We are often told that meeting pupil learning needs is a fundamental building block for success.
Schools will plonk an impressive mission statement on their website that goes something like:
“At Bunkum Primary School we encourage pupils to aspire to their highest academic and personal potential, and are committed to developing an ethos that supports and celebrates the learning needs of all children.”
You can’t really argue with that can you? If a pupil’s learning needs are not being met then they are going to be disengaged and potentially kick-off. We all like to think we are learner-centred and we have children’s best interests at heart but the pedagogic reality is quite different.
Meeting needs all the time is an impossible task. The idea that you can continually meet a pupil’s needs is just completely crackers because it is an unattainable expectation and standard. Meeting needs is like differentiation – bonkers.
Understanding and responding to children’s needs in diverse and inclusive classrooms is a tall order for even the most seasoned and expert of teachers.
Of course, teachers bend over backwards to achieve full participation and equality. They know that children differ and there are various barriers to learning. They understand that children develop
at different rates and that in every classroom there will be a range of abilities and aptitudes.They know all this stuff.
But teaching a class of 30 individuals with a spectrum of needs is tough. How would you manage a class with the following mix: 2 learners with hearing impairments, 1 learner with visual impairment, 2 learners with zero English (one from Germany and one from Hungary), 25 learners with English as an additional language 4 of whom have behavioural difficulties. Each child has a richly textured biography influenced by culture, class, race, religion, gender, parental input, poverty, and a whole bunch of non-school and unobservable factors.
Take a lesson and good luck. I challenge you to perform this miracle every day for every lesson. Classrooms are complex organisms.
The meeting needs rationale is a fine song to sing but when you come to perform it things are far from in tune. Not meeting children’s needs can leave you feeling incompetent and inadequate.
Meeting the needs of a global classroom is a monumental task that is unattainable.
Teachers believe every child is capable of achieving success at school and they do all they can to find ways of making each child successful but teachers are only human.