We all want our classrooms to be inclusive. We want them to be a learning environment that any child with any kind of Special Educational Need can be nurtured and grow in their development throughout their time in education.
Indeed we know that being able to deliver teaching that impacts at different levels of ability is important and that it is something that Ofsted judges the performance of a school on.
So for teachers to provide a differentiated strategy for learning, especially for children with dyslexia, we need to understand that this is no easy task. Despite the (rightfully applied) pressure on schools by the British Dyslexia Association to deliver dyslexia friendly education we should spare a thought about the challenges that teachers have in providing differentiated learning.
As I am not a teacher myself, I thought that it would be interesting to ask teachers on social media what they think the challenges are in providing differentiated learning.
Here are some responses:
@Secretsend2 is a SENCO and highlights a real challenge about teachers actually having the time scheduled for them to be able to prepare for their classes let alone the added need for time spent preparing for differentiated materials.
Teacher Matt Beighton shared how it is a challenge to provide differentiation across a wide set of needs especially when expected standards in topics such as Maths are raised.
@Relax_n_Teach expressed challenges surrounding teachers understanding dyslexia enough to be able to provide the most appropriate resources which, of course is hampered by challenges associated with funding the resources in the first place.
Helen Ross from Wiltshire is the chair of the Wiltshire Dyslexia Association and is a SENCO and she makes the important point that differentiated learning should not draw attention to the needs of the dyslexic pupils which is a huge challenge if classmates are using different resources in class.
@Teach4dyslexia replied on Twitter to highlight that limited budgets also mean a compromise on quality of learning materials and intervention.
These responses on Social Media highlight a dire need in our education system for teachers to have the right resources to support their pupil’s educational needs. Many teachers will spend hours of their own time preparing for classes. Implementing differentiation strategies must surely add to that time as a class of 35 will not all respond positively to the same materials. If we then add in the need to support pupils with special educational needs, we can see a real challenge for teachers to feel satisfied with the lesson plan that they deliver as well as in the background maintaining some kind of work/life balance.
Last year the National Foundation For Education Research published figures in a blog post stating that between 2011 and 2017 the number of newly qualified teachers entering the profession had increased from 24,000 in 2011 to 25,600 in 2017 in the secondary school space. Whilst I don’t have numbers for KS2, I would imagine a similar trend. That said, in the article, they illustrated that the retention of teachers drops down to 70% after five years.
So coming back to differentiation, teachers need a way of being able to easily access materials that do not take time to generate but delivers effective content that supports learning whilst not discriminating against dyslexic pupils.
One company that is seeking to address these challenges is Widgit Symbols with their software product, InPrint 3 which presents a teacher with a fast way of making worksheets, flashcards and accessible documents using their own symbol set.
The video below gives an insight into what some specialist teachers think about the software.
Are you a teacher in a mainstream school?
What challenges are you facing as you try to deliver a differentiated lesson plan to your class. How much training have you had on special educational needs and what resources would you like to have?
I would love to hear from you if you have any comments regarding this post or your experiences within the classroom.
Why not either drop me a line or let me know on Twitter?