SEND: Four ways to make your classroom more inclusive

Pupils with SEND often find themselves unintentionally 'excluded' in class - here one Sendco offers teachers some advice

SEND: Here one Sendco offers tips to prevent SEND pupils from feeling excluded in the mainstream classroom

We have an increasing number of children in our classrooms with complex needs and behaviours. 

According to government statistics, the proportion of children with SEND has risen for the third year in a row to 14.9 per cent. 

There are many ways that these children can experience unintentional “everyday exclusions” in the classroom.


Quick read: Why early years SEND support isn't working

Quick listen: How misbehaviour can be a sign of language disorder

Want to know more? SEND? Pupil premium? Why we need to rethink how we ‘label’ pupils


Here are some top tips to develop a more inclusive practice.

Supporting SEND pupils

Keep your expectations high

One of the greatest advantages of the current "mastery" trend is that, by its very nature, it encourages teachers to have the same aspirations for all students. 

Choose challenging texts for your class readers, instead of easier ones that you are sure that everyone can access.

You can scaffold and differentiate by providing key vocabulary, story maps, even an audio version of the text. 

Your lowest-attaining students, some of whom are likely to be on the SEN register, will benefit from the dialogue and rich conversations you can have with the whole class.

Abandon your ability groups 

Gone are the days when teachers were expected to differentiate three ways just for the sake of it. Fixed ability groups do not support aspirational expectations for any children apart from those on the “top table”. 

Most children know, without a shadow of a doubt, where they stand in the academic pecking order.

Being lumped in the bottom group is not only demoralising, but also self-fulfilling: if you are providing the groups with differentiated work, and therefore differentiated expectations, then you are capping your expectations of those children right at the very start.

Have a ‘communication-friendly classroom’ 

This will have benefits for all your children. The Department for Education noted this year that speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) is now the most prevalent area of SEND, accounting for 23 per cent of needs. 

The language of learning can be technical, can be specific and can be completely unintelligible to a growing number of our children with communication difficulties. 

An easy way to support these children is to create a positive atmosphere where it is normal and accepted to ask for help and make mistakes. As a teacher, we can model both of these strategies – what group of children don’t enjoy pointing out a teacher’s mistakes?

Consider rewards and sanctions

“If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach. If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach. If a child doesn’t know how to behave we……… teach? ……… punish?” 

A slightly edited version of Tom Herner’s famous lines, but there’s no mistaking the point he was making.

Behaviour is another form of communication which children are learning to control, and can be a particular challenge to those children with SEND. 

It is important to remind children that, while they may have made a bad choice, they are still a good person.

The sooner you can catch them being good the better; lavishing praise wherever you can, even on your most challenging pupils, will help to build up their sense of self-worth and belonging.

@AgentSenco is an experienced teacher with a new role as Sendco. She is based in Kent

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