SEN Research Report July 2017


By Helen Marriott
on 20 July, 2017

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SEN support: a survey of schools and colleges

Between January and March this year the DfE sent an online survey to primary schools, secondary schools and colleges throughout England.

Their aims were to look at:

  • How schools are identifying pupils with SEN
  • How schools are supporting pupils with SEN
  • The issues and barriers to supporting pupils with SEN
  • How teaching assistants are deployed
  • What sources of information are used to inform staff about how to support students with SEN.

219 members of staff from 1556 settings completed the survey which was open to all members of staff including teaching assistants, teachers, SENCos and members of SLT. The key findings are summarised below.

Identifying pupils with SEN

  • A third (33.8%) of staff said they did not have responsibility for identifying students with SEN
  • SENCos receive referrals from a variety of sources, including parents, teachers and external professionals
  • Most other members of staff reported that if they identified a student as potentially having SEN, they would pass this information to their SENCO.

Supporting pupils with SEN

  • The most common action to support students with language and communication difficulties was to make a referral to a Speech and Language Therapist
  • Classroom resources were suggested to support students with fine motor control difficulties, including chunky pencils and specialist pens
  • The most frequent way to support students with high levels of anxiety was to provide a ‘trusted’ or ‘key’ adult for the student to talk to when needed. Referrals to outside professionals such as Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or educational psychology services were also reported
  • When supporting students with reading and spelling difficulties, the most frequently reported strategy was to provide individual or small group teaching
  • To support students who found it difficult to concentrate most respondents reported making adjustments in the classroom environment such as seating plans, providing fidget toys, breaking tasks into manageable chunks, and considering how their language may impact on pupils
  • When supporting students displaying challenging behaviour, the most frequently reported strategy was to refer to the school or college behaviour policy. Staff also reported that they would attempt to understand the causes of the behaviour and implement classroom strategies to support the student. Building a positive relationship with the student was also highlighted as important.

Issues and barriers to supporting pupils with SEN

  • The survey showed that implementing interventions could be difficult, often due to not having access to staffing issues and difficulty matching programmes to students’ needs
  • Resourcing issues and difficulty accessing outside professionals.

How teaching assistants are deployed

  • The majority of primary and secondary schools reported that teaching assistants provided in-class support working with individuals or groups of students or are assigned to provide SEN support outside the classroom
  • In college settings, teaching assistants were often given different job titles and were used to support students to prepare for life in college and beyond
  • Class teachers reported lack of time to plan together and teaching assistants not being available for entire lessons or consistently due to other commitments in school, making continuity of support difficult when deploying teaching assistants effectively in lessons.

What sources of information are used to inform staff how to support students with SEN?

  • Staff named other professionals as their most common sources of information rather than published resources
  • The most common source of information reported by SENCos was other professionals.

This is a very brief summary of the full report and there is far more to read and digest. When reading the report and its findings I found a lot of what is being said rings true from my experience of supporting schools with SEND.

The issue that continues to stick is around the use of teaching assistants. Crucial to effective support is the importance of time shared between the teacher and teaching assistant and protection of time to support children and carry out interventions. Without this the effectiveness and value for money is greatly reduced.

Also out this week

Also out this week is research about the mental wellbeing of SEN pupils which is predictably and worryingly much poorer than other children.

We offer a forum for SENCos to network and share best practice in Manchester. Sign up for our SENDCo Network on 2 October 2017.

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