The Special Needs label: The impact of the life SENtence

According to the article Sentenced to Failure, it reveals that Ofsted have accused schools for exploiting the special needs label as a tool to cover poor teaching strategies. The SEN (Special Education Needs) label was used to measure pupils by socio – economic backgrounds especially, those who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, those who who are given the special needs label will face a lifetime of failure, self doubt and psychological and mental distress.

Although poverty was never viewed as an eligible reason for the SEN, pupils who are from lower and working class backgrounds or socio – economical deprived areas are more likely to receive the label than their middle class counterparts. Additionally, pupils are twice more likely to be given the label if they receive free school meals. Katherine Ann Angel, a teacher and author with years of experience in fostering and teaching children with special educational needs believes that children who come from poor working class families are prone to be stamped by the label.

Although there is a presence of learning disabilities including Dyslexia and ADHD,  some of the pupils are simply victims of poor parenting and poor teaching. Despite of the tremendous impact the special needs label can have on pupils, some of them managed to rise above the SEN tag by sending them to schools that provides empathy and positive encouragement like Tim for example, who was on the SEN when he was seven and his prognosis was slim. However, when he attended secondary school, he was emancipated from the SEN label as the teachers considered it was “pointless” and told he was better than the label, which gave him the confidence to accomplished 11 GCSEs and sailed to university to study for a degree in sports. This example shows a pillar of optimism as we should acknowledge that a child’s position should not be determined by the SEN label and other characteristics on regards of class, race and cultural backgrounds as long as they have the right help, understanding, guidance and support. Thus pupils should be encouraged to participate in activities with intention to develop a healthy degree self – esteem and self – confidence.

However, some of them were not so lucky as the SEN label may give a temporary signal that a child in academic distress and the label already caused emotional and psychological damage. Sean is one example, he was the fifth of seven children who missed out a momentous amount of primary education because of poor parenting though exposure to child abuse and neglect. Consequently, led him to become an SEN case. Despite his unstable childhood and the SEN label, he displayed an above average level in reading and ignited his fascination with learning through a one to one private tuition by a foster parent who is a teacher. However he reinstated into foster care and out of education. Eventually, a serious crime landed him a prison sentence. This is an obvious example on how negative influences can increase the child’s chance of receiving the SEN label which can eventually exacerbate a child’s likelihood to engage in delinquency and criminality.

On reference to the article, Every Child Matters? The Impact of special educational needs programmes reveals that special educational needs programmes are designed to meet the needs of children who are perceived to be slower than their non special needs labelled counterparts, with the intention to give them time to adjust to their specific learning difficulties through the help of the SEN Code of practice. Although the programme aims to tackle a child’s particular learning difficulty, it serves as a weapon of  dehumanization, leaving them to fall into a future cycle of diagnostic labelling. The SEN also exacerbates the extent of their difficulties rather to help them succeed according to their unique learning ability. Another potential use of the SEN is that it will create a series of culture conflict, especially those who are from Black Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds, intensified by an unconscious degree of institutional racism which would eventually expose those effected to a cycle of marginalization and exclusion from schools and other education institutions and in consequence, could lead to lifetime of mental health as the SEN label can persist in adulthood.

Education institutions continue to apply the SEN label as a quick fix to mask the problems that pupils endure, such as child abuse, bullying and victims of unfortunate circumstances endured by those from ethnic minority backgrounds and areas that breed drugs, alcoholism and anti – social behaviour, in preference to find and use effective methods that would neutralise these problems. The special needs label could be seen as a motivation tool to help them take personal responsibility with the intention to thrive academically and life in general with the help and support from the right people. At the same time it leaves a permanent scar on their sense of self worth and self esteem. On an unconscious level, the SEN, label can be exploited by education authorities with intention to have control over those who are from bottom level of the socio – economic hierarchy.


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