Page 28 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 28

Misdiagnosis of SEN in schools means children with real problems are overlooked, teachers warn
Well over half of teachers think parental pressure is leading
to children without special educational needs being misdiagnosed while those with genuine problems miss out, according to recent research.
supportive. Two-thirds (65 per cent) thought parental interaction with them and their schools was appropriate. Only a quarter (25 per cent) thought it was lacking with one in ten (10 per cent) believing
it was intrusive and inappropriate. Individual parents, however, presented a much bigger problem. Over half of all teachers polled
(52 per cent) complained that at least one parent took up so much of their time that it was dif cult to give others suf cient attention, with two- fths (41 per cent) saying they had to deal with more than one dif cult parent.
Lorraine Petersen, a special needs expert and former chief executive of National Association of Special Educational Needs, said she wasn’t surprised by the  ndings. “Most parents will work on the assumption that the quicker
you assess why a child is having dif culties and give him or her
a label, the faster you can get extra support. There may also be
a sense of relief that comes with being able to ‘blame’ a diagnosed disorder. Parents may think people will be a lot less judgmental of
a child’s behaviour - and their parenting skills - if they know the child has a label.”
Some parents, she pointed out, had the opposite problem and were in complete denial about the support their children needed and resisted having them on a SEN register. But at the other extreme were parents who were looking
for a label even though their child may not require one. “They feel
a label will give the child and perhaps the family additional support that they may not get without it; access to bene ts, for instance, or support with exams or a place in a specialist setting.” Greg Watson, Chief Executive of GL Assessment, said: “Few things
A large majority of teachers
(57 per cent) think there is a
misdiagnosis of SEN in children,
according to the survey from
GL Assessment, with a similar
proportion (54 per cent) blaming
parental pressure. Barely a quarter
of teachers (26 per cent) say
misdiagnosis isn’t an issue.
Over three- fths of teachers (62
per cent) think those with genuine
needs are missing out because
resources are being diverted to
children that don’t really need
help, with less than a  fth (18 per
cent) disagreeing.
Almost three-quarters of teachers
(72 per cent) believe some parents
want their child to be labelled as
having a learning dif culty even
though there is little objective
evidence to support that status.
Only one in ten (10 per cent)
disagree.
When asked why they thought
parents pushed for a diagnosis,
almost two-thirds of teachers
(64 per cent) said it was because
some parents wanted a medical or
psychological explanation rather
than being willing to accept
that their child had a classroom
problem that could be addressed
by a teacher.
However, a large minority (39
per cent) thought it was because
some parents wanted a label to
help their child gain a competitive
advantage in exams, though a
similar proportion (37 per cent)
thought that wasn’t the case.
On the whole, teachers in the
survey, which polled more than
800 teachers across the UK,
thought most parents were
Research was conducted for GL Assessment by YouGov, which polled 810 teachers between 19th January and 1st February 2017.
are more dif cult for a teacher to deal with than a frustrated parent who cannot understand why
their child is not doing as well at school as the parent feels they should. Parents naturally want to know why. But the fact is that a lot of issues children present are best addressed in the classroom not in the clinic, they don’t necessarily need a label and their condition may even be temporary. “A SEN diagnosis is often about  nding the one thing which is holding back a child who might otherwise do much better, rather than identifying a child with a broad dif culty in learning,” Greg adds. “That’s why the classroom solution is so often better. Accurate assessment, personalised
teaching and targeted support can often overcome a speci c dif culty without the disruption that an external intervention can cause to teacher and pupil.”
Sue Thompson, Senior Publisher
at GL Assessment, said it was imperative that teachers were
given as much help as possible to distinguish those children who had learning dif culties that could be addressed by a teacher from those who needed more specialist medical help: “Teachers have to be allowed to make the necessary identi cation of a child’s educational needs
with the appropriate diagnostic tools. It cannot be right that they feel pressured to mislabel children or that educational problems are misdiagnosed as medical ones.”
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