The Early Career Framework (ECF) lays a strong foundation for teachers on how to teach effectively. This is credit to how much the framework leans on research and evidence. A section of the introduction of the documentation reads:

“The ECF has been designed around how to support all pupils to succeed and seeks to widen access for all. This includes those pupils identified within the four areas of need set out in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) code of practice, and children in need of help and protection as identified in the Children in Need Review.”

Standard 5 of the framework explicitly describes the mental model essential for adaptive teaching. Among the many points it highlights, it emphasises that pupils learn at different rates and that teaching with the understanding of their starting points and barriers to learning are necessary parts of effective teaching. As a teacher who trained before the launch of this framework, on my first read of Standard 5, I found two things striking:

  1. Creating distinct tasks for different groups of pupils is not beneficial. Prior to the release of the ECF, many teachers across the country, including myself, planned at least two levels of tasks per lesson.
  2. Meeting the needs of all pupils should occur without adding to the teacher’s workload.

This section of the framework also points to an important document, the SEND Code of Practice. Section 6.12 of it states:

“Lessons should be planned to address potential areas of difficulty and to remove barriers to pupil achievement. In many cases, such planning will mean that pupils with SEN and disabilities will be able to study the full national curriculum.”
Secondary school students raising their hands to answer a question.

So how exactly can you cater for all students including students with SEND?

Firstly, it is important to have an understanding of the needs of our pupils, our statutory responsibilities toward them, and the measures in place to ensure their success in our classroom. These are crucial and must be established for any Teaching and Learning strategies to be effective.

Secondly, the classroom culture must be conducive and anchored in high expectations. Effective teachers maintain high expectations for all pupils, including those with SEND. This positively affects how they view themselves, their motivation, and their academic progress.

Specific strategies to consider:

  1. Scaffolding: Be intentional about the temporary support you provide during tasks. To prevent overreliance, pre-plan reassessment points and remove support when the students’ capabilities have improved.
  2. Leverage Cognitive Science: Strategies may include chunking information, spaced retrieval, and interleaving, among others.
  3. Explicit Instruction: Be clear and exact when introducing new knowledge to your pupils. Always take the shortest possible route to learning.
  4. Effective Deployment of Teaching Assistants: Support learning without replacing the expertise of the teacher.

A teaching assistant supporting the learning of SEND pupils in class.

I would also like to argue that whatever is considered good practice for students with SEND is also good practice for all. This is how we avoid unnecessary workload while ensuring that all needs are met.

Finally, If I had to summarise what you must do to ensure that your teaching caters for students with SEND, it would be to plan and deliver high-quality lessons that build on the prior knowledge of your pupils. Teachers who consistently deliver high-quality lessons have a positive impact on their pupils’ academic achievement in the short to long term.

Reflection questions:

  1. Is your classroom culture positive, and conducive for learning?
  2. Do you keep your expectations of students high and consistent?
  3. Are your lessons always high-quality regardless of the needs of your pupils?

Tomi Folaranmi

Tomi is a science teacher and lead coach at Trinity Academy Leeds. He is passionate about teacher development and classroom-applicable research.