Parents’ and carers’ guide to the new SEN reforms – September 2014

Learning is not a linear process. All children develop differently. They make progress at different speeds, at different times and in different ways. There are periods of rapid progress and others of seemingly slower progress, when consolidation takes place. There may be times when learning plateaus, with children seemingly not making any additional progress. These may be followed by periods of rapid improvement and fast progress. For these reasons it is vitally important that parents and teachers avoid making hasty judgements about how capable a child is – especially early on, in the first years of schooling. Some children take longer than others to develop confidence and achieve success – and that’s perfectly normal. They need more time. Conversely, some children get off to a flying start. Later their rate of learning may slow down. This is also perfectly normal.

At our school teachers do not use the labels ‘low ability’, ‘middle ability’ or ‘high ability’ as these terms can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Put simply, if an adult continually tells a child they are ‘low ability’ the child is likely to respond accordingly. Instead staff at Barnes use the terms ‘high attaining’, ‘middle attaining’ and ‘lower attaining’ followed by the key phrase ‘at this time’, or ‘currently’. Research shows conclusively that all children perform better when their parents and teacher consistently give them the message that they can and will succeed. This message is communicated in what they say, what they do, even how they look at a child. The message is that every child can and will succeed – for some it may take longer, but it is just a matter of time . . . and effort. This approach works as the consistent very high outcomes for all our children demonstrate.


For the purposes of this article I will discuss three groups of learners:

  • those who are currently lower attaining when compared to their peers and did not start their school career at our school. These pupils join us much later, usually in a Key Stage 2 class, having attended other schools. They are performing below, and in some cases considerably below, the class average
  • pupils who find learning a struggle at some point – often early on – and may be performing below the class average for a short, or longer, period of time
  • pupils with significant, and often complex, learning needs. Many of these pupils will have a statement of Special Educational Needs (or, from September 2014, an Education Health and Care Plan).

Let’s start with those pupils who arrive late at Barnes and are lower attaining in comparison to their peers. It should be said immediately that some of the pupils who join our school in Key Stage 2 are amongst the highest attaining individuals. Nevertheless, there is a significant proportion of late entrants who arrive with learning needs.We have proved time and time again that pupils who join our school late can make rapid, sustained progress . . . and succeed. We can point to countless examples over the years of pupils who joined us in Year 3, 4, 5, or even 6, who struggled at first, but subsequently made rapid progress as a result of our high expectatations culture, very good teaching and targeted additional support.

The establishment of a close working partnership between home and school is key to enabling these pupils to succeed. It is always really helpful, and greatly appreciated, if parents can be open and transparent about their child’s current level of performance and any learning difficulty they may be aware of. Hearing an honest parental appraisal of any diffciulties their child might have is not only immensely helpful to us, it is also in their child’s best interests. The sooner we know what the issues are, the sooner we can begin the process of dealing with them.

Last academic year (2014) five pupils who joined either at the start of Year 5, or at the start of Year 6, achieved the following outcomes:

Subject Pupil 1 Pupil 2 Pupil 3 Pupil 4 Pupil 5
Reading Level 5 Level 4 Level 4 Level 5 Level 5
Writing Level 5 Level 4 Level 4 Level 5 Level 5
Gram, punct & spelling Level 5 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5
Maths Level 5 Level 5 Level 4 Level 6 Level 4

* Please note that Level 4 is the government expectation for an 11 year old, with Level 5 being a high performance standard for that age.


Impressive outcomes! I would now like to move on to the second group I mentioned: pupils who take a little longer to get going do, and may even perform well below the class average for an extended period of time. These individuals do very well indeed by the time they leave our school. They receive the highest level of targeted additional support that our budget allows. In 2014-15 the following additional support is being provided to this group of learners:

  • Year 2: Daily one-to-one reading and paired (1:2) mathematics support twice a week.
  • Year 3: Four times a week one-to-one, or paired reading and paired mathematics support twice a week.
  • Year 4: Additional booster classes, along with some reading support, including some daily reading for certain pupils
  • Year 5: Targeted support lessons (1:5 ratio) twice a week with Anna Freeland, the school’s SENCo; daily reading for identified pupils, plus additional maths booster classes led by a classteacher
  • Year 6: Daily reading for identified pupils, plus additional English and maths booster classes; twice weekly maths lessons with Mr Hartley; morning booster classes during the one week of the Easter holidays

The outcomes for those Year 6 pupils in their 2014 SATs tests who at some point were on the school’s Special Educational Needs Register are typical of the performance, over the years, of this second group of pupils.

