Improving outcomes for pupils with SEND (closed)

The EEF is seeking proposals for projects which improve attainment and other educational outcomes, such as social and emotional learning, for children with special educational needs or disability (SEND). Pupils with SEND might face significantly greater challenges in learning than the majority of their peers, or have a disability which hinders their access to the teaching and facilities typically found in mainstream educational settings. There is a very large attainment gap between pupils with SEND and their peers.


The impact of SEND on academic attainment is closely related to the EEF’s focus on economic disadvantage: 27% of pupils with special educational needs are eligible for free school meals compared to 12% of pupils without special educational needs. Pupils who are both eligible for FSM and identified as having SEND have much lower average attainment than other groups of students. 


To date the EEF’s funding has focused on improving the outcomes of pupils eligible for free school meals. Much of this work has generated evidence about effective teaching that can be applied to the teaching of pupils with SEND. However, this is the first round focused specifically on the teaching of pupils with SEND. This round is both an opportunity for us to test some promising SEND projects, but also to learn more about the applicability of our evaluation approach in this context. We are likely to make a smaller number of grants than usual, fund more pilots, and trial different approaches to evaluation. 

What is the purpose of this funding?

 This funding aims to test the impact of high-potential projects seeking to raise the attainment (or associated educational outcomes) of pupils with SEND. We do this to find out what's most likely to work, and to put that into action across the country. If projects are shown to have an impact, we will support them to scale up to improve outcomes for other disadvantaged children and young people across England.

This funding is intended to achieve three outputs:

  • A well-delivered project that has the potential to improve the academic attainment (or associated educational outcomes) of pupils with SEND.
  • A rigorous evaluation of the project, which often includes an estimate of its impact on attainment and other outcomes. The final evaluation report will be written by an independent evaluation team, but our grantees share responsibility for ensuring that the evaluation is as robust as possible.
  • Improved understanding of how to conduct rigorous evaluation in SEND. We expect that this round might involve particular challenges to our evaluation approach, and might involve testing different approaches to evaluation. 


While we are open to a range of ideas, there are key themes that we are interested in exploring:

  • Whole-school programmes designed to create a more effective leadership and school culture, which are intended to have an impact on pupils with SEND.
  • Teacher training programmes designed to improve the quality of teaching for pupils with SEND. This could involve CPD programmes or programmes which promote the sharing of good practice across special schools, mainstream schools and alternative provision.
  • Targeted interventions for pupils with particular needs. For example, interventions to support parents and their autistic children with communication and social interaction.
  • Less research has been conducted in secondary schools and FE settings, so we are particularly interested in projects working in these settings.
  • We are open to applications planning to work in special schools or alternative provision, however we expect these will be pilot projects in a small number of settings. These pilots would test both the feasibility of the intervention itself, and the feasibility of approaches to evaluation in these settings.


Successful proposals will:

  • Be informed and supported by evidence of impact on learning outcomes. We are primarily interested in academic attainment, but would consider programmes with evidence of impact on other educational outcomes, including social and emotional learning. A useful typology of non-attainment outcomes can be found here.We would like applicants to outline how their proposal builds on rigorous research, and previous evaluation of their approach. We strongly encourage applicants to consult reviews of the wider evidence base in preparing their applications (see further reading, below). We are most interested in applications that have some previous evidence of promise, and are ready to be rigorously evaluated. However, in this space particularly, we are also open to early stage ideas that would benefit from piloting and development (including ideas from other countries), if they are innovative; shown to be feasible; and are underpinned by strong, evidence-based theory.
  • Be practical, cost-effective and scalable. Our aim is to identify approaches that, if shown to be successful, could be taken on by schools and educational settings across England. Therefore we are only interested in developing and testing initiatives that are practical and cost-effective to deliver.
  • Be willing and able to be independently evaluated. We will appoint an independent evaluator, and work with successful applicants to design an appropriate evaluation plan. Note that the evaluation design and delivery does not need to be included in your project plan and budget.
  • Be clear how they will support children with SEND. Note: applicants do not need to have identified specific settings, families, or areas to work in; this would be agreed with an independent evaluator if the bid was successful. Applicants do not need to work exclusively with pupils with SEND, but there should be a clear rationale for how their work will benefit these pupils.
  • Aim to work with pupils between the ages of 3 and 18. For projects working with 16-18 year olds, we can only fund activity focused on students without English or Maths GCSE at 4 or above.

How to Apply

Grant round opens17 October 2018
Grant round closes17:00 on 14 January 2019
Project interview days - Applicants will attend an interview with the EEF’s Grants Committee (formed of the EEF’s trustees)April 2019
Formal approval by EEF trusteesSummer 2019
Project starts (development, school recruitment and training of teachers happens before this date)Some pilots may be able to start in autumn 2019. Trials would start later in 2020.

Further reading