Someone threw a statistic at me the other day – 1 in 5 pupils in school now has a Special Education Need (SEN). That got me to thinking – at what point are ‘special’ needs not really special any more?
Anyone on the front lines will know what I mean. SEN booklets grow and grow, pupils with a variety of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) are labelled, sorted, sifted and given a crutch to lean on. I recall talking to one pupil about maths. He told me that I don’t understand. He has discalcula and so he can never do maths.
In fact he has been told that he has some mild discalculaic tendencies. But it’s easier to throw a medical term at someone than to actually try and solve the problem in front of you.
There was a brilliant example in a recent episode of House (S5, E17) in which a patient with frontal lobe disinhibition turns to his partner and tells her that their daughter doesn’t have an auditory disability, she’s just below average. The episode highlighted a number of issues to me; the need for parents to excuse the fact that half of all children MUST be below average, the need for the medical system to back this up and the need for the educational system to deal with the fallout.
I often joke in the staffroom that I have severe disfootballia. Perhaps we all just need to accept that many people with SEN are not benefitting from being given a label (or worse, an excuse) to hide behind. I can’t see it happening any time soon though…