Today, more than ever, a whole school approach to SEN is necessary if effective SEN provision is to be achieved. Over the past decade, there has been a substantial move away from the SENCo with the ‘magic wand’ of specialist knowledge and sole responsibility for every child in the school with a SEND, to the increasing understanding that every teacher is a teacher of SEND and, equally important, every leader is a leader of SEND. This fundamental principle needs to be at the heart of every setting to meet the needs of all pupils through high quality teaching. While the SENCo is key to this shift in understanding, it is important that effective provision management is in place in schools and that this is not entirely left to the SENCo.

There are increasing numbers of pupils with SLCN in schools and general adaptations to teaching can be made in the classroom that can benefit all pupils – particularly pupils with SLCN. Such changes can be used to weave in opportunities throughout the curriculum to develop speaking and listening. It is imperative that schools take a strategic approach to workforce development, to provide teachers with the knowledge, understanding and skills required to enable them to meet the needs of all pupils. This involves high quality teaching at the universal level of provision.

Good universal provision includes:

  • Modifying language
  • Adapting pace and levels of questioning
  • Repetition
  • Recapping and offering alternative explanations
  • Sequencing or chunking of information
  • Considered/limited teacher talk
  • Modelling language and pronunciation
  • Use of sentence starters and differentiated questioning

If these examples of pedagogy are part of good universal provision across the school, SLCN is likely to be addressed, resulting in fewer pupils requiring targeted and specialist support.

The graduated approach should be embedded in the practice of all schools by:

  • A constant cycle of teacher assessment, in all its varied forms
  • Lesson planning
  • Continuous implementation and review of learning and teaching

This sharper focus meets the needs of all pupils, not just those with SEN.

Effective deployment of resources maintains high level teaching across the school:

  • The use of visual resources or cue cards, task boards
  • Providing high frequency and relevant topic vocabulary for reference, phoneme charts
  • Spelling aids and simplifying written instructions

Resources used flexibly creatively by teachers and TAs, based on a sound understanding of individual needs, contribute to effectively supporting the learning of all pupils. The benefits in the classroom can be remarkable and give pupils confidence and independence in their learning.

The monitoring and evaluation of provision for all pupils needs to be carried out regularly by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).

Key questions for the SLT along this journey may include:

  • How much time do staff have to share and communicate good practice and what works for individuals?
  • How do we manage transition and the exchange of information?
  • How do we develop and extend staff skills and knowledge?
  • Is this integral to the School Improvement Plan?
  • Where can we look for support to develop and extend skills and knowledge?
  • How, as a SENCo/leader, are the strategies and approaches, employed within the classroom, monitored?

The identification of effective provision and identification of future provision needs in the school must remain firmly on the agenda to maintain a whole school approach to SEN.

Nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) is a membership charity organisation that supports all educational practitioners. They provide Continuing Professional Development, resources, advice and information to enable all staff to meet the needs of children and young people from 0-25.

From January 2021, nasen membership will be free for all individuals across the UK.

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