When I watch those videos from the No Excuses schools in the US, I am scanning the room for the type of children I teach. The ones who have sensory difficulties; that really isn’t an excuse. In fact it’s probably one of the most research heavy areas in SEND.
I see the ones who look slightly bewildered; that’s not an excuse either. The pace of some of the teachers chorusing would not be helping those with slow processing or developmental language disorder.
And I see the eye tracking. Eye contact is very difficult for some students with autism (also not an excuse) and I often ask teachers who say a child is never listening whether they’ve checked by asking them. Some students (often with ADHD in my experience) might be concentrating when they are not looking at the teacher. Others are really listening while playing with Lego or fiddling with play doh. In fact,sometimes I think that when you ask a child to look at the teacher it might be when she is listening the least: have they noticed the mole on an eyebrow? Are they looking at the detail of a patterned shirt?
And then I see the students who are not following the words to the songs, and the chants and the recitals because they can’t remember the words; they are pretending by moving their mouths but they’re out of sync with the rest. These are the ones that are just about coping. I wonder however about the ones who have walked out, sworn at the teachers, won’t sit still, won’t keep quiet, I wonder about them – where are they? They exist, I know they do.
What makes it better for children who struggle is a differentiated curriculum, an understanding of their needs, strategies to recognise why they blow and places to go when they do. Reasonable adjustments are not excuses.