A Review of the DfE 'What works in SEN Support' Report

In this blog Lindsey Grimes, Senior Teacher for SEN at Southfields Academy, reviews the Department for Education report SEN support: research evidence on effective approaches and examples of current practice in good and outstanding schools and colleges.

As an SEND specialist, I have been frequently troubled by the question, ‘What are you doing about pupil X?’.  One of the really positive aspects of ‘What works in SEN Support’ is that it strongly reinforces the responsibility of all school staff to be asking ‘What can we do to support pupil X?’

At 122 pages, the resource may seem like a lengthy read, but with its clear and concise layout and signposting, consistency in format and repetition of examples across numerous sections, you can easily skim or skip bits to make this a manageable read. 

As experienced SEND practitioners are well aware, every student is different and you have to go through a trial and error process to find what works for each individual (a point which is made clear in the resource).  It would be almost impossible to produce an exhaustive list of methods for the teacher, however, this does purport to be a resource to support classroom practice, and I don’t think it does enough to achieve this, so from the perspective of a classroom teacher, I don’t think it has as much to offer as I would like.  Teachers are looking for practical examples of methods they can use in the classroom on a day to day, lesson by lesson basis and to this end, I felt that (even at 122 pages) it barely touched the sides. 

On the other hand, as a SENCO or Lead Practitioner for SEND, those with responsibility for inclusion at Senior Leadership level, or even Heads of Department, (and as somebody who has undertaken all of these roles) I found this to be an extremely useful resource.

I was particularly grateful for its interactive nature, including direct hyperlinks to research and resources, potentially saving hours of time which could be lost to Google searches; I was able to quickly look up anything of further interest and make decisions as to where I wish to dig deeper when I have more time.  Some of the signposted resources are quite expensive, but the indication of the effectiveness of their impact will help to make decisions as to which are worth the investment.

The only area where I felt a bit let down was the ‘Review’ section as, although it did give a couple of examples of good practice, I found it rather primary centric and didn’t think that the suggestions made could necessarily be implemented as easily in secondary schools where students are taught and monitored by such a large number of teachers and in so many different contexts. It would be great to see the document evolve over time to better reflect the challenges of working in a secondary setting.

I am fortunate to work in a highly inclusive academy where SEND has status as a whole school issue and where the emphasis is on ensuring that we adapt to meet the needs of all students to help them to be the best they can be. In a climate in which schools are having to focus on securing the highest levels of academic attainment, it is becoming increasingly difficult for schools to maintain this level of inclusivity, and I doubt this resource will do much to change that, however, for those who are trying to promote an inclusive ethos, ‘What works in SEN Support’ is certainly a valuable resource which offers practical advice and strategies which can be implemented at department and whole school levels.

Lindsey Grimes is Senior Teacher for SEN at Southfields Academy

She is currently participating in the SEND Advocates professional development programme.

Lindsey Grimes, Southfields Academy