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Profile: Dawn Bradshaw

History Teacher, Special Educational Needs

Dawn Bradshaw was a history teacher and SENCO in a secondary school. Since coming out of there she has worked across Lincolnshire. Teaching for 17 years, she has worked in SEN since finishing her training.

Why did you get involved in SEN?

You can’t behaviour manage in class without knowing what you are doing so I went and learnt about it, did all the qualifications which are out there, though there werent that many to start with, so I could learn about special needs.

What is the biggest challenge facing SEN?

We have to get our head around the idea that inclusion is a fact. Although I bang the drum for inclusion and am a firm supporter, I also realise that not everybody has the same attachment to special needs that I do, so when I go and work in schools with teachers, a lot of it is about changing mindset. It is a challenge because ive been in a class of 35 16-year olds who don’t want to hear me talking about the Treaty of Versailles in history. I think the biggest challenge is getting people to come with us on the journey and not imposing it.

Do management understand SEN?

Where they do, you’ve got brilliant schools, where kids achieve no matter what they’re being taught. Some schools have had an OFSTED and are put in a certain category and not had access to the staff they need. We have a lot of rural schools in Lincolnshire and that poses its own particular challenge – getting the staff with a commitment to that school. That makes it very difficult for management.

What are the differences between primary and secondary level SEN?

Having been in secondary for two terms before Christmas which was interesting, I think many of the whole school initiatives should work across both but because of the nature of secondary it doesn’t. There needs to be more discrete training on how to work with children at secondary level, which is a big challenge.

You have to have time to embed it. In school, not only do children leave but teachers do as well. You get your staff sorted, then somebody leaves, upsetting the dynamics. If you get low morale, for example, after an OFSTED, or an intake that wears you out, it’s hard to build it up again without support from the local authority as well.

Delegates then participated in a series of discussions focusing on behaviour, training and professional development, the wider Every Child Matters agenda, and SEN provision. Issues included the differing models of support service organisation and specialist provision at local authority level, the extent to which policy is evaluated, and the harder task of defining inclusion.

Dawn Bradshaw