Schools’ resource helps children with special educational needs

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Wednesday 29 November 2017

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An interactive resource to help schools offer better support to children with special educational needs has been developed by the Department for Education, with the help of Coventry University academics.

The What Works resource aims to provide school leaders, teachers, special educational needs coordinators and support staff with a range of helpful information, while showing the evidence and research it is based on.

Around 12 per cent of children in UK schools have some form of special education needs or disabilities, with many of them mainly supported by classroom teachers and teaching assistants.

The new resource has been published after Dame Christine Lenehan’s review into residential special schools and colleges called for greater support for children and young people with special educational needs in mainstream education. 

It is based on research into the evidence of effective teaching and support approaches and examples of current practice in good and outstanding schools and colleges.

Information has been drawn from academic research papers, a survey of schools and colleges and a set of case studies.

Coventry University’s involvement included a survey of teachers and a search of 1,000 academic articles to assess the evidence of the results of different approaches and interventions in helping children with special educational needs.

A team of academics looked at research papers into areas including: social communication; behaviour and attention; emotional wellbeing and mental health; physical difficulties; writing and executive function; and reading, language and hearing difficulties.

Their findings included that:

The most effective interventions were on groups of children whose strengths and weaknesses had been clearly assessed, and their progress was monitored.

 • There was clear evidence that no approaches are successful for all children, so school staff should be willing to try another approach if a child isn’t making progress.

Interventions that focused on the outcome skill tended to be more effective in general: for example, if teachers want to improve handwriting, teach handwriting rather than focusing on finger strength exercises

Their 100-page report was used to help create the Department for Education resource.

Professor Julia Carroll, of Coventry University’s Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science, who led the research, said:

“For teachers looking for information on how to support children with special education needs there has always been a bewildering range of information available, and it can be difficult to know what approach to take.
“We hope this resource will be a really useful means of finding out different ways that schools can use evidence-based practice to support pupils with special educational needs in the classroom.”

The resource is online on the Nasen’s SEND Gateway and the Education & Training Foundation Excellence Gateway.