We know the difference that the specialist skills of speech and language therapists make to an individual receiving intervention, but have we thought about how many more children would benefit from these methods, if implemented in the mainstream classroom?

Universal Strategies

The inclusive classroom requires that the specialist S&L practices, used in 1:1 or targeted small group interventions, are embedded into the main class arena. Teachers and leaders need to be mindful of the importance of universal strategies and make them a priority in their school’s teaching strategy. (After all, universal S&L strategies are vital for some and harm none!) We’ve been getting there with quality first/high quality teaching, resulting from the 2014 SEND reforms, along with the message that teachers, not TAs are responsible for their pupils with SEND. What is often neglected however, is the sharing of expertise with teachers. Rather than improving inclusive pedagogy with the help of S&L specialists, many teachers feel they have been given more to do, with fewer resources and no advice or support.

So how do we ensure there is a whole school approach to speech and language?

It requires strong leadership to compel any change, and a recognition of the benefits of true collaboration for the whole school environment. Access to training and CPD is a key part of a comprehensive universal S&L strategy but school leaders must also move beyond this to recognise the potential benefits of smaller scale modelling by the experts and coaching by specialists. School leaders must foster an atmosphere which understands the difference made by universal, classroom-based strategies, easy to implement and for which support materials are readily available. By looking at an overall strategy we can ensure that knowledge and good practice are being disseminated through all members of staff, regardless of their designation.

Good practice in the inclusive classroom

  • A commitment to finding the barriers to learning and removing them where possible
  • Understanding reasonable adjustments and the Equality Act 2010
  • Understanding the difference between the learning process and task completion
  • Understanding that making progress in the time allowed may mean shortening the task
  • Devising scaffolding to help rather than ‘do it for them’ and encouraging children to develop self-supportive strategies
  • Understanding progress for the individual child which is not based on peers or national outcomes
  • Being able to show progress for that child, capturing the evidence of their individual learning however it manifests
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