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The rising demand for SEND support in education

By Kim Underhill, Head of Qualifications and Assessment Development

As the Head of Qualifications and Assessment Development at AIM, and with prior experience working in various FE colleges, I've witnessed firsthand the impact of effective support for learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

It is good to be in a world that is now starting to look at how diversity can benefit the workplace and to see some organisations actively recruiting neurodiverse individuals. It is important to ensure that there is sufficient support for learners across all levels to be able to reach their academic potential.


Recognising diverse needs

During my teaching career (a few more decades ago than I like to remember!), some students had managed to develop their learning with strategies and did well in their GCSEs, completed a vocational Level 3 qualification and went on to have successful careers. Others, unfortunately, had struggled at school and came away disillusioned with education, often labelled as disruptive or not very clever. Unfortunately, these labels had a profound impact on their self-concept, perpetuating the belief that they were "stupid" or "disruptive".

Increased awareness of hidden disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD and autism will hopefully make positive changes for many. We now better recognise the invaluable support that technology and dedicated Teaching Assistants (TAs) can provide to help SEND learners successfully navigate the education system. 

The role of the TA in supporting learners to achieve their potential

During my time managing SEND provision and associated school links in an FE college, I saw firsthand how the TAs supported learners across all levels of qualification - from Entry through to Levels 4 and 5. The relationships built between TAs and learners enabled outstanding achievements, whether it was progressing to university or securing supported employment. Most importantly, learners felt good about themselves and their abilities.

AIM's commitment to SEND education

When AIM was considering which qualifications to put forward for post 16 reform, I was delighted to see the inclusion of a newly approved AIM Qualifications Level 3 Technical Occupational Entry for Teaching Assistants focusing on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Diploma). It may have a long name, but we worked with employers and TAs to develop a qualification which will equip TAs or Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) with the skills necessary to support a diverse group of learners across different educational establishments and levels. 

Looking Ahead: Entry and Level 1 Qualifications

As many will know, there is currently an Ofqual consultation on Entry and Level 1 qualifications for employability, personal social development and independent living. We are now, planning our future qualifications in this area. Our goal is to ensure that our qualifications not only meet the technical requirements, but also address the needs of your learners in these important areas.

Once the consultation is complete, we will be running focus groups across the country to gather insights and ensure that our qualifications will support your learners. I look forward to meeting many of you during this consultation phase and working together to create a more inclusive and supportive educational landscape for SEND learners.

Discover more about the AIM Qualifications Level 3 Technical Occupational Entry for Teaching Assistants focusing on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Diploma).

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