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How do you support SEN students in the classroom?

Education Endowment Foundation Series 

A summary of the evidence

A setting that creates a positive and supportive environment for all pupils, according to the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), is one that removes barriers to learning and participation, whilst ensuring that the education provided promotes high standards for all. In practice, this can be achieved by promoting positive relationships and ensuring that all pupils are included in the best quality teaching available. Positive approaches to behaviour can have a considerable impact on outcomes for pupils; knowing your pupils, alongside managing misbehaviour, plays a large role in developing positive approaches. Simple classroom management strategies should be used consistently as part of a regular routine.

In addition to employing strategies to develop a positive and supportive environment for all pupils, having a good understanding of pupils and their needs are essential. Understanding learning needs can allow teachers to confidently make pedagogical decisions that allow all pupils to make progress. The EEF suggests that there are 3 ways to view learning needs: all children have common needs; some children have specific needs that are shared with a similar group; and, all children have individual needs. It is also acknowledged that whilst diagnostic labels can help professionals to understand what a pupil’s needs may be, they are not particularly helpful when making everyday teaching decisions. It is recommended that to understand and respond to pupil needs, teachers should take a graduated approach that aims to understand the barriers to learning experienced by the pupil, their strengths and limitations, the support they may need, and how school provision can be improved in order to support the pupil. Both the EEF and Ofsted guidance emphasised that parents should also play an active role in this process, including in assessment and decision-making processes undertaken when determining and reviewing the support needed.

Understanding the learning needs of pupils can help to ensure that all pupils have access to high-quality teaching. It is recommended by the EEF that teachers should have a repertoire of strategies that can be used flexibly to respond to the individual needs of pupils. Within the EEF guidance, flexible grouping was highlighted as an effective strategy for supporting pupils with SEND and involves the temporary allocation to groups based upon individual need which can be disbanded once the outcomes have been met. Grouping in this way is particularly beneficial as it allows for collaborative learning opportunities to be created.

Explicit instruction, or the use of teacher-led demonstrations supplemented by guidance and individual practice, has been evidenced to be particularly useful when providing support for mathematics and reading. Explicit instruction involves breaking concepts down into more manageable steps and using clear language, using both examples and non-examples, identifying and addressing misconceptions, and ensuring that essential information is highlighted.

Technology can also be used to support learning for pupils with SEND through using speech-generating apps to augment communication skills or by installing apps for both instructional and non-instructional purposes.

Some pupils may require further support in the form of structured interventions. The teaching strategies previously explored can be applied to 1:1 or small group interventions which focus on more specific learning goals. However, interventions must not replace efforts to improve overall teaching quality. By offering tiers of support that incorporate whole class, targeted and specialist approaches, professionals can assess the level of support required and can offer increasingly intense support where needed. It is also recommended that before a targeted intervention is offered, professionals should assess whether a targeted intervention is needed, as misallocation can be potentially detrimental. It is also important to consider whether pupil needs are understood in enough depth to be matched with the appropriate intervention.

Teaching assistants are recognised by both Ofsted and the EEF as having a positive impact on pupil achievement when deployed, supported and trained effectively. It is important to remember that teaching assistants should not replace teacher interactions with pupils and, when leading interventions, teaching assistants should be well prepared for their role and be able to make explicit links between learning from everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions.


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