Pupil Reading Writing Gram, punct & spelling Maths
Pupil 1 Level 4 Level 4 Level 4 Level 4
Pupil 2 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5
Pupil 3 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5 Level 4
Pupil 4 Level 5 Level 5 Level 4 Level 4
Pupil 5 Level 4 Level 4 Level 4 Level 4
Pupil 6 Level 4 Level 5 Level 4 Level 4
Pupil 7 Level 5 Level 4 Level 5 Level 4
Pupil 8 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5 Level 5
Pupil 9 Level 4 Level 5 Level 5 Level 4
Pupil 10 Level 4 Level 5 Level 4 Level 4
Pupil 11 Level 4 Level 5 Level 4 Level 4

All of these eleven pupils reached the national performance expectation for their age by the time they left our school, despite the fact that at certain times in their school career they were making slow progress. Pleasingly 45% of their combined outcomes were at Level 5, a high performance standard for an eleven year old. We have considerable confidence in the way we organise targeted support to enable pupils who at some point in their school career have been lower attainng to succeed.

We remain a very inclusive school. At this time there are 11 pupils with an educational statement (approximately 3% of our school roll). This figure is typical for our school. The highest number of statemented pupils we have had in any of the last ten years is 16; the lowest 10. Some of our pupils have very significant and complex needs. Enabling them to reach the national performance standard for their age by 11 is a considerable challenge. Sometimes, despite our very best efforts, some pupils don’t quite reach this standard. Last Year in Year 6 there were three statemented pupils. They performed as follows:

Pupil Reading Writing Gram, punct & spelling Maths
Pupil 1 Level 3 Level 4 Level 4 Level 3
Pupil 2 Level 5 Level 3 Level 4 Level 4
Pupil 3 Level 4 Level 3 Level 3 Level 2

These results may not seem especially strong. In fact they represent very high achievement when one takes into account the complexity of the three children’s difficulties. In previous years statemented pupils have done even better.

Admission arrangements

The school’s governing body is committed to an inclusive admissions policy. For that reason the school always has a considerably higher number of pupils with an educational statement, or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, than the national average. For our reception intake we give preference to pupils with statements and EHC plans. We are also sometimes sympathetic to requests to admit SEN pupils with a statement or EHC as in year admissions. Occasionally, in special circumstances, this will involve us going over our stipulated number of 30 pupils per class. We are, however, mindful of the capacity within the school to meet the needs of a very large number of pupils with complex needs. The financial costs and management time costs incurred result in us having to judge whether the admission of another pupil with complex SEN is compatible with the provision of efficient education for other pupils. Admission requests are therefore considered on an individual basis.

Ensuring that SEN pupils are treated the same as everyone else

We have high expectations for all our pupils, including those with SEN. We expect them to succeed and look to overcome any barriers they may be experiencing which are hindering their academic or social progress. These pupils are treated like everyone else. Many receive additional support, but we are always careful about the possibility of stigmatisation, or a pupil missing out on a much loved subject, like PE. Some extra support is offered in class; on other occasions we withdraw pupils for a set period of time. In these circumstances we always think carefully about the timing of withdrawal and take steps to avoid a pupil re-joining their class  in mid session. Click here for some principles of effective practice that are discussed with all teachers.

Access facilities for pupils with SEN and our accessibility plan

We have an up-to-date access plan and this ensures that the needs of physical disabilities are not discriminated against, but instead given every advantage to access all parts of the school site.


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