If you gave me all the things

One of the best things The best thing about the work I do is that I get to visit many schools and meet with many teachers and school leaders. This week I have been in four schools, met with nine headteachers, and, as part of our governors annual extended meeting day, got to spend several lessons with the brilliant Helen Wilson (@hmw239).

Whilst I look forward to every such visit I would say that the days I look forward to are when I get to spend time in one of our wonderful special schools.

This morning I arrived early for my meeting with a group of headteachers at a newly rebuilt school. As I waited I watched the children arrive, some with their parents, some with specialist carers. All raring to get into the building. The desire of the human child to learn crosses all barriers. The children are arriving at school to learn and the teachers are there to teach them. And what teachers they are. The deep desire for the children in their care to progress, to learn exists in all teachers. It is no different in the toughest of special schools. Many I’m sure would deny it, but I do believe that all teachers love the children they teach. I believe this to be true and I see most most openly expressed in the special schools I visit.

As I watched I got to thinking about the existence of such schools. The specialist nature of the teachers involved. The often large numbers of support staff involved. The carers who come with the children. The transport services set up to get children from home to school. The incredible array of learning opportunities within the schools. Many of the schools also now have integrated care facilities not just to manage the many specific medical needs of the children but also in one schools I visited a mechanic to look after the wheelchairs. Arguments about the benefits of technology in learning just don’t seem to happen in special schools. The range of assistive technologies available have to be seen to be believed.

It is said that you can judge the nature of a society by how it cares for those within it who are least able to care for themselves and how it supports those who do so. We have many, many things in our society that could be better. Better organised, better funded, better respected. But using this one measure, of the provision for children who have a vast array of different needs I think we have some reason for a degree of pride.

I’m not blind to the idea that as with all schools, funding in special schools could higher. I’m not so naive as to think things are perfect. Not at all. Many special schools are in great need of rebuilding and many are understaffed. There can always be improvements. But on this aspect of our education system I think we can look ourselves in the mirror.