Maximising progress: ensuring the attainment of pupils with SEN

Maximising progress image

What the resource is:
Maximising progress: ensuring the attainment of pupils with SEN is a three part Key Stage 3 National Strategy resource intended for SENCos, strategy managers and inclusion managers.  It has been designed to support schools in maximising attainment for the group of pupils identified as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) who are currently ‘under-attaining'.


The guidance consists of three booklets:


Part 1: Using data: target setting and target getting


Part 2: Approaches to learning and teaching in the mainstream classroom


Part 3: Managing the learning process for pupils with SEN


These booklets(and associated material such as a CDROM and a ‘key messages' leaflet) are designed to be used in a variety of ways, for example:


  • Training days for SENCOs - jointly delivered within Local Authorities by SEN Advisers, consultants and/or strategy managers;
  • Used by school governors responsible for SEN ;
  • For use with groups of school SENCOs across a number of meetings;
  • Whole school INSET days where issues of inclusion and SEN are a major feature;

The materials are guidance notes first and foremost, but practitioners are encouraged to adapt them for use in CPD activities, since the materials contain a number of tasks and reflective activities that can be adapted for training purposes.


The aims of the resource:
The key aim of this resource is to show how schools can promote inclusion and tackle underachievement by focusing and reflecting upon the progress of all pupils identified as having SEN.  Generally the materials aim to ensure that:


  • SENCOs align their work with other teaching and learning initiatives from the Key Stage 3 strategy aimed at raising attainment for all pupils across a school;
  • SENCOs are fully conversant with the Strategy's approaches to learning and teaching as part of whole school improvement;
  • SENCOs are able to identify barriers to progress and challenges faced by identified pupils and thus offer further guidance to departments in addressing these issues;


More specifically the guidance claims to:


  • Update SENCOs with key messages from recent materials produced by the Key Stage 3 Strategy
  • Enable SENCOs t enhance rates of progress made by pupils through:


      • Aligning support that is provided in subject departments
      • Monitoring and tracking the progression of pupils with SEN to ensure sufficient challenge and appropriate support
      • Focusing particularly on monitoring the progress across the key stages of all those pupils on the SEN register who are working within national expectations and who enter Key Stage 3 at levels 3 or 4 in core subjects


Key findings or focus:
Maintaining a similar format across all of the parts, each booklet begins with an introduction and rationale for the specific area and moves on to explore specific issues related to each topic.  Each booklet contains a number of readings and excerpts from appropriate legalisation or policy or from recent Ofsted reports (Ofsted, 2004), a range of tasks including observing a number of lessons, talking to colleagues and managers, involving pupils and carrying out a range of tasks with pupils. There are also opportunities for reflection and examples of key principles and concepts for discussion with colleagues.


Part 1: Using data target setting and target getting focuses on the importance of maximising learning and supporting inclusive practices.  It explores the principles of inclusion and inclusive teaching and considers the key elements of inclusion with regard to raising pupil performance. The resource asks SENCOs to think about the use of data in their work and the explore possible sources of data, considering data analysis as well. The booklet then moves on to target setting and offers suggestions about the way in which SENCOs might set up systems for target setting.


Part 2: Approaches to learning and teaching in the mainstream classroom focuses on developing opportunities for pupils to apply their skills working collaboratively or independently, moving away from an over reliance on adult support. The materials suggested that the ‘learned helplessness' developed by some pupils is a major barrier to their achievement.  The booklet consider notions of ‘inclusive teaching' and explores strategies that support inclusive practice, for example lesson design, structuring and scaffolding learning, learning styles and a whole school approach to Assessment for Learning. There is a section on making the best use of additional support for pupils and considers not only the deployment of Teaching Assistants in the classroom, but also support from other adults in the school and visiting professionals.  In the final section of the booklet there is a focus on targeted intervention in subject specific areas.


Part 3: Managing the learning process for pupils with SEN looks at issues and challenges, the role of the SENCO, making use of ongoing assessment, personalising learning, managing additional support and intervention. The final section attempts to summarise the three booklets and looks at tying it all together to maximise progress. There are a range of useful tools and activities in this booklet that focus on reflecting on systems and procedures in the school to support the SENCO.  Finally SENCOs are asked to reflect on progress to date and plan next steps.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
This resource addresses some significant and important issues with regard to support and provision for pupils with SEN. Due to the wide range of issues that are covered within it , there are times when certain areas are ‘skirted over' and not explored in any critical depth. What this means is that some of the most contested and controversial areas of Special and Inclusive Education are not unpicked, and so for example inclusive education and inclusion are dealt with in a couple of pages. Issues of perspective, values and attitudes towards inclusion are taken for granted, when in fact research literature shows that the feelings teachers have about teaching pupils with SEN makes a significant difference when developing inclusive practice in large institutions.


A further area of contention with regard to inclusive education is seen when ‘performance data' is discussed in relation to academic attainment. These materials relate very closely to attainment in the core curriculum areas which results in a very narrow conception of  achievement for pupils who have been identified as having SEN. The materials do not address alternative strategies to assess the performance of pupils with SEN, and tend to suggest that numerical ‘hard' data is the only way that schools can show evidence of attainment for this group.


However, as a starting point for dialogue or as an audit tool for SENCOs and teachers, these materials could prove very useful.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
While it could be argued that this resource is aimed at SENCOs and therefore has little to offer students at this particular stage of their career, Part 1 Using Data is a really useful and interesting part of this resource. In light of recent reports which suggest that the tracking and monitoring of interventions for some groups (e.g see Ofsted, 2005) is not particularly good in some schools, the sections on collecting evidence for learning and monitoring progress are useful sections for discussion. The reflective tasks can provide ways for ITE mentors and students to discuss systems and protocols within their placement schools to find out more about the process and procedure that support pupil attainment. Some of the activities that are suggested for SENCOs could easily be adapted for students to try on placement, thus further developing their understanding of not only the role of the SENCO, but also their of their own role in supporting the SENCO.


The relevance to ITE students:
This resource provides an interesting perspective on strategies and practice that can support pupil progress. Whilst aimed at SENCOs and inclusion managers, students can get a sense of the most effective ways to plan, deliver and monitor interventions designed to support pupil progress. The need to enhance the progress of pupils with SEN is a strong message in this guidance and the effective use of data may prove to be particularly useful for students in reflecting upon effective ways to monitor rates of progress. Collecting evidence for learning and target setting is something that is useful for all pupils, and not just those identified as having SEN.


Reviewed by:

Helen Knowler


Related Resources

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:


DFES (2004) Removing Barriers to Achievement




Ofsted (2004) SEN and Disability: towards inclusive schools


Ofsted (2005) Managing Challenging Behaviour





SEN, inclusion, pedagogy, data, assessment, attainment, target setting, teaching and learning