Memorandum submitted by Focus Learning
1. This document is submitted to the Education
and Skills Committee from Focus Learning Trust in view of offering
the benefits of experiences in developing a suitable SEN programme
in 37 UK schools to remedy the backlog of many undiscovered or
unrecognised SEN conditions, some of which have been inherited
from the lack of suitable provisions in state primary schools.
2. In this submission, a pupil is considered
to have special educational needs if one or more of his education
attainments fall significantly below that of his peers, or some
of his educational attainments are considerably below what you
would expect from his other achievementsfor example, a
child with very high reasoning ability but only average reading
3. Able, gifted and talented pupils also
have special educational requirements, but this submission deals
only with learning difficulties.
4. It is not the purpose of this submission
to plead for extra funds, but rather to suggest practical ways
in which available funds could be used more effectively.
5. There seem to be at least three main
sources of SEN:
Medical, such as deafness or Downs.
Lifestyle, such as diet or social
Specific learning difficulties.
6. As a result of years of work by pioneers
such as Beve Hornsby of the Hornsby Institute, it is now generally
accepted that a pupil can be healthy and intelligent, and yet
genuinely have a specific difficulty with reading or spelling,
7. Unfortunately, few have then asked the
8. Instead, a lot of effort has been expended,
trying to group SpLD pupils into a few global categories such
as dyslexia and ADHD.
9. Limitations of this approach are shown
by the existence of more than a dozen official definitions of
dyslexia in the UK alone.
10. As a result, diagnostic tests tend to
be so complicated that only experienced professionals can administer
them, while many teachers are not allowed to. This makes it difficult
for schools to conduct even a preliminary assessment of a pupil.
11. It has now become clear that there are
specific physiological conditions underlying SpLD, such as:
retained birth reflexes;
retained birth stresses, especially
in the skull;
auditory processing difficulties;
poor eye muscle control; and
impairment from ailments such as
12. The incidence, intensity and combination
of these conditions varies from child to child, that is why it
is so difficult to put SpLD into global classifications, and also,
sadly explains why some professionals insist there is no treatment
to alleviate SpLD.
13. Just by way of illustration, consider
some of the possible causes, medical, lifestyle and physiological,
that could lie behind a case of chronic inattentiveness:
An undetected medical condition such
An allergic reaction to fizzy drinks
such as colas.
Utter boredom with an able pupil
whose lessons do not stretch him properly.
Auditory processing delay.
Difficulty hearing against background
Retained moulding compression of
Weak or stressed ocular muscles,
disturbing eye co-ordination and focusing.
Poor balance/eye motor control co-ordination.
Retained birth reflexes. For example,
with spinal Galant reflex, the lower back is very sensitive, making
it very hard to sit still.
14. Each underlying symptom needs its own
particular treatment. This can easily be overlooked when working
with one global diagnosis.
15. What is encouraging is that proven therapies
(as distinct from enhanced teaching systems) are available to
treat many of these conditions. Some examples follow.
16. A difficult birth can leave a baby with
retained moulding and distortion of the skull, leading to restricted
brain function, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties in later
17. It is increasingly common practise here,
and on the Continent, for maternity units to recommend treatment,
specially to reduce the likelihood of SpLD in later years.
18. The ARROW self-voice dictation system
was originally developed for special educational needs children.
It was found they responded and learned far better from their
own voices than any others.
ARROW is now used with pupils of all ages and
abilities not only in the UK but elsewhere in Europe, the West
Indies and the Middle East. It is particularly useful for those
with specific hearing difficulties.
19. ARROW has discovered that students with
literacy problems cannot listen with background noise and has
introduced specialised listening programmes within its national
literacy strategy material.
20. Evidence from hundreds of SEN pupils
shows it is reasonable to expect nearly 12 months progress in
reading and in spelling after less than 10 hours work. The key
to its success being the use of the self-voice linked to carefully
graded CD ROM programmes. The Parliamentary e-Diary acknowledges
that ARROW is a leader in its field which delivers a high standard
of service aiming to produce excellence in education.
