The GDST’s Trust Consultant Teacher for SEND (special educational needs and disabilities), Emily Rushton, explores a more positive future for children and young people with SEND.
The Department for Education has declared that they are committed to giving children with SEND the support they need to “thrive and prepare for happy, healthy and productive adulthoods”. In their recent green paper, published following 6,000 consultation responses, they said they wanted to “seize this moment to reimagine what a more positive experience for children and young people with SEND and their families should look like”.
At the GDST, we believe that celebrating diversity is key to unlocking a positive experience for a child with SEND and their families. And we do just this through GDST Undivided, our commitment to diversity, inclusion and real change.
The benefits of a truly inclusive neurodiverse society are well researched, for instance by individuals like Judy Singer:
“Just as conserving biodiversity is necessary for a sustainable, flourishing planet, so respecting neurodiversity is necessary for a sustainable, flourishing human society” —
Judy Singer, Neurodiversity: The Birth of an Idea
Celebrating neurodiversity at GDST:
What does this look like on a practical level at a GDST school? On a cold afternoon at Bromley High School, this looked like a Year 3 student talking to a bearded dragon about her aspirations to be an art teacher.
The next day this looked like students from Year 7 to 13 from Croydon High School sharing their experience of the strengths and struggles of neurodiversity, in a space they said was truly “safe”.
It looks like the amazing Loft at Birkenhead High School Academy school, a well-oiled machine that metamorphoses to become whatever space is needed by the students.
As the Trust Consultant Teacher for SEND, I have the privilege of visiting schools from across the country to see how neurodiversity is being celebrated and support is being rigorously implemented to ensure that all students can thrive. Across the GDST, it is clear the work of SENCOs and learning support departments are in fact not about – as the green paper says – “seizing a moment” but are based on a continuous conversation about how academic and pastoral support should continue to change and grow, centred always around each individual student.
Looking to the future of SEND:
It’s pleasing to note progress during this Neurodiversity Week (13th – 17th March) in wider society. Workplaces like GCHQ are now actively looking to recruit neurodivergent minds for the nuanced strengths they can bring to a company.
This spring, the GDST is launching Neurodiverstories, a safe community for students, staff and parents to share and celebrate their experience of neurodiversity and/or disability. This platform champions neurodiverse voices to lead and innovate the next steps towards inclusion. Already, we have both staff and student neurodiversity champions from across the GDST meet to discuss their vision for what ongoing inclusion looks like in their schools.
It is vital that celebration of diversity must not be limited to the week, month or the green paper in which it has been highlighted. If we do not visibly champion and celebrate inclusion, we align ourselves with societal and cultural discrimination and exclusion. We must continue to work for change, raise up and tell the stories of children and young people with SEND.
The GDST is committed to Diversity, Inclusion, and Real Change. Find out more about GDST Diversity.