January 4, 2023

Adaptive Teaching and SEND

The SEND Code of Practice (DfE, 2015) means ensuring that support systems are in place so that the school fulfils its statutory duties and holds ambitious expectations for all pupils with additional and special educational needs and disabilities… How can leaders ensure that all pupils experience success in a school setting?
Between September 2022 and December 2022, Ofsted Inspections identified the following as common issues for schools:

“Staff do not always consider how best to teach each subject so that pupils with SEND can access the learning. Leaders should help and support staff to know how they can adapt learning appropriately.”

“Leaders need to ensure that all teachers understand how to make suitable adaptations to learning.”

“SEND are not provided with the precise help they need to learn the curriculum as well as they should. Teachers need to adapt their teaching effectively to support SEND.”

The SEND Code of Practice (DfE, 2015) is maintained and published by the Department for Education (DfE). This Code of Practice means ensuring that support systems are in place to make sure that the school fulfils its statutory duties and to also ensure that the school holds ambitious expectations for all pupils with additional and special educational needs and disabilities.

The SEND Code of Practice (DfE, 2015) identifies four broad areas of need for pupils with SEND:

These broad areas of need that pupils might present can help teachers to determine the specific barrier, the severity of the need in relation to the content of their classroom teaching at a particular point, as well as where more specialist support might be required.

The broad categories of need will also enable senior leaders to consider how teachers are being supported to form a repertoire of strategies in response to the pupil’s need for a task, or to a component of the curriculum about to be taught. As opposed to a more fixed approach that may not attend to a need, which could manifest and vary according to context.

How can leaders ensure that all pupils experience success in a school setting?

Focusing on providing pupils with high-quality teaching is critical for all school leaders. They highlight that all pupils must be included in high quality teaching; they must be an integral part of the school’s community and must benefit from the same opportunities as their peers. (EEF, 2020)

This EEF report goes onto point out there is strong evidence that high quality teaching for pupils with SEND should be firmly based on strategies that will either already be in the repertoire of every mainstream teacher or can be relatively easily added to it. Their guidance encourages teachers to develop a repertoire of strategies that can be used flexibly in response to individual needs. These strategies can be used as the starting point for classroom teaching for all pupils.

The five strategies outlined by Davies and Henderson (EEF, 2020) have been identified as having relatively strong evidence for their effectiveness for supporting all pupils and particularly those with SEND.

Here are five strategies for effective support of all pupils, particularly those with SEND:

Flexible grouping:

Recent research on the experience of pupils with an EHC (education and health care) plan found that they are often grouped together in classes with other pupils identified with SEND or considered as low-attaining and are segregated from the rest of their peers. An alternative approach might be to allocate pupils to groups flexibly based on the individual needs that they currently share with other pupils. Such groups can be formed for an explicit purpose and disbanded when that purpose is met.

Cognitive and metacognitive strategies:

Teachers should explicitly teach cognitive and metacognitive strategies to all pupils. Cognition is the mental process involved in knowing, understanding, and learning. Cognitive strategies are skills like memorisation techniques or subject-specific strategies like methods to solve problems in maths. Metacognition refers to the ways in which pupils monitor and purposefully direct their thinking and learning. Metacognitive strategies are strategies pupils can use to monitor or control their cognition, such as checking whether their approach to solving a mathematics problem worked or considering which cognitive strategy is the best fit for a task.

Explicit instruction:

Refers to a range of teacher-led approaches focused on teacher demonstration followed by guided practice and independent practice. Several reviews of the research on effective support for pupils in mathematics and reading have provided support for explicit instruction. One popular approach to explicit instruction is Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’ (Rosenshine, 2012). Explicit instruction is not just ‘lecturing’, ‘teaching by telling’, or ‘transmission teaching’; it usually begins with detailed teacher explanations, followed by extensive practice of routine exercises, and later moves on to independent work.

Using technology to support pupils:

There is evidence that for pupils with SEND, technology can be a useful tool for supporting teaching. Successful approaches could include using instructional apps (apps that provide instruction, modelling, or practice opportunities for a wide range of skills); non-instructional apps (apps that provide tools to aid learning, such as note-taking apps); and speech-generating apps (to augment the communication skills of pupils with communication difficulties).


Is a metaphor for temporary support that is removed when it is no longer required. Initially, a teacher would provide enough support so that pupils can successfully complete tasks that they could not do independently. This requires effective assessment to gain a precise understanding of the pupil’s current capabilities. Support could be visual, verbal, or written. The teacher will gradually remove the support (the scaffold) as the pupil becomes able to complete the task independently. If the teacher is supporting a pupil with SEND, that scaffold may be in place for longer to promote confidence and competence that can be sustained once the scaffold is removed. School leaders should consider the extent to which teachers are supported in implementing the five strategies presented here and how these may be adapted to meet the needs of specific pupils.

Supporting all pupils

Davies and Henderson (EEF, 2020) highlight that it is not helpful to say that a pupil ‘is SEND’ or ‘there are SEND pupils in our class’, and this language may undermine efforts to establish and maintain high expectations for the learning of all pupils.

It is more helpful to say pupils ‘have SEND’ or ‘there are pupils with SEND’ within a class. Furthermore, they highlight that SEND is not a fixed or permanent characteristic; it is a recognition that at a specific time a child has additional learning needs.

At times, many pupils will require tailored or additional support to fully participate in everything the school has to offer. School leaders should carefully reflect on how SEND provision can be actively deployed for any pupil, at any time if additional needs are identified.

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