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Supporting all teachers who teach pupils with SEN

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Last updated on 6 April 2016
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In-depth article
How can schools train all teachers to be 'teachers of SEN'? Two of our associate experts set out first steps in training teachers to be 'teachers of special educational needs (SEN)'. We cite guidance from nasen and link to training resources from the National College and to more of our articles.

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  1. 1 Planning training for ‘teachers of SEN’
  2. 2 nasen: ‘graduated approach’
  3. 3 Expert advice: 'quality first teaching' and differentiation
  4. 4 National College: training resources

Article features

  • 8 external links

Planning training for ‘teachers of SEN’

One of our members asked us about different methods for training teachers so that “every teacher is a teacher of special educational needs (SEN)”. In the revised SEN and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice, this phrase has been replaced by the idea that “every teacher is a teacher of every child”.

One of our associate education experts, Lorraine Petersen, a former chief executive officer of nasen, said that the first step when planning training and development for teachers so that all teachers are 'teachers of SEN' is to establish what 'quality first teaching' and differentiation look like in your school.

A first step would be to look at the key areas of need in the school, and consider training and support staff might need ...

She said that this will need to be done in-house, in order to take account of the needs of pupils, staff development needs, and the ways in which staff are deployed within the school. She recommended that schools also consider support staff at this stage.

She said that after this first step, schools can consider what support they provide for pupils that is ‘additional and different’, and the support that teachers might need. She recommended focusing training on the areas identified for development.

Another of our associate education experts, Anita Devi, agreed that a first step would be to look at the key areas of need in the school, and consider the training and support staff might need to meet pupils’ needs. She said it can be useful to get staff involved in identifying their own needs.

Anita recommended that support and training for teaching pupils with SEN be built into the induction of new teachers.

She added that it will be vital to have the whole senior leadership team on board when planning and developing an approach to SEN.

KeyDoc templates: questionnaires and audits

Article answers icon

Another article from The Key features a downloadable KeyDoc with a template questionnaire for staff on SEND, which we worked with Lorraine to produce.

We also worked with Lorraine on a KeyDoc template that can be used to audit SEND provision.

nasen: ‘graduated approach’

Anita said that when developing skills in being 'teachers of SEN', she has worked with some schools on the ‘graduated approach’ to SEN provision.

nasen's guidance on the SEND Code of Practice includes a section on implementing the graduated approach to SEN provision.

The graduated approach is outlined in the code of practice and has four stages, which are:

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Do
  • Review

Page 4 of nasen's guidance explains that teachers need to be involved in this graduated approach for it to be successful. It also emphasises the involvement of the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO), saying:

Class and subject teachers need to be at the heart of this approach, driving the movement around the four stages of action with the support, guidance and leadership of the SENCO and, where appropriate, other specialist staff.

It adds that everyone involved in teaching and supporting pupils with SEN must have high expectations of the pupils.

Pages 5 to 11 of the guidance cover how to make the four stages of the graduated approach work. The section on the 'review' stage, which begins on page 10, includes a list of questions that teachers can use to review how successfully they are teaching pupils with SEN.

This document is hosted on nasen’s SEND Gateway website.

Another resource from nasen also looks at SEN support and the graduated approach.

The SEND Gateway website has a range of other resources to support the teaching of pupils with SEN.

Expert advice: 'quality first teaching' and differentiation

We asked Lorraine for more advice on quality first teaching and differentiation.

She said that quality first teaching and differentiation are key to supporting the progress of pupils with SEN.

Another article from The Key looks at quality first teaching in more detail:

Schools should ensure that teachers differentiate their approach ...

Lorraine said schools should ensure that their teachers differentiate their approach rather than teaching the same material to the whole class in the same way.

She explained that teachers need to be aware of the individual needs of pupils and make appropriate adjustments, which can involve differentiating by:

  • Content: adapting what pupils are expected to learn or how they gain access to knowledge
  • Time: allocating more time for some pupils to complete tasks
  • Task: using different tasks to achieve the same goal
  • Resources: ensuring that pupils have access to appropriate resources that will make work accessible to them
  • Technology: for example, allowing some pupils to use ICT
  • Feedback: setting individualised goals and targets
  • Outcome: making sure that expectations are realistic

According to Lorraine, differentiation will require the teacher to put strategies in place to support pupils' learning. The strategies used, and the changes that should be made, will depend on the individual needs of the pupils.

For teachers to be 'teachers of SEN', schools must therefore ensure that they have the skills and resources needed for differentiating work, making adjustments and putting effective strategies in place.

More from our blog

Amy Cook 128x128

In a post on Key insights, Amy Cook, one of our researchers, looks at five ways in which schools can put pupils with SEN at the centre of the support they offer to them.

Amy discusses topics such as "teaching backwards" and building relationships with pupils.

National College: training resources

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (National College) has guidance on training resources available for those who teach pupils with SEN.

The guidance links to two websites. The first features training modules and materials for those who teach pupils with advanced needs such as autistic spectrum disorders or moderate learning difficulties.

The second website provides training modules and materials for those teaching pupils with complex needs. These include:

  • Severe learning difficulties
  • Profound and multiple learning difficulties
  • Complex learning difficulties and disabilities

Both Anita and Lorraine noted that a range of free resources are available online, for example, from charitable organisations.

Sources and further reading

Lorraine Petersen is an education consultant. Previously the chief executive officer of nasen (which promotes the education of young people with SEN) and a primary school headteacher, she is also a chair of governors.

Anita Devi is an SEN advisory teacher. She has been a SENCO for primary and secondary schools.

You can read more about the SEND Code of Practice in another article from The Key:

A research note from Policy Exchange, published in July 2010, looks at teacher expertise in SEN.

A presentation from Jane Friswell, chief executive officer of nasen, looks at developing a whole-school approach to meeting pupils' needs under the Code of Practice.

This article was updated in response to feedback from the SENCO of a large secondary school in London.

More from The Key

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