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Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools

Five recommendations on special education needs in mainstream schools


Evidence Review

EEF SEND Evidence Review Published March, 2020

Pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) have the greatest need for excellent teaching and are entitled to provision that supports achievement at, and enjoyment of, school. The attainment gap between pupils with SEND and their peers is twice as big as the gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers. However, pupils with SEND are also more than twice as likely to be eligible for free school meals.

This is why we’ve developed this guidance report. It offers five evidence-based recommendations to support pupils with SEND, providing a starting point for schools to review their current approach and practical ideas they can implement.

EEF Guidance Report

Create a positive and supportive environment for all pupils without exception

An inclusive school removes barriers to learning and participation, provides an education that is appropriate to pupils’ needs, and promotes high standards and the fulfilment of potential for all pupils. Schools should:

  • promote positive relationships, active engagement, and wellbeing for all pupils;
  • ensure all pupils can access the best possible teaching; and
  • adopt a positive and proactive approach to behaviour, as described in the EEF’s Improving Behaviour in Schools guidance report.
EEF Guidance Report

Build an ongoing, holistic understanding of your pupils and their needs

Schools should aim to understand individual pupil’s learning needs using the graduated approach of the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ approach.

Assessment should be regular and purposeful rather than a one-off event, and should seek input from parents and carers as well as the pupil themselves and specialist professionals.

Teachers need to feel empowered and trusted to use the information they collect to make a decision about the next steps for teaching that child.

EEF Guidance Report

Ensure all pupils have access to high quality teaching

To a great extent, good teaching for pupils with SEND is good teaching for all.

Searching for a ‘magic bullet’ can distract teachers from the powerful strategies they often already possess.

The research suggests a group of teaching strategies that teachers should consider emphasising for pupils with SEND. Teachers should develop a repertoire of these strategies they can use flexibly in response to the needs of all pupils.

  • flexible grouping;
  • cognitive and metacognitive strategies;
  • explicit instruction;
  • using technology to support pupils with SEND; and
  • scaffolding.

EEF Guidance Report

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

Small-group and one-to-one interventions can be a powerful tool but must be used carefully. Ineffective use of interventions can create a barrier to the inclusion of pupils with SEN.

High quality teaching should reduce the need for extra support, but it is likely that some pupils will require high quality, structured, targeted interventions to make progress.

The intensity of intervention (from universal to targeted to specialist) should increase with need.

Interventions should be carefully targeted through identification and assessment of need.

Interventions should be applied using the principles of effective implementation described in the EEF’s guidance report Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation.

EEF Guidance Report

Work effectively with teaching assistants

Effective deployment of teaching assistants (TAs) is critical. School leaders should pay careful attention to the roles of TAs and ensure they have a positive impact on pupils with SEND.

TAs should supplement, not replace, teaching from the classroom teacher.

The EEF's guidance report Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants provides detailed recommendations.

EEF Guidance Report

Design a school feedback policy that prioritises and exemplifies the principles of effective feedback

Enacting these recommendations will require careful consideration and this implementation should be a staged process, not an event. This will include ongoing effective professional development.

Schools should design feedback policies which promote and exemplify the principles of effective feedback (Recommendations 1–3). Policies should not over-specify features such as the frequency or method of feedback.

Five recommendations on special education needs in mainstream schools

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