Another criticism is that policy and legislation provides little guidance on what is actually meant by 'significantly greater difficulty' and this leads to confusion about what level of exceptionality relates to what level of resource.
'SEND' might not be an easy fit with 'inclusion' since it separates out a group of learners and in so doing, risks marginalising them.
This is described as the
dilemma of difference
(Norwich, 2010) since though identifying some children's difficulties and differences may result in stigma and segregation, not identifying them could lead to a failure to meet their learning needs.

4. What is the legal definition of disability?
Equality Act, 2010

Disability is:
a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

What do ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ mean?
‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial - e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed

‘long-term’ means 12 months or more - eg a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection

5. Problems with this definition and an alternative

Critics of this definition argue that the concept of an 'impairment'
should be separate from 'disability'

For example, a learner 'with' a cognitive impairment will experience the consequences of the impairment differently in different contexts. If the learner is in a classroom with well matched learning experiences and an effective teacher, the impairment will be less disabling that if in a classroom with a teacher who labels the child and has inappropriately low expectations.
It is argued that an impairment is the difficulty, illness, deficit experienced by an individual (such as autism, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, Down syndrome) but that the extent to which this impairment is a disability depends on the environment.

The session has explored the following definitions of key terms as they are represented in policy and legislation:

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) is defined in terms of 'significantly greater difficulty' and 'disabilities that might hinder access'. Policy creates a system for resourcing the 'additional' or 'different' educational support that might be needed.

Disability is defined as a significant or long term impairment that impacts on the enactment of daily tasks or activities

Problems with both terms have been noted: specifically in relation to their tendency to focus on deficits rather than capabilities and to place the focus on the individual rather than the environment

Hart (1996) and Corbett (1996), regard this concept of SEND to be pernicious. Corbett (1996, p.15) regards it as devaluing with ‘undertones of exclusion and stigmatisation.’ Slee (2010) argues that this conceptualisation has no pedagogic relevance and serves a purely bureaucratic purpose but in doing so, creates an othered group for whom teachers feel less responsible and less prepared.
CORBETT, J., 1996. Bad mouthing: The language of special needs London: Falmer.
HART, S., 1996. Beyond special needs: Enhancing children's learning through innovative thinking. London: Paul Chapman.
GREAT BRITAIN. Parliament. (2010) Equality Act. London: HMSO
GREAT BRITAIN. Parliament. (2014) Children and Families Act. London: HMSO
SLEE, R., 2001. Driven to the margins: disabled students, inclusive schooling and the politics of disability. Cambridge Journal of Education, 61(2), pp. 385-397

Hence, special educational needs are identified when the child requires a level of provision in education, health and social care that is
additional to or different from
, that made generally for others of the same age (Children and Families Bill, 2014, section 21:1).

The Children and Families Act (2014), presents the following definition of special educational needs and disability (SEND):

This section of the presentation provides video examples of the continuum of SEND. While you watch each video it might be worth considering what is 'different' about the provision you see
or whether it is just 'additional' in terms of resources.
These four terms are used to describe categories across the continuum of exceptionality.
For example, though a person in a wheelchair may have an impairment which effects their mobility, this impairment only becomes a disability when the environment presents barriers to mobility. For example, when buildings, furnishings, transport and work places are inaccessible. Hence the social model sees disability as a socially constructed experience.

2014 Children and Families Act, Clause 20

When a child or young person has special educational needs

(1) A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.

(2) A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she—
(a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
(b) has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.

(3) A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is likely to be within subsection (2) when of compulsory school age (or would be likely, if no special educational provision were made).

(4) A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.

2014 Children and Families Act, Clause 21

Special educational provision, health care provision and social care provision

(1) “Special educational provision”, for a child aged two or more or a young person, means educational or training provision that is
additional to, or different from
, that made generally for others of the same age in—

(a) mainstream schools in England,

(b) maintained nursery schools in England,

(c) mainstream post-16 institutions in England, or

(d) places in England at which relevant early years education is provided.

(2) “Special educational provision”, for a child aged under two, means educational provision of any kind.

(3) “Health care provision” means the provision of health care services as part of the comprehensive health service in England continued under section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006.

(4) “Social care provision” means the provision made by a local authority in the exercise of its social services functions.

(5) Health care provision or social care provision which educates or trains a child or young person is to be treated as special educational provision (instead of health care provision or social care provision).

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