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Historical Background of Initial Teacher Training in
England:

An overview of
the historical background of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) contextualises the current SEN training
provided in ITT programmes by highlighting the causes and changes over the
years, in legislation, policy and the government’s overall approach to SEN
training in ITT programmes. With the segregation and isolation of students with
disabilities at the center of SEND government policy in the 1870s, poor SEN training
in ITT programmes has been an issue since the nineteenth century (Griggs,
2014).  In fact, it was not until the
1970s that SEN training was implemented into ITT programmes. Special Education
was introduced after the implementation of the 1970 Education (Handicapped
Children) Act, which gave the responsibility for children with disabilities to
the Department of Education. Thereafter, some higher education institutions
(HEI) incorporated optional special education modules into ITT programmes (DES 1978). However, due
to the limited availability and the variation in the quality of modules across
universities, many newly qualified teachers felt ill-prepared to teach children
with special educational needs and/or disabilities. The integration of special
needs students into mainstream schools meant an increase in knowledge related
to the management of students with complex needs was essential for teachers.
However, the lack of SEN training made it difficult for teachers to meet the diverse of needs of students and consequently,
hindered the process of integrating special needs students into mainstream
schools.

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The
1978 Warnock report considered an important work in revolutionizing educational
inclusion from a medical model of disability towards a social model addressed
this issue and made recommendations to higher education institutions for
improving teacher training programmes. (Hodkinson 2009). The report recommended that the
individuals responsible for approving courses within teacher training programs
ensure that courses include special education components (Hodkinson 2009; DES, 1978). It also
recommended that teachers develop their understanding of special education
(i.e. be able to identify early signs of special educational needs and/or
disabilities in students) and familiarize themselves with specialist advisory
services. Teachers trainees should develop an understanding of developmental,
sensory, emotional, behavioral and/or learning difficulties including how a
student’s home life could lead to difficulties in schools. They should acquire
the appropriate attitude and have knowledge of interventions and strategies
required to meet student needs while making the necessary changes to the curriculum, classroom, and school to
support students with SEN (Hodkinson
2009; DES,1978).

            In
the 1980’s to 1990’s, recommendations from the Warnock Report were used in the
Department of Education and Science (DES) Circular 3/84 to outline the specific criteria needed to
become a qualified teacher (Mittler,
1992). The DES
24/89 asserted that courses should prepare students for teaching the
diverse needs often seen within mainstream schools such as pupils from
different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and abilities (Mittler, 1992).
Then on, HEIs were told to include elements of SEN in their ITT programmes.
However, the government offered no guidance on how to navigate the
implementation of these issues. Therefore, many ITT programmes developed
courses based on the expertise of staff working in their respective
institutions, which was noted in a 1990 investigation by Her Majesty’s
Inspectorate of Schools. The investigation found that ITT programmes varied in
how and what SEN material was delivered.

The
report also stated that most ITT programmes delivered SEN training in one of
three ways: focused elements, optional module or permeation (Mittler 1992). Some HEIs used the
focused elements approach, offering special education training in modules from
Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) or Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
programmes. With only one or two modules offered, very little time was devoted
to special education. In fact, 80% of students in Thomas’ 1993 study reported that the SEN elements
of their programmes were poor and limited. While other HEIs (only 15% of
schools) offered optional SEN modules for students who were interested. This
approach was criticized for isolating and marginalising
the importance of SEN (Thomas, 1993). 
The permeation approach, the most popular among HEI’s demanded that all
aspects of the ITT programme include elements of SEN and tutors were
responsible for training students in this area (Garner 1996).

            Programmes
were criticized for their lack of foundation and for the variation in quality
of SEN training (Garner,
1996). It was a period of uncertainty; HEIs had difficulty deciding how
SEN training should be included and delivered within ITT programmes (Hodkinson
2009). As a result, reports state that students received poor SEN training (Robertson 1999; Special
Educational Needs Training Consortium 1991). This is reinforced by
students, themselves, who felt they knew very little about managing pupils with
SEN in a mainstream setting (Dwyfor-Davies
and Garner 1997; Wedell 1995).

            With
the election of the New Labour Party in 1997 and its commitment to improving
SEN education, the government began to revise and reform ITT programmes across
England. The Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) released a statement “Excellence for All and the Programme of
Action” about educational policy that would include elements of inclusion and
practices of collaboration (Creese,
Norwich, and Daniels 2000). In addition, The Green Paper, another
document promoting inclusion, stated that all children regardless of the
complexity of their SEN or disability
should be educated in a mainstream setting (Hodkinson,

2005). It also
emphasized the importance of students in ITT programmes acquiring more
experience working with SEN pupils
(Vickerman, 2007). Once again, successful mainstreaming was associated
with SEN training in ITT programmes (Hodkinson 2009).

Radical
ITT reform continued in 1998 when the
Teacher Training Agency (TTA) gained control and established a standard that
trainees would have to meet to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) (Golder, Norwich, Bayliss 2005).
The QTS criteria included: understanding how intellectual, physical, emotional
and social development affects a student’s learning, learning to identify
students who have specific learning disabilities or who do not know how to
speak English and lastly, understanding when and how to use the Code of
Practice for SEN (Barber
and Turner 2007). The standard was criticized because it gave little
consideration to the pedagogy, intervention strategies and evaluation skills
that support teaching students with SEN (Reynolds, 2001). It was also criticised for its
controlling and restrictive approach to managing students with SEN (Allan, 2003). While the
government told HEIs what SEN material to include in ITT programmes, it failed
to explain how this information should be delivered. As a result, the
government continued to minimize the importance of SEN within ITT programmes.

            In the late 1990s
to the early 2000’s, SEN training in ITT
programmes took a back seat while the government’s focus transitioned towards
improving numeracy and literacy. However, in 2002 the TTA introduced new
standards for QTS that included elements of SEN. The standards stated that teachers
trainees must understand their duties under the SEN Code of Practice as well as
and how to consult with SEN specialist whenever necessary. They must be able to
differentiate teaching skills and identify and support students who have
emotional, behavioural and learning
difficulties (DFES 2004).

Again these
standards were criticised for focusing on procedure and compliance as opposed to the practical aspects of teaching (Hodkinson 2009;
Golder, Norwich and Bayliss 2005, 93). The standards were similar to the
recommendations laid out in the Warnock Report of 1978, which meant that the
government had not moved forward in relation to SEN issues (Hodkinson 2009).
The similarities were noted in the 2003 Ofsted which repeated many of the same critiques of
Warnock and HMI (DES 1978;
HMI 1990) that is, teachers were being asked to meet the needs of SEN
students without any proper training.  In
response, the government reaffirmed its commitment to mainstreaming SEN
students and worked closely with TTA and HEIs to ensure that ITT programmes
provide sound knowledge and skills to trainees (DfES 2004). Nevertheless, many HEIs, researchers,
teachers, disability groups believe that the SEN training continues to be inadequate (Hodkinson 2005;
Hodkinson 2009).

            In
response, the DFES released a proposition that consisted of a three-tier model of training.  At the first level, teachers should acquire a
primary set of skills for differentiation, at the second level all schools
should have SEN specialist teachers that provide guidance and support to other
members of staff and at the third level, local authority along with advanced
skills teachers should be responsible for providing extra training and guidance
to schools (Ofsted,
2004b). The government further emphasized the expectations and standards
for teachers in the section “Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and
needs of all pupils” of the revised Teaching Standards (DFE, 2012). Teachers are expected to use
and assess teaching strategies that will support students with SEN (ibid, DFE).  Despite, these recommendations the same
issues and concerns pervade current SEN training in ITT programmes.

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