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National Curriculum

Inclusion guidance



This non-statutory guidance relates closely to the statutory inclusion statement. When considering inclusion, it is important to take a whole-school approach as the holistic needs of the learners are paramount. Inclusion needs to be considered not only in terms of subjects and lessons but also in terms of where learners are taught, the pastoral support they receive, the relevance of what they are taught and how they are grouped. All these can be approached systematically by addressing differentiation, motivation and barriers to learning.


The statute on differentiation is set out under Setting suitable learning challenges.

Differentiation in setting goals

In ‘personalised’ classrooms, all learners, including those with special educational needs (SEN) and disabled pupils, know the areas they need to work on, whether these relate to a subject, an area of social or thinking skills, or their personal targets, perhaps set out on a passport or individual education plan.

Adults and pupils can then work together towards a situation in which the assessment of progress in a lesson or a sequence of lessons becomes a dialogue, based on agreed success criteria. The process of putting this in place will present barriers to some pupils with learning difficulties if time is not allowed for its introduction, and care given to the elements of communication and understanding that will make it work.

Teachers can use the freedom provided by the national curriculum inclusion statement to ‘track back’ to earlier objectives in a programme of study or strategy, or narrow the range of objectives they ask pupils to achieve.

Differentiation in planning

Schools sometimes use a three ‘level’ planning model (all pupils will … some pupils will … a few pupils will ... ), but this can lead to differentiation in terms of volume of outcomes: how much work each group produces. Pupils at all levels of attainment may benefit from a different approach.

It can be more effective to design lessons around a focal point, with activities that permit a range of objectives for the members of the class. ‘The personalised classroom does not entail having 30 separate teaching plans; it is about having one strong inclusive plan which allows as much room as possible for individual engagement, targeted support, a degree of choice and respect for the range of abilities and interests in the class’. (Making Good Progress, DCSF, 2007)

Recent work suggests that:

  • much differentiation should be done in medium-term planning sessions, looking 6–8 weeks ahead, when specialists such as educational psychologists and speech and language therapists, can be timetabled to provide advice and work with the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and/or specialist teachers

  • sharing of differentiated plans, within and between schools, saves time.

Pupil grouping

In class

Teachers need to consider:

  • the reasons for the groupings they use

  • evidence available from research on grouping.

The Social Pedagogic Research into Grouping (SPRING) project report suggested that ‘In same ability groups (high or middle only) pupils can push each other and come up with ideas that neither would be able to think of alone. But it is well known that low ability groups are unlikely to be successful as there is nowhere for new ideas to come from’.

Pupils become demotivated and believe that little can change if their position as ‘low attainers’ is regularly reinforced. Planning that varies groupings is helpful. Mixed-ability pairs and groups can help one another. Buddies can offer emotional and practical support.

Withdrawal groups

Pupils can be withdrawn from class for a specific learning purpose. This is appropriate if the intervention is:

  • carefully targeted

  • based, as much as possible, on evidence of ‘what works’

  • time-limited

  • evaluated, normally by establishing a baseline against the learning intentions and then checking progress at the end of the period

  • not continued beyond the time limit without a very good reason.

The role of additional adults

Differentiating lessons for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities is the teacher’s responsibility. Teaching assistants can be valuable partners in the process. Their work with individuals is most effective when the right balance is achieved between support and independent working. The idea of ‘scaffolding’, gradually withdrawing adult support as a pupil develops knowledge, skills and understanding, is helpful.

Teaching assistants have an important part to play in helping the teacher judge a pupil’s understanding and learning, for example against the learning intentions set out at the beginning of a lesson.


All learners are motivated by progress. Careful discussion on where pupils have reached and what they should aim to learn next, together with shared understandings about what will count as progress, encourage commitment and avoid disaffection. The principle is the same for pupils at all levels of attainment. Those working with pupils at early levels of understanding must themselves take care to understand the topic or subject they are teaching in depth, particularly in relation to the language levels required.

The statute on motivation is set out under the Responding to pupils’ diverse learning needs section of the statutory statement Including all learners.

Pupils’ strengths and interests

Pupils, their parents, other teachers and classmates can help teachers consider their strengths and interests.

The way a pupil likes to learn

This is sometimes reduced to the notion of three sensory learning styles – auditory, kinaesthetic and visual. Teachers can explore beyond these styles to find ways that suit specific contexts. For example, if a pupil is particularly comfortable with mind-mapping software on their computer, teachers can build in opportunities for the pupil to use that software in their lessons.

What pupils already know and enjoy

These can give context and relevance to activities.

  • Teachers can build topics or references relevant to the pupil’s interests or strengths into lesson plans.

  • Teachers can teach a concept or idea through a curriculum area in which the pupil has had success, rather than trying to tackle it through the ‘core’ subjects. For example, if a pupil who enjoys music finds sequencing hard to learn, he or she could be given opportunities to practise sequencing in music lessons.

Teaching style

Communication and the use of questions

Teachers and other adults need to think tactically about their communication in class, particularly how they use questioning and encourage dialogue with pupils who are experiencing barriers to their learning and participation. When working with pupils with communication impairments, it is important to:

  • prepare questions for them

  • give them time to respond

  • allow them to sometimes discuss possible answers with another pupil or adult.

Understanding instructions

It is important to ensure that:

  • sufficient time is given for the pupil to understand the task

  • reinforcement is provided to support recall of the task

  • the pupil knows how to ask for help if something is not clear.

Praise and reinforcement

Teachers should observe carefully how an individual responds to different ways of praising and reinforcing success, (for example not everyone is comfortable with public praise) and use the approach that seems to work best.

