Planning SEND provision: five evidence-based recommendations

How will you ensure that all pupils are accessing a broad and balanced curriculum? Natalie Packer shows how SENCOs can build plans based in good practice

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Natalie Packer is an independent education consultant, specialising in school improvement, SEN and outstanding teaching. She delivers a wide range of professional development packages for primary and secondary schools and supports initial teacher...

One of the challenges school leaders face is how to ensure pupils with SEND are successfully included. The DfE guidance for full opening after the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the expectation that schools will 'deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils, including full educational and care support for pupils with SEND’. This guidance continues to be relevant, while schools also have a statutory duty under the SEND code of practice to provde support to those who need it.

As well as a focus on immediate priorities, planning for the longer term will also be important to support a more strategic approach.

A positive and supportive environment for all pupils means placing SEND policy and practice at the heart of school priorities

The DfE guidance contains several references to what schools should be doing to support pupils with SEND. However, it is also useful to revisit wider evidence around good practice for SEND to support longer-term planning.

The EEF SEND report: using evidence to inform planning

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) publication Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools is a great starting point. The guidance report is based on a focused review of the best available evidence on improving outcomes for pupils with SEND in mainstream schools. It provides five recommendations to support schools in reviewing their current approach and gives an overview of some ‘best bets’ for improving special educational provision.

So how can leaders use the EEF report to inform and support their planning? The five key recommendations of the report are highlighted below, along with some practical points for leaders to consider.

1. Create a positive and supportive environment for all pupils without exception

A positive and supportive environment for all pupils means placing SEND policy and practice at the heart of school priorities.

When establishing behaviour expectations at the start of the school year, leaders will need to consider individual needs and keep in mind the importance of creating a positive and supportive environment for all. Children may exhibit challenging behaviours as they struggle to come to terms with any changes to the school environment and might require additional support. Remember the following.

  • Promote positive relationships: focus on developing or re-establishing relationships between pupils, their peers and adults. Plan to support pupils who may find social communication difficult or who have difficulty trusting others.
  • Promote active engagement: plan how you will support pupils who struggle to come back to school. Encourage metacognition and self-regulated learning so pupils become less reliant on others.
  • Promote positive behaviour for learning: don’t assume pupils will automatically understand or be able to follow new rules and routines. Teach them explicitly and support their understanding with the use of visuals or social stories.
  • Promote positive wellbeing: consider how you will prioritise positive wellbeing through a whole school approach and provide specific support for any pupils who return with increased levels of anxiety or emotional stress.

2. Build an ongoing holistic understanding of your pupils and their needs

Understanding pupils and their needs through early and accurate identification and assessment is essential for pupils with SEND to make progress. Consider the following.

  • Focus on understanding individual pupil’s needs: high-quality diagnostic assessment will be more crucial than ever in September, not only to identify gaps in learning, but also to establish a more holistic picture of pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.
  • Implement the graduated approach: use additional diagnostic assessments to support the process, for example to assess social, emotional or mental health needs.  
  • Ensure assessment is regular, purposeful and involves input from parents, pupils and professionals. Gather pupil and parent views on their experiences during lockdown: what did they struggle with? What worked well? What were the child’s successes?
  • Empower teachers to use the information to plan next steps in teaching and learning. Share all relevant transition and assessment information with staff so they are well informed about pupils’ needs.

3. Ensure all pupils have access to high quality teaching

High quality teaching (HQT) is the starting point for meeting the needs of pupils with SEND and is based on strategies that should be in the repertoire of every mainstream teacher. These strategies should be used for all pupils and then applied flexibly in response to individual needs. Weaving inclusive approaches into everyday, high-quality classroom teaching supports SEND to become part of the fabric of the whole school, rather than being seen as a ‘bolt-on’.

The EEF guidance suggests the following strategies can be particularly useful for pupils with SEND:

  • flexible grouping
  • cognitive and metacognitive strategies
  • explicit instruction
  • using technology 
  • scaffolding.

Leaders should consider how to provide professional learning opportunities to staff to support the implementation of inclusive, HQT strategies in the classroom.

4. Complement high quality teaching with carefully selected small-group and one-to-one interventions

In addition to high quality teaching, some pupils will require additional support in the form of high quality, structured interventions to make progress.

Over the next year, the government is providing additional funding for schools in the form of a catch-up premium. Headteachers will have flexibility over how to spend the funding. The DfE guidance for full opening states: ‘For pupils with complex needs, we strongly encourage schools to spend this funding on catch-up support to address their individual needs.’

  • Consider the use of structured, evidence-based interventions – see the Whole School SEND What Works website for suggestions.
  • Carefully target interventions through identification and assessment of need – use catch-up premium to provide speech and language therapy, educational psychology time or other specialist support where appropriate. Consider any new processes or protocols needed for visiting specialists.
  • Consider implementing universal, targeted and specialist interventions – use a tiered approach to include HQT, catch-up and more personalised support. Update your SEN information report to reflect changes in provision.

5. Work effectively with teaching assistants

When well-trained and properly supported, teaching assistants (TAs) can have a positive impact on pupil progress. Effective deployment of TAs by leaders is therefore crucial. For example, DfE guidance states that where leaders are planning to use TAs in different ways, this ‘should not be at the expense of supporting pupils with SEND.’

Leaders will need to consider which model(s) of TA deployment will be most effective for their school to ensure the needs of all pupils continue to be met. For example:

  • assigning TAs to deliver specialist provisions or interventions
  • assigning TAs to work with a larger group, e.g. to deliver live online or in-person sessions to a group of pupils
  • assigning TAs as keyworkers for individual pupils with complex needs e.g. for those pupils who find self-regulation a challenge.

The principles of effective TA deployment remain as relevant as ever and are highlighted in the EEF report Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants. If TAs are going to start working with unfamiliar pupils or within new subject areas, ongoing training and support will be essential as part of their preparation.

Last Updated: 
20 Jan 2022