A great teacher gets students reading. Inspires writing. Builds confidence. Makes maths fun, and turns history lessons into exciting tales. They can nurture critical thinking and encourage creativity, as well as set pupils up for exam success. Anyone who watched English teacher Mr Burton in Educating Yorkshire can see that the inspirational power of a teacher can transcend the classroom.
In 2017, research (Efthymiou & Kington, 2017) suggested that the behaviour of the classroom teacher had the greatest impact on the academic and social outcomes of children with special educational needs (SEN).
Nowadays, being able to support children with SEN in the classroom is an essential part of every teacher’s job. The National Curriculum dictates that schools and teachers ensure all pupils are included in effective learning, regardless of their individual needs. Yet, for many teachers, lack of time, administrative burdens, and added pressure can make helping pupils, especially those who are struggling, an impossible challenge.
Just under 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs. This is an increase of 77,000 from 2021. Recent figures from National Statistics show that in a mainstream setting, you may encounter (on average) four children in every class who need support for special educational needs.
Students with SEN
Pupils with common SEN problems such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia in mainstream schools can get left behind in the classroom. But with dedicated support and extra tuition, they can still thrive at school.
Pupils of all ages can experience both academic and social barriers due to their special education needs. This often means that they are unable to reach their personal potential.
Without proper support and help, these barriers can manifest in anxiety, disengagement, and frustration. It can sometimes result in challenging behaviours within school and into adulthood.
Children with special needs are more likely to be absent or excluded from school. Department of Education (DfE) 2019/20 figures show that children and young people with SEN are more likely to be excluded from school. A pupil with SEN is between two and five times more likely to be excluded and two to five times more likely to be suspended in comparison to a peer without SEN.
In the academic year 2021/22, the highest rate of suspensions was 6.37 among those pupils with an Education, Health, and Care plan (EHCP, followed by those with SEN without an EHC plan at 6.31. This compares to 1.44 for non-SEN students.
How can you make your lessons inclusive?
A key problem for busy teachers is: how can you ensure inclusion for all pupils with their diverse needs and barriers to learning? Inclusion in schools means ensuring every student, no matter what their individual needs or barriers to learning, has equal access to education and the same opportunities.
The good news is that inclusive lessons benefit all pupils. While inclusive strategies help students with additional needs, they can benefit learners who don’t need special support. All students can enjoy extra support and a welcoming environment.
Some of the ways of supporting SEN in the classroom will be an extension of your general good practice in the classroom, whilst other, more specific strategies may be particularly useful in supporting particular needs.
Many inclusion strategies are so beneficial for all students, that they are worth doing in every lesson. Students with dyslexia, for example, may struggle with black text on a white background. Changing the colours you use on your learning materials and avoiding black-on-white can help not only children with a dyslexia diagnosis but all students.
Tips to ensure lessons are inclusive for SEN learners
Define standards of behaviour.
Be clear about what the minimum acceptable levels of behaviour are in your class. Once agreed, why not ask children to sign a class contract to make sure they understand that the class rules are everyone’s responsibility to follow? Try to make rules that are not only about learning but also about ensuring everyone feels safe and respected.
These could include:
- Be kind
- Respect the property of others
- Everyone has the right to be listened to
Know the needs of every child in your lesson.
In an inclusive classroom, it’s not enough to know which of your children have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It can help if you know if your students are on free school meals (FSM), which are caregivers, in foster care, and/or have English as an additional language (EAL).
Although it might not seem relevant, this will help you consider every aspect of your lessons, and how you make them inclusive and meaningful.
Understand the learning styles in your classrooms.
Every student has a preferred learning style, which can make it difficult for you to teach effectively. Try to incorporate different methods into your teaching. This enables you to reach the majority of your students.
- Visual learners will prefer pictures, diagrams, videos, and colour-coded notes.
- Auditory learners will prefer to listen to information. Engage the student in conversation about the subject. Ask questions and ask for verbal summaries of the topic.
- Kinesthetic learners need physical experience. Try practical, hands-on experiences, role plays, textured paper, and different stationery options to write information down.
Improve your communication.
One tool at your disposal to help support SEN learners is your communication style. Adapting your communication (both spoken and written) can support those with difficulties.
- Keep instructions clear and concise
- Deliver instructions facing the class
- Do not give multiple instructions at once
- Ask students to repeat instructions back to you
- Accompany verbal instructions with visual aids
Consider classroom environment.
Consideration of how your learning space is organised can support learners with SEN in the classroom and remove barriers.
- Limiting classroom decoration can help prevent children with ASD or sensory issues from being visually overloaded.
- Avoiding black-on-white presentation and varying the background colours to help those with dyslexia, and conditions such as Irlen Syndrome.
- Using a visual timetable throughout the day to benefit pupils with ASD or anxiety disorders can benefit from this. Students with dyslexic and dyspraxic traits struggle with organisation, as do some with ASD.
Let pupils show you what they have learned.
Inclusion works by determining the best way to ensure that all students have access to learning and the opportunity to succeed. When you reach the end of the topic, it can be tempting to assess learning with a written test. Instead, offer children a choice of ways of presenting what they have learned.
This could be:
- Writing a blog or making a short video
- Creating a poster or infographic
- Presenting a slide deck
If I don’t have enough time, use school tuition
Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ to support pupils with SEN, as a teacher you can provide support to pupils with SEN in different ways, including creating a positive and inclusive learning classroom.
Teachers cater for pupils with a diverse range of needs and the overwhelming majority already have an inclusive culture, supporting every child to the best of their abilities.
Yet time pressures often mean that additional support is needed. Using a Tuition Partner can help ensure that SEN pupils don’t fall behind and have extra support throughout their education.
Dan, a tutor for Fleet Education Services sees first-hand the benefits of tutoring for SEN students in particular those with ASD and ADHD. He explains: “Tutoring can help by providing acceptance and encouragement to the learner and by helping them to develop their learning at a manageable pace.”
Using an approved NTP Tuition Partner, like Fleet Education Services, you know that the provider has passed a set of quality, safeguarding and evaluation standards. Tuition Partners offer a range of subjects and provide targeted support for all pupils.
About Fleet Education Services
Fleet Education Services is the UK’s largest specialist tuition provider. As a DfE-accredited National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partner, we will tailor the right solution to your school’s needs in small groups or one-to-one sessions. We help over a third of local authorities and 700 schools.
Don’t let your pupils fall behind: https://fleeteducationservices.com/contact-us/