Inclusion and Special Educational Needs
The Solihull Agreed Syllabus is the RE entitlement of all pupils in maintained schools and therefore supports the principles of inclusion as set out in the National Curriculum:
- setting suitable learning challenges;
- responding to pupils’ diverse learning needs;
- overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.
As the subject matter of RE sometimes raises sensitive issues, it is important that teachers are aware of, and are sensitive to, the background and personal circumstances of their pupils.
It is expected that teachers of pupils with special educational needs will modify the RE provision according to their own situation, meeting the needs of the children in the most appropriate way. This also includes meeting the needs and challenges of the most able pupils.
The guidance that follows for Special Schools may also prove helpful to teachers of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schooling.
RE in Special Schools
Pupils in special schools are referred to in the Education Act 1993, which states:
‘Every pupil attending a special school will, so far as is practicable……receive religious education unless the child’s parents have expressed a wish to the contrary. It is for schools to decide what is practicable but, in general terms, the Secretary of State would expect the question of practicability to relate to the special educational needs of the pupils and not to problems of staffing or premises.’
Teachers of children with special educational needs will broadly need to follow the three core principles outlined below:
- Be sensitive to and meet the needs of the individual child.
- Set challenging tasks, but have realistic expectations of what they can do and celebrate their responses.
- Make the pupils’ experience of RE meaningful, taking account of their ability and special educational need.
Some pupils will be able to work with facts but not relate to feelings and meanings. Others will find factual detail confusing and will need a more sensory and experiential approach in their RE lessons. It is up to the teacher’s professional judgement and personal knowledge of the child to decide how best to meet the needs of individual pupils.
For example, pupils with Educational and Behavioural difficulties will have short concentration spans and so will not cope with extensive reading, research and writing. The school may well decide it is more fitting to have short sessions more frequently during the week – the ‘little and often’ approach. A more active and varied lesson will help these pupils gain from their experience of RE.
Teachers might use activities and resources that best meet the needs of their pupils. Kinaesthetic, visual and aural approaches should be considered whilst acknowledging the preferred learning styles of pupils. Teachers should choose appropriate content from the Agreed Syllabus. For example, Rites of Passage during KS2, birth and marriage may be more accessible to particular pupils than initiation rites. Professional judgement and personal knowledge of the pupils will inform practice. Similarly, studying more than one religion may overload some pupils with facts so, if appropriate, only one religion in addition to Christianity might be studied.