16th September 2020
The attainment gap in both SEND and mainstream education between economically disadvantaged children and their peers is an education-wide issue that teachers and school leaders have been working on for years. Progress was excellent, but school closures in 2020 had a significant impact on the gap – it is estimated that 700,000 children in the UK did not have sufficient access to a computer or the internet during the lockdown which led to many missing months of education and early indicators suggest the attainment gap has widened again.
Children and young people who have been identified as having additional educational needs numbered over 300,000 in January 2020. There’s a wide variance in the level of support that SEND pupils require. Many with EHC plans attend mainstream schools and a small percentage are unable to attend school in any form and must rely on specialist teaching, either at home or in hospital. Those that fall in the middle attend SEND-specialist schools that may have more capacity to provide individual support. The attainment gap affects economically disadvantaged pupils in all educational settings and is significantly bigger in rural areas where there may be a shortage of qualified SEND teachers. The wide range of needs presented by SEND pupils means that tailored support for every pupil isn’t always possible and this can lead to pupils struggling to take an active role in their education. Every child should have the same access to a stimulating education that provides them with the knowledge and confidence to reach their full potential regardless of their additional learning need or economic background.
As well as the arbitrary indicator of qualifying for Pupil Premium there are several forms of assessment that could lead to a pupil being identified as requiring some form of support or intervention. This is the same in both SEND and mainstream settings – identifying the pupils that have a requirement for extra help is the first step towards building a suitable intervention strategy. The Education Endowment Foundation suggests that assessment should be ‘regular and purposeful’ There’s a very broad range of reasons that a pupil might be identified as having Special Education Needs and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to closing the gap for them all. Instead, schools need to work with pupils and parents individually to develop tailored intervention strategies that make the most of available funding and have a significant positive impact on students learning.
Achievement and enjoyment in education should be accessible for all – here are some of the ways that SEND providers can work to close the attainment gap:
Empower Teachers – Enable teachers to make decisions based on their own assessment of their student’s needs. Flexibility is essential in SEND education as requirements change and pupils develop their skills or suffer setbacks
Use Tech – Train teachers to maximise the use of available technology to support pupils and provide additional learning opportunities
Impart Explicit Instruction – deliver knowledge in ways your pupils will understand. If you have pupils that are vision or hearing impaired you’ll need to think about how you are delivering instructions to the whole class to ensure complete understanding for all
Get Extra Help – TA’s, specialist SEND teachers and virtual headteachers should be deployed where needed to provide additional support for struggling pupils or those that are unable to attend school settings.
Plan Successful Intervention – Small group and one-on-one intervention should be structured, targeting and have impactful goals such as improving comprehension of topics or ability to work independently.
Research Funding – there are several options for funding additional classroom support through the government catch-up scheme (read our blog on the catch-up fund here.) Our expert SEND team can help with this, get in touch
It’s going to take time and significant resources to completely eradicate the attainment gap, but with targeted intervention, ongoing assessment and additional funding, SEND providers and inclusive settings can maximise the opportunities available to their SEND pupils.
The Education Endowment Foundation has produced significant research into closing the attainment gap, covering both mainstream and SEND settings. Visit their website for in-depth research into solving the attainment gap across education
This report by the Education Policy Institute goes into detail about closing the attainment gap in both SEND and mainstream settings
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