Ms Slater's week of juggling jobs and filling in forms: `It's a no-win situation'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
This week the children of St Mary's Church of England Primary School in Stanmore, Surrey, in common with children in many parts of the country, are on half-term holiday.

But for Linda Slater, above, one of their teachers, half term gives her a golden opportunity to catch up on work she needs to do in her role as special needs co-ordinator at the school.

More than a quarter of the 200 pupils at St Mary's have special needs because of varying degrees of learning difficulties. This is not peaceful, affluent Surrey. This school is parallel to Terminal Four at Heathrow Airport and many parents lack the skills fully to support their children's education.

Six pupils have statements of special need spelling out the extra help they must receive because their problems are so severe. For the rest, Linda and her small team of part-time support staff must work out how best to help them in the classroom and in small withdrawal groups. The school is lucky because Surrey still has a literacy support service, which sends in specialists to schools to help special needs children. In many parts of the country, government spending cuts have led to the diminution of such crucial services.

For two afternoons a week, teachers from the service work with 10 children either one-to-one, or with pairs. There are also three teachers and two ancillary helpers who work part-time with special needs children.

It all generates a tremendous amount of paperwork for Ms Slater, who has taught at the school since qualifying six years ago. Individual education programmes have to be drawn up, reviews held and parents involved every step of the way.

She gets one day a week for her special needs work but it is not enough. Most evenings she spends another couple of hours on special needs and preparing material for her own class. At the weekend an afternoon is given up for the same thing.

"I wanted to be able to take some special needs small groups on my day out of class, but there isn't the time. There are so many forms to fill in but the paperwork is necessary," she says.

"Even if I had two or three days to do the special needs work, I don't think it would be enough. It's a no-win situation. I feel that I am either not doing enough for my class or I'm not doing enough for my special needs children. It's a real dilemma: who you do help first?

"I've always got a list of nine or ten jobs to do. The pile never seems to end. At the end of the day. I enjoy teaching my class and I enjoy being special needs co-ordinator. You do see children who come on and that feels good. I just wish there were more of us."

Comments