21. Pioneering work by the Institute of
Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester showed that children
with SpLD are apt to have retained birth reflexes.
22. These automatic reflexes are essential
for a baby's survival in the early months. However, if they are
still present in later years, they can interfere with the higher
brain functions involved in learning.
23. Further work at the INPP showed that
retained reflexes could be suppressed by special patterning exercises,
with a corresponding reduction in SpLD. This can be seen in the
results of a double blind trial conducted by Queens University,
Belfast, published in The Lancet.
24. Auditory therapy re-tunes the inner
ear by a programme of selected acoustic frequencies. This can
improve hearing and balance, and also the functioning of those
parts of the brain linked to the auditory system.
25. There are several effective systems
available. The Listening Program from America, supplied in this
country by Learning Solutions in Bradford, is one of the easiest
to use. It helps with auditory problems, retained reflexes, balance,
movement, social interaction, and some autistic spectrum disorders.
26. Some old-fashioned teaching practices
appear to have a beneficial therapeutic effect on SpLD. Examples
chanting in classmultiplication
class singingfolk songs etc;
physical exercises involving left/right
27. In addition there is often a big improvement
in educational outcome, when a pupil realises that he does have
a genuine problem, and his teachers are sympathetic with him.
28. At present, many cases of SEN go undetected
all through primary school, and even secondary school. There are
at least two reasons for this.
29. Firstly, social pressures have led to
a lot more behavioural problems, which must be a teacher's first
priority. Well-behaved SEN pupils are all too easily overlooked.
30. Secondly, because the assessments procedure
is so complicated, requiring the input of professionals who are
in relatively short supply, teachers cannot always be sure if
a pupil has SEN or not.
31. Hull University recognised this problem,
and have developed a SEN assessment package, Lucid. Using laptops,
with scores calibrated against the results of thousands of tests,
Lucid allows laymen to conduct accurate tests for SEN.
32. Lucid is cheap and easy to operate,
giving reliable results. It is increasingly used by education
33. The intention of SEN legislation is
good, and if widely practised, would be beneficial to SEN pupils.
34. Unfortunately there are several major
drawbacks. Firstly, the system lacks:
effective enforcement procedures;
reporting systems to show how well
an LEA is carrying out its SEN responsibilities; and
an easy way for parents to know if
they are given the help envisaged by SEN legislation.
35. Secondly, there is no mechanism in place
for ensuring that available funds go to the pupils who need them.
For instance, a Local Education Authority may allocate all its
SEN provision direct to each school. If then a school has an exceptional
SEN case requiring costly support, the school may not have enough
SEN funds, and the LEA has none left to help the school.
36. Alternatively, an LEA may attempt to
ration the number of SEN Statements, to keep within budget.
37. The end result is that trying to obtain
SEN "statement funding" places a heavy time and cost
burden on schools, with no certainty of securing SEN funds, however
deserving the case.
38. The system almost forces LEAs, schools and
parents to adopt an adversarial stance. Although suitable for
a criminal court, it seems quite inappropriate for deciding how
best to help an SEN child.
39. All schools, particularly primaries,
could be given the means of conducting their own preliminary SEN
assessments, using Lucid or similar.
40. They could be encouraged to identify
SEN as young as possible. The earlier help can be brought to bear,
the better it is for the child, its parents, its teachers, and
not least, the Exchequer.
41. To reduce the adversarial element of
SEN, would it be better to put responsibility for full SEN assessment
to a body operating at arm's length from both schools and LEAs?
42. This body, working closely with teachers
and parents, could be responsible for:
recommending special teaching;
recommending proven therapies;
issuing statements of Special Needs;
reviewing and reporting on the results
of its recommendations.
43. Any school pupil could be referred to
this body, provided there has been a preliminary SEN assessment,
and there is simple evidence to show why a full assessment is
44. This service, could be free at the point
of use, and a recommendation from the independent body could be
a trigger for the release of the necessary SEN funding from an
LEA to the school in question.
45. There seems to be a case for better
co-ordination of research into the best ways of treating SEN,
including making use of properly validated SEN therapies.