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SEND in Mainstream Schools: A Growing Priority

SEND in Mainstream Schools: A Growing Priority

/ Fergal Moane

One of the key obligations upon a mainstream classroom teacher as they return to school is to look at their class lists and the SEND register and ensure that they make reasonable adjustments for learners with SEND.

The SEND Code of Practice and the Equalities Act place statutory duties upon teachers, and parents are rightly demanding that their student receives appropriately adjusted teaching and support. Every teacher has this responsibility, not just the SENDCo.

This has been made easier in recent years with the ability to pull SEND status into live class registers on MIS systems such as Bromcom. Choose ‘Add column’ on your register to include SEN and SEN Code if not already added. Your administrator may also have set coloured user-defined flags to indicate SEND Status. You can also access more SEND details, interventions and copies of support plans, pupil passports, individual education plans that can be found in Documents on the student record.

The percentage of students in England with SEND is 13%, up each year from 11.6% in 2016. Similarly, the number of students with an Education and Health Care Plan has risen from 2.8% in 2016 to 4.3% in January 2023 (historical statistics can be accessed here.) The most common type of need for those with an EHC plan is autistic spectrum disorder and for those with SEN support is speech, language and communication needs.

Although the government recently published an updated SEND and AP improvement plan, it is clear that these changes will take some time to reach schools and local authorities, special schools and alternative provision continue to be under pressure. Mainstream schools will need to continue to improve what we do.

So, chances are that you will have a number of students with SEND in your class. How do the figures compare at your school versus the national averages? In Bromcom, this is easy to find via Modules->Analysis->School On A Page or Student Breakdown.

Now you know who the students are, what do you do about it? Things have moved on. During my teacher training in 2009, we were still taught about learning styles (now discredited due to no supporting evidence) and differentiation (that can lead to a culture of low expectations and lack of equity in accessing the curriculum.)

The Education Endowment Foundation published a landmark report in 2020 “Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools”. This provided simple guidance for teachers based upon the evidence gathered for the review and posed five recommendations

    1. Create a positive and supportive environment for all pupils, without exception.
    2. Build an ongoing, holistic understanding of your pupils and their needs.
    3. Ensure all pupils have access to high quality teaching.
    4. Complement high quality teaching with carefully selected small-group and one-to-one interventions.
    5. Work effectively with teaching assistants.

The report gives examples of how to implement each of the recommendations, but some that had a particular technology flavour include:

    • Creating a positive classroom climate by using the positive behaviour and rewards systems that you have in your school
    • Using the communications module and My Child at School to keep in touch with parents
    • Carefully targeting interventions in conjunction with the SENDCo and learning support assistants, these can be logged on the student record and form part of an assess, plan, do, review cycle
    • Flexible grouping, with a seating plan that can be easily customised and adapted
    • Ensuring that teaching resources and planning are shared with the TA and with the student if in a one to one device school. Accessibility tools can also be of great assistance if the student has access to a tablet/laptop/chromebook
    • Ensuring that assessment of need is regular and purposeful and that documents linked to the student are updated and reread by teachers when refreshed

The final piece of advice around teaching and pedagogy is a simple one – good teaching for students with SEND is good teaching for all. The term ‘Adaptive Teaching’ has been adopted by the Early Career Framework but is something that experienced teachers should consider too. It is about identifying student needs and adjusting teaching to meet that need, keeping expectations high and being responsive to provide additional support where it is needed. The curriculum can do much of the heavy lifting in advance, rather than in-the-moment adaptations. But the goal should be to move away from “All, Most, Some” learning outcomes where SEND children may only achieve the lowest of these expectations and inequalities are baked in.

These articles from the EEF on Adaptive Teaching are recommended:

Fergal Moane

Fergal Moane

Head of Strategic Partnerships and Education Consultant - Fergal has recently joined Bromcom after 15 years as a teacher and then secondary headteacher. He has held a number of leadership roles in schools and MATs, including leading on data, curriculum and educational technology. Prior to this, Fergal worked for 15 years as an IT Director in Investment Banking.