Managing the education of SEND pupils has always been a difficult topic.
In the past, these children have been ignored, moved into specialist SEND schools, moved back into mainstream schooling with or without additional support, provided with additional funding, had funding removed, taught in isolation units or excluded altogether.
And, of course, because there is no single solution, legislation and best practice have sometimes offered contradictory options, leaving it up to individual schools how to manage their SEND students.
Changes to legislation can leave everyone involved – students, parents and teachers – frustrated and confused.
So, how can you help improve teaching and learning for SEND pupils in your school?
SEND code of practice
In an effort to finalise legislation and best practice, the government produced a new SEND code of practice in January 2015.
Mainstream schools were given fixed guidelines for SEND provision. They must:
- use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN
- ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN
- designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision – the SEN co-ordinator, or SENCO (this does not apply to 16 to 19 academies)
- inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child
- prepare an SEN information report and their arrangements for the admission of disabled children, the steps being taken to prevent disabled children from being treated less favourably than others, the facilities provided to enable access to the school for disabled children and their accessibility plan showing how they plan to improve access progressively over time
In reality, because the designation of SEND covers everything from behavioural issues to pupils with complex special needs, schools need to have a SEND policy that covers as many different situations as possible.
And this means that SEND provision has to be flexible and comprehensive….and keep to a very strict budget. Not an easy task.
One size does not fit all
Setting aside any specific medical requirements – something that the student, parents and SENCO should agree on – there are a number of ideas that can help with SEND pupils’ learning and participation.
Visual aids – many SEND students are visual learners. Try to create simple visual guides that use subject-specific terms. Use these to reinforce learning in lessons.
Individual learning pathways – when learning is difficult, students can find that they are left behind in class because their pace of progression is less than that of their peers. With the student, formulate an individual learning pathway that plays to their strengths and the pace at which they are capable of learning.
Engage parents – communicate with parents and report on positives and negatives demonstrated in class. Set homework that complements the pace of their classroom learning and make sure that parents are aware of what is expected of their child. Encourage them to help at home.
Small steps – instead of delivering a lesson as a single unit, break it down into smaller learning points. Some SEND pupils may find it hard to concentrate for long and this helps them to focus on specific topics within the subject.
Calming measures – if pupils with behavioural issues are disrupting classes, don’t reach for the ultimate sanction of exclusion or isolation until you have tried to encourage a ‘time out’ to help calm the situation. Look at the issue from the student’s point of view, and encourage them to understand why they are behaving in this way. If necessary, do this in private with your SENCO.
Clear instructions – some SEND pupils find it difficult to understand instructions with multiple points and lengthy explanations. Break everything down into single units and use sentences without sub-clauses, and avoid using the passive voice. Try to make sure that you gain confirmation for each point and that the pupil accepts ownership of the responsibility to learn the lesson or complete the course work.
Mentoring – student mentoring can be a very powerful tool in helping SEND pupils integrate successfully. Student mentors can help prevent bullying, include students in group activities during breaks, help with course work, and provide a useful communication channel between the school and the pupil.
Positive atmosphere – obviously it can be difficult to keep a positive atmosphere in class if there are disruptive pupils. Whether intended or not, the stress of managing multiple classes of differing abilities can become apparent in how a teacher interacts with their pupils. Try to keep your classroom atmosphere positive and welcoming. Be aware of bullying and teasing in class (especially of SEND students) and make it clear that it will not be tolerated.
It’s not just the pupils who need help to learn in mainstream classes. Teachers need support and knowledge to ensure that they feel confident in helping SEND pupils.
The school’s SEND policy should have clear guidelines to brief staff on how to manage specific situations and what contingency plans are in place to support them.
If you feel that specialist facilities are needed to ensure that SEND students are not left behind, discuss this with your Head and/or SENCO. Don’t forget to include parents in this conversation.
As it will be difficult to have specialist knowledge about all possible SEND provisions, work out areas of specialisation with other teachers and your SENCO. If all teachers can contribute by offering advice to their colleagues on their own area of SEND specialisation, this can create an internal SEND support network that can be more effective and offer faster resolution than asking your SENCO every time information or help is needed.
Our own EDLounge platform was first designed for use with excluded pupils.
Over the years it has developed into a whole-school learning environment with thousands of lessons and quizzes, individualised learning pathways, tracking, monitoring and reporting tools, parental access portals to engage them with their children’s learning and progression, and a multitude of support tools to help manage classes with pupils learning at different levels.
Contact us if you want to find out how EDLounge can help you manage SEND pupils’ learning in your environment.