Last week The Education Endowment Foundation – a body set up by the government to disseminate evidence on ‘what works’ to schools – published a new theme on SEND. This follows similar publications by DfE of SEN support case studies and a rapid evidence assessment.

Whilst this might not immediately appear to be news this is a considerable development. Since its creation six years ago and over £120 million of public investment the EEF is finally addressing the 1.2 million young people with SEND. This is long overdue when you consider that learners with SEND have the lowest achievement of any subgroup, but that 8 in 10 of these young people are in mainstream schools.

However, the EEF have heard the call from DYT and schools across the land that they can no longer trumpet championing disadvantage young people whilst ignoring the sizeable minority with SEND. It is always worth remembering that learners with SEND are twice as likely to be eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) than their peers without SEND – there is more than one type of disadvantage.

The theme provides links to some of the programmes the EEF has assessed, including the excellent work by Rob Webster on maximising the impact of Teaching Assistants (TAs). Plus, a more detailed list of interventions based around the four areas of need, with communication and interaction needs taking the lead, although physical and sensory impairments are a noticeable omission.

As DYT is primarily concerned with literacy, young people with cognition and learning needs are those, which schools most often seek our support with. It is encouraging that the EEF recognises that the ‘evidence is still patchy, and an ‘off-the-shelf’ intervention with a rigorous and positive evaluation might not be appropriate or available’, and this has been the nub of our lobbying EEF to take a closer look into this area.

The publication of the theme follows a blog by Peter Henderson who recently visited DYT’s offices to discuss this and other developments. Peter has three top messages for school leaders:

  1. Ensure that your deployments of teaching assistants are effective
  2. Consult the EEF’s guidance reports on literacy and mathematics
  3. Deploy high quality, structured interventions to support pupils to make progress

At DYT we have invested heavily in our flagship consultancy service, Drive for Literacy, which is thoroughly evidence-based and supports schools to reflect on how they can successfully deploy EEF’s guidance, including the three points above. For us, the key to making this work is reflecting on the context and constraints in which this can be done effectively.

What next?

We believe evidence-based practice is ethically essential to SEND support. Interventions and TA support are incredibly useful for learners with SEND and so I think it would be helpful for EEF to follow up on:

  1. Explicitly drawing out recommendations in its KS1 and KS2 guidance reports on literacy, where learners with SEND might need a different approach.
  2. Guidance on assessing learner needs and how to accurately determine appropriate interventions, especially for SENCOs and literacy leads.

Credit where credit’s due, the EEF might be late to the party but, I recognise that they are a significant player in education. They provide high-quality evidence and resources we use in schools every day.