The education of our children has never been as important as it is right now. Whilst we all agree that children should have access to a rich and engaging curriculum, the impact of Covid-19 has called into question how and when? Just as important is ensuring that children actually have an education to return to in September, including fair and appropriate support for learners with additional needs and SEND in this new climate.

New climate, new opportunities

The work Driver Youth Trust has done with Teach First on their Early Careers Framework (ECF) programme has come at a critical time for SEND learners and their families. There is a genuine opportunity to support early career teachers in the formative stage of their career, putting the needs of SEND learners at the heart of their teacher training and subsequent teacher practice. 

Teachers, leaders, support staff and parents have demonstrated such tenacity and determination throughout this period of national lockdown. Much is to be celebrated – children have continued to learn, teachers have continued to teach. Schools have not been closed, but have kept their doors open for vulnerable children and children of key workers, despite uncertainty, anxiety and ambiguity.

I believe it’s unlikely that we will ever return to education as we know it. The landscape has changed forever, and therein lies untapped opportunity and possibility, especially for new teachers starting out during a pandemic – not many teachers can make that claim.

Levelling the playing field

For years, children with SEND – and their families and teachers – have been calling for access to an education that is receptive to and inclusive of their needs. Sadly, statistics and experiences speak to the discrepancy and lack of equality for so many children and families, which often means learners with literacy difficulties and SEND do not achieve in-line with their peers. They are continually subject to playing catch-up, and it has taken a pandemic to put the importance of this at the heart of the government’s strategy for education.

This is an opportunity to unify the ‘has’ and ‘has nots’ and to level the playing field to ensure that all learners have access to a quality education experience that is responsive to their needs. Covid-19 has enabled so many to see what is possible, to break down barriers and think creatively. By working together, building relationships and sharing expertise, we can transform this narrative and maybe even resolve it once and for all.

The education landscape has been altered forever and early career teachers will need to navigate this new environment. They have the opportunity to harness the potential of every child and learner in their care, removing any limitation of what is possible. How education is delivered and what even constitutes the right learning environment are places to be explored by the future leaders of education in this country.

Nicola Podd

Director of Programmes, Driver Youth Trust