Impairment Disability Disorder Delay Difficulty PERCEPTIONS OF LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT FOR STUDENTS ATTENDING MAINSTREAM SECONDARY SCHOOL ANN FRENCH MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY firstname.lastname@example.org • INTRODUCTION • Offering a supportive and inclusive educational environment to students with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) requires professional collaboration. Practical barriers to collaboration have been identified (Hartras, 2004) but other barriers may arise from a lack of shared beliefs and values (Law et al, 2000). Professionals from different backgrounds (e.g. health v. education) may have different understandings of students’ needs as a result of differences in training and experience. Law et al call for improved initial training to prepare professional groups for effective collaboration, and I CAN (2000) have produced a framework to meet this need. • However, most discussion on educational collaboration focuses on the primary sector and/or special secondary provision, with little attention to the mainstream secondary sector. Major differences between the two sectors include the greater numbers of teachers and students and the smaller amount of class contact between pupils and individual teachers in the secondary setting, together with the focus on specialist subjects both during secondary teacher training and in the classroom. In this context it is likely to be very difficult for health professionals and teachers to establish effective relationships. If, in addition, beliefs and values about language development and language impairment are not shared, the potential for a breakdown in professional relationships is high. • The aim of this study was to explore similarities and differences in perspectives on: • The nature of language impairment; • Its impact on educational development; • How it should be managed, including both learning and assessment. • Semi-structured interviews were carried out with: • The school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo); • A subject teacher; • A teaching assistant; • The SLT service manager; • An SLT with responsibility for secondary schools; • A student with speech, language and communication needs; • The students’ parents. • Additional interviews are planned with: • An educational psychologist; • A learning support teacher. • Data analysis • Content analysis (Robson, 1993) was used to identify a range of key words in the policy documents and compare their rate of occurrence and uses. • The interview data will be analysed using Framework analysis (Ritchie and Spencer, 1994). This work is ongoing and the Results section focuses on documentary analysis. There is variation within and between documents as to how special educational needs are labelled (showing proportion of total uses across all documents): Personnel identified as providing training to school staff are most likely (uses per 1,000 words) to be other LEA staff, rather than Health staff (such as SLTs): Literacy & Learning Emotional Communication numeracy behavioural & interaction Autistic Sensory Physical Speech & spectrum language Local policy documents The school SEN policy mirrors SEN CoP; the SLT Service policy mirrors RCSLT PP. DISCUSSION The number of children with SLCN is difficult to establish: figures from 3 to 15% have been suggested. Even assuming the lower figure for secondary children (since some early difficulties will resolve) we should expect around 30 children with SLCN per 1000 pupils. Yet for the school in this study, with around 1500 pupils, the SENCO identified just ‘several’ with SLCN. The content analysis reported here suggests that one reason for this discrepancy may be a lack of common understanding or agreement between education and health professionals. In some central policy documents (e.g. ECM), SLCN are invisible; in others (e.g. KS3 FE) the term ‘language’ most often refers to EAL or to language stylistics. There is variation in how SEN are labelled, with terms such as ‘impairment’, ‘disability’ and ‘disorder’ being used most often to refer to physical or sensory needs (as is the term ‘diagnosis’), whereas SLC are more often classed, along with literacy, learning, and behaviour, as ‘difficulties’. All the documents studied make reference to specialists, partnerships and training, yet with the exception of the RCSLT PP, named agents are largely from education rather than health. Finally, the concept of ‘normal limits’ seems to have a minimal place in education. These differences may be terminological, but may reflect deeper conceptual differences. It is suggested that the Education and SLT professions need to invest time in exploring any such differences in order to reach agreement on the education of children with SLCN. RESULTS Central policy documents The term ‘normal’ (in the sense of ‘within normal limits’) is used only in JPDF and the SLT service policy These vary in the relative frequencies of terms referring to speaking, understanding, communication and literacy: The term ‘specialist’ is most often used (uses per 1,000 words) with non-specific reference, but when a specialist is named it is more likely to be an Education-based specialist (e.g. LSS or EP) than a Health-based one (e.g. SLT), except for RCSLT PP: • METHOD • Design • A small-scale exploratory study of a large mainstream secondary school and the associated Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) service, using a qualitative approach. Information was gathered at: • The macro level: central government and professional body policy documents; • The exo level: local policy documents • The micro level: interviews with a range of respondents concerned in policy implementation. • (Bronfenbrenner 1997) • Data collection • Documents examined include: • Excellence for All Children (EfAC); • Every Child Matters (ECM); • Removing Barriers to Achievement (RBtA); • The Key Stage 3 Framework for Teaching English (KS3 FE); • The SEN Code of Practice (SEN CoP); • Joint Professional Development Framework (JPDF); • RCSLT Position Paper: Supporting Children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs within Integrated • Children’s Services (RCSLT PP); • The school’s Special Educational Needs policy; • The SLT service policy for language impaired children. They also vary in the frequency (counted as number of uses per 1,000 words) of terms referring to different meanings of ‘language’: Personnel identified as school partners (uses per 1,000 words) are most likely to be other LEA staff, parents, or pupils. Multi-agency work is also highlighted, but specific services are not often named: REFERENCES Bronfenbrenner, U. (1997). The Ecology of Human Development. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. DfEE. (1997). Excellence for All Children. London: Stationary Office. DfES. (2001). SEN Code of Practice. http://www.dfes.gov.uk. DfES.(2001). Key Stage 3 National Strategy: Framework for Teaching English. http://www.dfes.gov.uk. DfES. (2003). Every Child Matters. http://www.dfes.gov.uk. DfES. (2004). Removing Barriers to Achievement. http://www.dfes.gov.uk. Gascoigne, M.T. (2006). Supporting Children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs within Integrated Children’s Services. RCSLT Position Paper. London: RCSLT Hartras, D. (2004). Teacher and speech-language therapist collaboration: being equal and achieving a common goal? Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 20, 1, 31-54. I CAN. (2000). Joint Professional Development Framework. London: I CAN Law, J., Lindsay, G., Peacey, N., Gascoigne, M., Soloff, N., Radford, J., Band, S., Fitzgerald, L. (2000). Provision for Children with Speech and Language Needs In England and Wales: Facilitating Communication Between Education and Health Services. DfEE Research Report 239. http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR239.doc Ritchie, J. and Spencer, L. (1994). Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research. In A. Bryman and R. Burgess (Eds). Analysing Qualitative Data. London: Routledge Robson, C. (1993). Real World Research. Oxford: Blackwell The term ‘diagnosis’ is used infrequently, but when used refers primarily to medical conditions, except for JPDF and RCSLT PP. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author would like to thank those who took part in this study, and also the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists for financial support to attend the AFASIC 4th International Symposium, Warwick University, April 2007.