The impact of HPL on children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Since St Mary’s gained certification as a High Performance Learning (HPL) World Class School, we have continued to work tirelessly in the Junior School to integrate HPL within our school ethos and environment so that pupils become outstanding learners and leaders within their communities.
When I started my teaching career, I served as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator in the United States, and I have continued passionately supporting and advocating for children who require specialised support. Over my time as an educator, working in various schools and teaching a wide range of age groups, I have found one common theme. Students may not necessarily remember the exact topics we teach, but they will take away the life skills that we, as teachers, impart. Therefore, I became fascinated with the HPL framework when the St Mary’s Senior Leadership Team first pursued it. HPL creates a structure wherein pupils develop specific values and learning attitudes, backed by training critical thinking skills which can be used throughout their lives.
In April 2020, I became an HPL Global Lead Teacher, following in the footsteps of my Senior School colleague, Dr Andrew Flint. My interest was centred on the premise of HPL’s ambitious claim that all children can achieve at a high level when given the proper environment and guidance. Specifically, I was keen to demonstrate the efficacy of the HPL framework within Special Educational Needs planning and programmes. There is a common misconception that children with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) often cannot achieve as highly as some of their peers. Professor Deborah Eyre, Founder and Chair of HPL, has been challenging this idea within educational settings in general, as set out in her policy paper ‘Room at the Top’, but I wanted to focus on this specific group of pupils.
Just like Professor Eyre, I believe that any child can achieve at a high level regardless of ability. However, this idea becomes trickier to navigate when children have a difficult time accessing curriculum content due to specific learning needs, such as dyslexia. This is not to say that these children cannot achieve at as high a level as compared to their peers, but it does mean that educators must think more critically about how to create an environment where students with SpLD can be given the opportunity to successfully explore the HPL framework, such as the thinking skills of meta-thinking, linking, analysing, creativity, and realising. I contend that Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCos) and teachers must partner together to create what I call “Effective Entry Points” to HPL.
Within my role as an HPL Global Lead Teacher, I am working to develop structures and ideas for SENCos and other educators to create these “Effective Entry Points”. I believe that it starts with considering the HPL Values, Attitudes, and Attributes structure.
Specifically, pupils with SpLD must be given the resources and training to support their development of agile thinking and a hardworking ethos. In HPL, Professor Eyre stipulates that an individual must be willing to take risks and learn to think creatively, while also persevering if they are to develop a high-performance learning mindset. Children with SpLD can at times struggle with perseverance as compared to their peers, but perseverance has been shown to increase dramatically when children are provided with targeted resources. When a student feels confident to use given resources within a lesson, they are more willing to take risks and push boundaries. This is where real learning takes place, and where thinking skills begin to develop long term benefits.
My hope is that as an HPL Global Lead Teacher I will be able to support my colleagues at St Mary’s, and collaborate with fellow educators across the country. My aim is to develop HPL more comprehensively within our learning support system at the Junior School, focusing on effective entry points, so that children with SpLD will be able to achieve at their highest levels. By working with other schools through various training sessions, conferences and workshops, our school will continue to successfully develop our HPL programme so that more students are positively impacted.
Mr Daniel Taylor
Junior School teacher and HPL Global Lead Teacher