Today was a very informative look into the UK education system with quite a lot of time devoted to special education. The various lectures revealed a lot of information that was new to me while also revealing some similarities between the United States and UK education systems.
Our day began with an introduction to the United Kingdom’s education system. We learned about the five stages that exist for different age groups in the schooling system and also some of the requirements that go along with each of those groups. In covering the national curriculum, and the countrywide standards that all students must be taught, we discussed the eleven subjects that will make up the classes in the schooling system and when they would be taken. What was most interesting in covering the English education system was the various types of schools that exist in England, and the different autonomy, or lack thereof, for each of them. In many ways, this was an area with a lot of similarities to the issues between private and public education in the United States.
As previously mentioned, a lot of our focus today was on special education provisions in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the system for special education revolves around the idea of SEND – special educational needs and disabilities. A student falling under SEND would have difficulty or a disability requiring special educational provisions. In many ways, the development of the SEND system mirrored that of the different special education acts in the United States. Many of the laws that created the theory and methods behind special education in both nations were passed around the same time and developed following a similar timeline as well.
A more specific aspect of special education that we were able to hear about was the Stockport Team around the School partnership in Manchester. This specific organization of systems connects multiple schools and agencies, as well as parents, involved in special education in order to better support families requiring assistance in special education matters. The team around the school system creates a hierarchy surrounding a core TAS team composed of a cross-agency team, a community services group, and a general regional family group consisting of various resources. While many different programs for special education exist in the United States, nothing of comparable scope and scale comes to mind. Though the cost-benefit analysis regarding this system is not complete, it has largely been regarded as successful so far.
After learning about the various processes in education and especially special education, an area that I would be interested in learning more about would be the specific assessments that are taken in each key state and at different years in the academic timeline. Assessments are a hot topic in education across the globe generally, and given how many assessments are required throughout the many points of the academic process, it would be interesting to see how these standard tests compare with similar ones in the United States. It would also be interesting to see how the different parts of SEND processes actually work in the classroom, as theory and practice can be widely different things.
Despite special education not being a specific area I’m focusing on academically, there is no doubt that many of these concepts will be those I adopt in my own classrooms. For many years now the focus in special education is to allow those students in this category to be placed in general education classrooms with the rest of their peers. Teachers must be familiar with the tools they can use to assist these students, both those that are official and legally binding like an Individualized Education Plan and those that they will have to develop on their own in order to adapt their classroom to the learning style that students will require to succeed.
Other than our look into the United Kingdom’s education system, we did also enjoy a beautiful boat tour on the canal and a nice meal afterward. I am beginning to think that I could get used to this kind of living.