Setting high expectations

Teaching approaches that allow pupils to discover that they can do more than they believed they were capable of can be based on:

  • careful assessment of levels of attainment and tracking systems that ensure progress is maintained

  • effective use of ‘scaffolded’ support from staff (gradually withdrawing support as a pupil gains knowledge, skills and understanding)

  • assessment for learning approaches that involve pupils in judging their own and others’ progress

  • targeted reinforcement and praise

  • using the whole group, whether in whole-class or small-group learning, to draw everyone forward together.

Creativity across the curriculum

When teaching creativity across the curriculum teachers need to plan for a range of experiences that:

  • excite and engage the widest possible range of pupils

  • fit the profile of every pupil, whatever his or her strengths, interests and levels of attainment.

The development of creativity, whether through music, mathematics, PE, or any other area of learning, and the confidence it brings, can feed across the whole curriculum into the commitment and self-belief of the many disabled pupils and pupils with SEN who lack confidence in their ability to learn things in school.

The Every Child Matters outcomes and the curriculum

While enjoyment and achievement are clearly outcomes that a school curriculum should aim for, all five Every Child Matters outcomes are relevant to a well-designed programme for all pupils in a school, including pupils with SEN

The Every Child Matters outcomes:

The Every Child Matters outcomes contribute to a broadening of the curriculum, which gives all learners a chance to show what they are capable of, what they know and what they can do. The outcomes have practical importance.

  • Education for economic wellbeing is critical, given the high levels of unemployment and poverty among disabled school leavers.

  • Making a positive contribution to society and the school community is vital for pupils who can be discouraged by the barriers to their learning, which they face every day.

  • Being healthy covers health and wellbeing. Disabled children and young people too often experience teasing and bullying in schools. Anti-bullying policies, and the lessons that support them, can specifically seek to improve the experiences of this group.

Out-of-school learning

Under Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act (2005), schools (including nursery schools) must not discriminate against disabled pupils in relation to their access to education and ‘associated services’ – a broad term that covers all aspects of school life, including school trips, clubs and activities.

Schools should take every reasonable step to involve all their pupils in such activities. This is important for both academic and social inclusion. Guidance is available from the Health and Safety Executive at:

Removing barriers

The statute on removing barriers is set out under the overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils section of the statutory statement Including all learners.


Teachers can use a range of supportive approaches to develop a pupil’s memory. They include:

  • checking that any new learning fits into the framework of what the pupil already knows

  • structuring activities so that the pupil can make use of readily available resources, such as word banks

  • using visual or concrete (‘real’) materials or activities involving movement, to reinforce learning through a range of sensory channels

  • ensuring that new knowledge can be tried out in a range of enjoyable applications, for example by using computer software.


Teachers can support pupils’ development of sequencing skills by:

  • giving them a visual ‘timetable’, perhaps using symbols or photographs

  • providing ‘markers’, which pupils can use to check that they have completed a part of an activity and can move on to the next element

  • teaching a ‘protocol’ to use when a task or sequence of activities has to be changed, so that the pupil is not disrupted by the change.


If a pupil has coordination impairments, it can help to:

  • ensure sufficient time is allowed for them to complete activities

  • offer different ways of responding to a task, if writing is a barrier, and help with handwriting in ways approved by the National Handwriting Association

  • remember that fun is an important ingredient: it encourages the exercising of muscles and improves coordination. Teachers could discuss with the pupil, their parents or carers and with colleagues, how to make such activities enjoyable.

Visual or auditory modes of learning

Those for whom visual or auditory ways of learning present specific barriers, benefit from support that enhances learning through other sensory channels.

Straightforward procedures, for example checking font size and style for clarity before using them with pupils with mild visual impairments, can be equally important.

Access arrangements in assessment and examinations

The regulatory bodies have clear guidelines on access arrangements, such as extra time, in national curriculum and other assessments and examinations. It is important for the wellbeing of pupils and staff, as well as the manageability and credibility of the assessment, that these guidelines are precisely followed.

Teachers and other staff also need to ensure that access arrangements, of whatever kind, are in place well before a test or examination is taken. Without practice in ‘ordinary’ lessons, an adjustment can be unhelpful. It can cause stress and lose pupils marks.

Out-of-school learning

Under Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act (2005), schools (including nursery schools) must not discriminate against disabled pupils in relation to their access to education and ‘associated services’ – a broad term that covers all aspects of school life, including school trips, clubs and activities.

Schools should take every reasonable step to involve all their pupils in such activities – this is important for both academic and social inclusion. Guidance is available from the Health and Safety Executive at:

Supporting inclusion

The following QCDA materials will be useful for schools wishing to review inclusion in light of the secondary review.

Gifted and talented

Guidance on teaching the gifted and talented

Learning difficulties and disabilities

Learning difficulties: Planning, teaching and assessing the curriculum

These QCDA web pages contain guidelines on developing a curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties. This includes pupils who are often described as having severe, profound and multiple, or severe learning difficulties, or moderate learning difficulties. The guidelines relate to all pupils aged five to 16 who are unlikely to achieve above level 2 at key stage 4.

Cultural diversity and English as an additional language (EAL)

A language in common – assessing English as an additional language

First published in 2000 this booklet (available as a PDF) provides guidance on teaching and assessing pupils who have English as an additional language.

Pathways to learning for new arrivals

These pages on QCDA’s website will help teachers respond to the needs of pupils newly arrived from overseas.

This content relates to the 1999 programmes of study and attainment targets.

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