Teachers Professional Skills Development in Special Education (30 cr) at JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Jyväskylä
Author: Kaija Peuna
AIM OF THE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT WORK
I decided to do my development project work about the co-operation of SEN-coordinators because Iwork in this area. The aims of this work are to
- spread the knowledge of the work of coordinators and the network of coordinators
- develop the work of coordinators and
- get new ideas for the co-operation from the members of NC and from my classmates.
BACKGROUND OF THE PROJECT
In 2008 Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences/Teacher Education College (JUAS) started a new education which was meant for people who are responsible for the coordination of special needs education in their organisations. The education was very popular; about 50 people sent applications and JUAS started two groups.
After the courses, participants were especially satisfied with the possibility to distribute among themselves matters they encounter in their work. The SEN-coordinator is normally the only one in his/her organisation and works alone without peers. When the education finished, the course provider decided to organize the Network of Coordinators (NC) to help co-operation of coordinators.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND OF COORDINATION
The work of SEN-coordinators is based on an English model SENCO, but it is adapted to Finnish system. In England there are no SEN-teachers, SENCO is the corresponding person in English system. One determination of the work of SENCO is:
“The SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO), in collaboration with the headteacher and governing body plays a key role in determining the strategic development of the SEN policy and provision in the school in order to raise the achievement of children with SEN. The SENCO takes day-to-day responsibility for the provision made for individual children with SEN, working closely with staff, parents and carers, and other agencies. The SENCO also provides related professional guidance to colleagues with the aim of securing high quality teaching for children with SEN.
In mainstream schools the key responsibilities of the SENCO may include:
- Overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy.
- Liaising with and advising fellow teachers.
- Managing the SEN team of teachers (if employed) and learning support assistants/teaching assistants.
- Co-ordinating provision for pupils with special educational needs.
- Overseeing the records on all pupils with special educational needs.
- Liaising with parents of pupils with special educational needs.
- Contributing to the in-service training of staff.
- Liaising with external agencies including the LEA’s support and educational psychology services, the Connexions PA (secondary schools), health and social services and voluntary bodies.
In Finland SEN-teachers do not work as they used to do anymore – with one special group in the separate classroom – but rather as English SENCO. The SENCO-model is suitable also in Finnish-system, because SEN-teachers are nowadays not only teachers but also “consultants of SEN”.
AIMS OF THE COORDINATOR´S NETWORK
The aim of NC is to influence the development of SEN in Finland and offer mutual support for coordinators. Vocational SEN-teachers have no legal position in Finland (e.g. in the structure of posts, salary-system etc.) and one task of NC is to raise the status of SEN-teachers.
Because there is no law or official rules which directs what an SEN-coordinator should do, the tasks and resources of the coordinators vary a lot and depend on how the executives have determined the duties of coordinators.
Most of coordinators are responsible for
– strategic management and development SEN to deliver good quality of education
– developing learning- and teaching systems in their organizations
– leadership of the staff (for example, organizing education for teachers, obtaining and conveying information about what is happening in the field of SEN etc.)
This structure of the tasks is based on an English model SENCO (compare The SENCO handbook. A comprehensive guide to managing and developing special need provision in schools. Editor: Sue Soan. Optimus Publishing. London 2006).
One important part of NC´s work is to develop and share good models for the above mentioned sphere of responsibility and standardize the tasks of coordinators.
HOW DOES NC WORKS IN PRACTISE?
NC works in three ways. One way to work is Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro-system: coordinators meet in the Internet and discuss about some specific themes. The next meeting will be in May and the theme will be the acclimatization of general subjects (= mathematics, languages). Not all coordinators take part in every meeting, but they choose which one is interesting and important for them.
Once or twice in a year the coordinators meet face to face in work shops or seminars (mostly in Jyväskylä). There have been two seminars and in next autumn there shall be one more. In the first seminar or work shop the coordinators discussed challenges in their work, tasks of coordinators and wider co-operation. About 25 coordinators who are working in special and in general vocational colleges in different areas or field of education decided to join the Network in that seminar.
The ConnetPro-system was an impractical tool for the co-operation of 40 people and because it was impossible to meet face-to-face often, another solution had to be found. The solution was to organize the subgroups of NC which happened in the last seminar, 13.1.2010 . The subgroups and their chairpersons are
- Technology and Logistics Liisa Härmä ja Pekka Laakkonen
- Hotel-, Restaurant and Catering Services and Tourism Activities Hilkka Seppänen ja Tapio Vähätalo
- Adult Education Leena Selkivuori
- Others Kaija Peuna and Pirjo Rahunen
The 3rd procedure is writing. The coordinators will produce some publications. The publications will be about the coordination of SEN, co-operation with coordinator´s networks and regional challenges. The coordinators can also prepare some teaching material or handbooks for the teachers. One publication format is a net magazine (http://erityisopettaja.fi).
WHAT WILL THE SUBGROUP “OTHERS” DO?
The “Others” met in Jyväskylä in January and listed the most important matters. The members of that group are interested in the following:
How to organize the work?
- What are the tasks of an IEP-responsible author and SENCO?
- What is SEN in vocational subjects?
- How can we influence on the culture of school and change the environment (especially attitudes)?
- How do we defend the importance of the SEN-teachers work and argue the meaning of it?
- How do we develop the quality of SEN?
- What are the criterions of good work? How do we measure it? What are the indicators?
- all kind of forms, written plans etc.
- resources, budget
- practises of on-the-job-learning
- general subjects and SEN
The group “Others” will meet again in May in the Internet and create the action plan for the next year. They will use NING-environment to share information and to discuss matters.
WHAT IS THE UTILITY OF THE CO-OPERATION?
The coordinators themselves commented the significance of co-operation:
“The coordinators have no legal status and that´s why it´s important to articulate together the significance of coordination to employers and trade union. No one can do this alone”
“It´s important to get new ideas for my work and from other coordinators I´ve got them. Thanks!”
“Someone in somewhere has solved the problems I´m thinking about. When we meet with the coordinators, I always get many solutions to bring away with me.”
“I have very challenge students. I feel me safe when I know that I can ask by e-mail what to do with them and some of the coordinators will answer.”
“Co-operation helps to keep me end up and see the difficult thinks more positively”.