I’ve been watching the Twitter storm unfold following the publication by the Times Educational Supplement on-line of an unhelpful typology of parents of children with special educational needs, written by a SENDCO.
Here, I want to step back from commenting on the article itself, or about the individual who wrote it, to respond to a question posed by Jon Rouse on Twitter:
How on earth did this get published?
This is an important question. How did the article get through editing by the leading national newspaper for education professionals, The Times Educational Supplement?
Who commissioned the article or was it an unsolicited contribution?
Why did no one think – “hey, teachers are parents too, I wonder how they might feel reading this article?”
Or, hold the front page, “teachers are also parents of children labelled with SEND too – how might they feel about being categorised in this way?”
And what about the families working with the SENDCO in the school she writes from? Crucially, how might they feel about being categorised in this way?
No one even stopped to think: “ok, we will go with this but let’s offer a right to reply published at the same time on the same platform.”
Instead, Twitter has done its thing and replied but without the invitation or the support of the editors from TES.
It was published because …
I think that there is a multiplicity of complex reasons based on relationships or power, professional protectionism and (highly gendered) perceptions of parenting that meant that the article was published without any evidence of a second thought about the implications of doing so.
Despite the ‘biggest shake up in SEND for thirty years’, at the heart of the system is the persistent belief that children labeled with SEND are different from and less than their peers. Remember Part 3 (20) of the Children and Families Act, 2014 still describes children with SEND in terms of their individual deficits.
This is the context which makes it possible to publish an article that characterizes children and their parents as ‘problems to be managed’ without a second thought.
We need to move away from a model of SEND based on deficit and needs towards an approach which celebrates children’s children’s rights and entitlements and fosters an environment where children, families and teachers work in meaningful partnerships with each other.
* I very much hope that the SENDCO will take up the offer to meet with parents from Learning Disability England and have a chance to understand better the lives of the families she works with.