September – a new opportunity to identify barriers to pupils’ achievement.

It is important that children who experience difficulties in school are identified and offered appropriate support before any problems become entrenched. It is understandable that teaching staff become accustomed to pupils’ different personalities and foibles over the school year and, as a result, may fail to recognise the indicators of underlying difficulties. The start of the new school year in September provides the opportunity for a new class team to bring fresh pairs of eyes to examine the children’s behaviour.

The behaviour of children who have ‘flown under the radar’: –

  1. Unusually high levels of dependency.

Some pupils seem to need continual reassurance that they are completing the task correctly, that they have understood the adult’s directions, that they are doing the same thing as the other pupils and so on. They may become anxious or distressed when they don’t know what to do or can’t follow instructions.

2. An inability to articulate their ideas.

The pupil may find it hard to express themselves clearly and succinctly: perhaps because they lack the necessary vocabulary or because they are unable to organise and structure their thoughts.

3. A limited attention span.

The child may have a real difficulty with maintaining attention: listening to instructions, focussing during discussions, sitting still at story time or concentrating during Assembly. They may distract others by talking, fidgeting and wandering around the room. Others appear lost in their own little world.

4. A poor level of general literacy. 

The child’s spelling may be weak, their reading hesitant and handwriting untidy. They often find it hard to understand or use class texts, and will copy others or cheat rather than ask for help.

5. Challenging behaviour.

The pupil may be difficult to deal with in lessons: cheeky to adults, arguing with peers, often off task or causing low level disruption. They may take on the role of class clown.

6. Poor organisational skills.

The child will forget their cookery ingredients, maths equipment, reading book and sports kit. Homework will be forgotten or not handed in. The pupil will appear to have little idea of class routine or what lesson is next.

7. An unusually negative self-image.

The pupil may never be happy with anything they do; they reject offers of help and continually put themselves down. They can be solitary children because of their negativity.

8. Withdrawal in the classroom.

The child may withdraw into themselves, be reluctant to join in with the usual classroom activities, and become distressed if they feel forced to participate. 

9. Poor presentation of work.

Work may be scrappy and poorly presented. Handwriting may be illegible and drawings immature. Maps, diagrams and charts will appear not to have been planned with care or any attention to detail. 

10. Problems with number work.

The child will not have a grasp of basic number bonds and times tables. Wordy problems will present a particular difficulty: the child simply cannot understand what they are being asked to do.

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