Fascinating insights from the TES SEN Show

TES SEN Show

The Bright Heart directors attended the TES SEN Show, which is the UK’s largest special needs show, on 5th and 6th October in London.

Simon McQueen

Ryan Stevenson

In this post, the directors share what they experienced and learnt at the annual TES Special Educational Needs Show.

Fascinating insights from the TES SEN Show

The Bright Heart directors attended the TES SEN Show, which is the UK’s largest special needs show, on 5th and 6th October in London. The show was packed with exhibitors and delegates and included many interesting presentations and seminars, including a heart-warming opening keynote panel discussion focused on social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties in education, with the highlight being a brave young student sharing his positive personal experiences at a special school.

TES SEN Show
The start of the TES SEN Show at the business design centre [photo: TES SEN Show]

A common theme highlighted at the show was the struggle for parents and teachers in the current education climate.

In addition to the keynote address, the directors attended a number of excellent seminars focused on specific topics, which included:

SLCN and SEMH - understanding the links

Wendy Lee demonstrated the high correlation between speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) issues. Some interesting statistics presented included:

A major finding was that language is key to emotional literacy, as behaving appropriately is related to the ability to think through situations and anticipate the emotions generated. Those with SLCN generally have difficulties with interaction, self-awareness, problem solving and self-control. Ms Lee highlighted that there is massive under identification of children with SLCN which affects their emotional health and well-being. To improve language skills is to provide a protection factor against mental health challenges and anxiety, and it is therefore better to focus on preventive health with appropriate language intervention

Identifying SEN: how can we be sure that a pupil has special educational needs?

Jane Friswell spoke passionately about this topic as she drew upon her personal family experiences. Some key points from the SEND Code of Practice highlighted were:

Once it has been determined that a pupil has SEN, SEN support should arise from a four-stage cycle set out in the SEND Code of Practice called the graduated approach – the stages of the cycle being: assess; plan; do; and review.

Making the most of SEN funding and resources

Dr Rona Tutt OBE addressed this important topic, providing a comprehensive overview while putting this all into the context of the stretched budgets available, due partly to the increased age range of the new SEND Code of Practice, which covers young adults up to the age of 25.  Some of Dr Tutt’s key points summarising the funding resources included:

Dr Tutt then stressed the importance of making the most of the limited funding available and highlighted a number of resources to help in this regard, including the EEF Toolkit, which provides an analysis of cost, evidence and benefit of various categories of support – those ranking highly for impact (in additional months’ average progress) include:

Emerging effective SEN practice and challenges

Pat Bullen provided a great overview of what is working and where issues still remain. Clearly most Local Authorities have room for improvement, with 27 out of 61 SEND Local area reviews having a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) as at September 2018. These reviews are carried out by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Although high needs spending has increased from £5bn in 2015 to £6bn in 2018, there has been a strain on Local Authorities with cuts to preventative services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Schools that do strive to be more inclusive are also not acknowledged accordingly, with the Ofsted definition of ‘Outstanding’ not being wide enough to consider these aspects and being too narrowly focused on the level of academic achievement.

When SEN provision was working effectively, some general traits were present:

Effective SEN provision was usually found when schools, Local Authorities, alternative provision and parents were all working together. 


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