The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published a new report: “Closing the attainment gap” alongside its Annual Report that found “there will be little or no headway in closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates in the next 5 years.”

The report contains 15 key lessons on closing the attainment gap from different areas of EEF’s work. They include the importance of early years education; the use of small-group interventions for those at risk of falling behind; evaluation of teaching and learning strategies; and sharing best practice between schools as key to closing the gap.

The report recognises that the attainment gap is largest for SEND pupils with a 22% difference in average Attainment 8 score and a 48% difference in reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics at KS2. They also recognise that “this is linked closely with economic disadvantage: 27% of pupils with special educational needs are eligible for free school meals compared to 12% of pupils without special educational needs.”

EEF’s overdue recognition of SEND as a important contributing factor in the attainment gap is a welcome development for an organisation which has long overlooked the importance of addressing SEND, particularly for those learners in mainstream schools. This development extends DYT’s recent Through the Looking Glass report that called for greater consideration of SEND in the narrative of economic disadvantage.

This recognition must now be matched by a comprehensive focus on utilising research and evidence to support SEND pupils to achieve in schools. DYT’s flagship programme, Drive for Literacy, supports schools to do precisely this but in order to made a concerted nationwide effort this must be better represented in EEF’s other work. For example, even though EEF highlights the most significant attainment gap is for SEND pupils, they have failed, yet again, to include a single mention of SEND in their Annual Report.

Director of Driver Youth Trust Chris Rossiter stated: “It clearly is incredibly important to recognise the link between economic disadvantage and SEND, which DYT has consistently lobbied for. We need to  develop a specialist approach to improve attainment outcomes for SEND learners.  I would now urge The EEF and fellow influential bodies to act upon the clear link between SEND and attainment and use their expertise and research to investigate how we can best improve outcomes for these 1.2 million children.”