Simon Knight of the National Education Trust (NET) dissects the SEND Review

The government has announced new SEND funding; in this timely article, Simon Knight, director of education at the National Education Trust (NET) and long-term advocate of SEND learning, takes a look at the SEND Review


SEND can reflect Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote for many of us, “There are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.” Meeting the requirements of the more complex learners in the classroom can be something of a conundrum – yet it is something we need to prioritise.

DfE data suggest that as many as 14,000 additional places are required in special schools by 2025. Unless there is a rapid investment in special schools mainstream schools are likely to have a greater number of more complex pupils attending them. However, whilst the clear majority of funding being invested in the SEND reforms appears to be focused on administrative and legislative change, there is some being used to develop what happens in the classroom.

Leadership Strategy

The Whole School SEND consortium, hosted by the London Leadership Strategy, is comprised of a range of schools, charities, professional development providers and educational organisations. It has been creating a variety of resources to support improvements in classroom practice.

One document, developed with the support of parents, schools, universities and young people and called SEND Review: Classroom Practice, will form part of the SEND Review suite of materials and will be free to access.

Peer review

The process of peer reviewing SEND classroom practice offers the opportunity to reflect on how effectively the requirements of all learners are met, linking perceptions to examples of impact. It is a move away from the Likert Scale approach, so often used to evaluate confidence when it comes to teaching children with SEND; let’s not forget that confidence can be a poor proxy for competence.

It is intended that this peer review approach will be used flexibly. It could be completed internally as part of a whole school piece of CPD, facilitated by external expertise, or it could be used by a single teacher or trainee teacher as part of their individual professional development. Ensuring ease of access and ease of use is important if schools are to take up this opportunity.

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A closer look

The document itself is broken down into sections with each containing a range of aspirational statements against which examples of current strengths or areas for improvement can be applied. For example:

  • I am familiar with the knowledge individual parents and carers have and make use of this information to develop my understanding of their child and inform my teaching.
  • I value and speak positively about all learners in my setting, including those who have special educational needs.
  • I ensure that the classroom environment supports the active participation of all learners and make adaptations to the environment to support social inclusion.
  • I have high expectations for the attainment and progress of all learners and set well-informed goals that stretch and challenge.
  • I work with those with a defined responsibility for SEND to improve the quality of teaching and learning for those within my classroom.

The time for action is now

This is not a simple checklist of competencies but, instead, should be considered a guide to perpetual improvement that should promote discussion rather than generate simplistic answers. There isn’t always a definitive answer and you won’t necessarily be able to evidence them all.

This needs to be a process of discussion and ongoing reflection in which teachers have the confidence to declare openly those areas that need the greatest attention. Through this approach we can work supportively towards ensuring that every teacher can truly be a teacher of SEND.

The SEND Review: Classroom Practice document is due for publication in the Summer