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SEND focus: A different view of progress

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Assessment in schools is often driven by the need to show progress, and this can be difficult when the level that a child is working at is not handily described by expectations in the national curriculum. Simple descriptors used for children with special educational needs and disability that can be entered into a school tracking system are unlikely to tell you, or parents, the whole story. For that, you need to expand your idea of what assessment of a child’s capabilities is, and start keeping notes. Here’s a brief guide:

Academic (cognition)

This is the learning part, and the bit where national expectations, if they apply to your child, might be useful, as they describe what the child can actually do, in learning terms, in class.

Do they know their letters? How are they with calculations? Can they tell the time? Most importantly, how much can they do on their own?

Often, we can be hoodwinked into believing that a child can do more than they really can. It could be that they never actually do work unsupported. Knowing what children with SEND can do on their own makes sure that, come the end of the year and the start of the next, there aren’t nasty shocks.


Many children with SEND struggle in this area. Sometimes, children use their behaviour to cover up what they can’t do. Sometimes, their behaviour is the problem. Recording progress is essential and we must give details about what is happening and why.

Language and communication

This aspect of development comes in two different strands: receptive (understanding) and expressive (talking). Is there a mismatch between the two? How well does the child enunciate? Take notes and maybe talk to a speech and language therapist.


If you have an “included” child in your mainstream class it is likely that part of the reasoning was social inclusion. How is the child getting on with their peers? At what stage of social development are they at? How well do they understand their feelings, or those of other people?


It is entirely possible that an included child could come to you with a variety of self-care needs. The one that gets most teachers going will be toileting. Keep track of improvements.

Motor control

Many children with SEND experience difficulties in the way they control large and small movements. Can they walk, run, hop and jump? Are they able to climb on to gym equipment? Can they stick their work in a book?

Nancy Gedge is a teacher at Widden Primary School in Gloucester

This is an article from the 11 March edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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