Last week I gave a talk in central London to an SEN recruitment agency about my journey and the struggles many specialist SEN schools have when recruiting specialist staff.
The Headteacher of the school we set up 20 years ago for my son’s shared:
‘There are lots of challenges, despite there being no official course for initial teacher training and autism (modules have been introduced). Teacher training still doesn’t adequately prepare most newly qualified teachers for SEN.
Our best teachers are former TA’s who have been trained by us for QTS thoroughly he schools direct program (1 year on the job and university training) whilst still employed by us. They have the the perspective of a teaching assistant who are typically the backbone of schools like ours, this is the same in other ASD schools. We now have 14 out of 21 teachers who have started as TA’s (Teaching Assistants) are now qualified as teachers. They learn more with us than through study.
Brexit has been a problem, we do not get the same quality of candidates as previously. The really good E.U. candidates are no longer applying as once they did. We currently have some great Spanish and Greek staff who have been with us (16), over the past two years. I have not interviewed any E.U. candidates. This is reflected in national trends. Also pay being low, particularly for TA’s who probably work as hard as anyone and teaching assistants not being recognised as a profession which it should be, under the last labour government proposals were put forward to make it a profession by creating new standards but this would mean more adequate and increased pay scales, this was ditched by the conservative government about four to five years ago.
Enticing people into SEN teaching by providing an experience route TA first then QTS reduces the challenge. It gives them on the job training by onsite therapy training and real life experience. With regards to getting therapists, providing them with top quality professional development seems to be more of a carrot than pay scales, as long as you align pay scales to NHS banding and can offer similar holidays to schools, we have had many therapists not accept due to pro rata pay when not offering school holidays, fortunately the therapists we have at the moment are very invested and have particular interest in ASD, more so than we have had in the past. Offering the opportunity of personal research also helps to continue their development.’
Anna Kennedy shared:
‘Many parents work hard in navigating a complicated SEN system some parents maxing out their credit cards in funding costly independent Speech and Language and Occupational Therapy reports in order to secure an appropriate school placement that can meet their son or daughters needs. They would hope after doing this and battling with the Local Authority with some parents going into tribunals, that schools have the trained teachers and therapists to provide the correct support and right space for learning for their children on the Autism spectrum’