SEN children make big step forward in English and maths, according to new report

Published on Thursday, 17 November 2011 14:36
Posted by Scott Buckler

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have made remarkable progress in attainment, behaviour and attendance under a Government-funded pilot, according to a new report published today

Results from the Achievement for All programme, which has been running in around 450 schools for the last two years, saw children make greater progress in English and maths than other SEND children across the country. A significant number even exceeded the progress of non-SEND children.

The independent evaluation, carried out by the University of Manchester, also shows pupil attendance significantly improved – with an average reduction in persistent absence of 10 per cent.

Key findings from the evaluation show:


  • The pilot was successful in narrowing the attainment gap between SEND and non-SEND children.
  • 37 per cent of children achieved or exceeded expected levels of progress for all pupils nationally in English.
  • 42 per cent of children achieved or exceeded expected levels of progress for all pupils nationally in maths.
  • Improvements in attendance with a decrease of just over 10 per cent in persistent absenteeism.
  • Behaviour of pupils improved, with reductions in teacher-reported bullying and behaviour problems.
  • Awareness and focus on SEND improved – with more personalised teaching and learning.
  • There was better engagement with parents and teachers – with schools reporting excellent relationships with parents rising from 12 per cent to 48 per cent.
  • 90 per cent of schools have put Achievement for All in their school plan, and nearly all said they will continue with regular conversations with parents.
  • For children with complex needs, those on free school meals (FSM) and those with English as an additional language (EAL), progress was good but slower than their peers.

Children's Minister Sarah Teather said:

It's fantastic to see that Achievement for All has had such impressive results. This shows just what can be achieved for children with SEND with strong school leadership, innovative thinking and close working with families.

Children with SEND deserve the same chances as other children. We are working hard with schools and parents to make progress on the proposals we outlined in the SEND Green Paper.

As part of this, we are able to provide £14 million to help fund the roll-out of Achievement for All. Schools can now see for themselves the evidence that this programme works. We want more schools to come forward and sign up. I'm pleased that Brian Lamb will be leading the charity responsible for advising schools on how to run the programme in their schools.

Achievement for All was a large-scale pilot, funded by the Government and supported by the National College, to improve the attainment of pupils with SEND in English and maths. It ran in around 450 schools across 10 local authorities and tracked the progress of pupils with SEND in Years 1, 5, 7 and 10. The pilot included children across the full spectrum of need, including those with statements, school action, and school action plus.

To help support the successful roll-out of Achievement for All in more schools, the report recommends:

  • A strong focus on school-led improvement to transform the outcomes for children with SEND. The most successful schools in the pilot had strong leadership from the head teacher or senior leadership team – rather than relying purely on the SEN co-ordinator (SENCO).
  • Teachers should carry out regular target reviews with parents to monitor progress of children and assess where extra help may be required.
  • Regular, scheduled conversations on educational outcomes between parents and teachers should take place, with teachers given extra training in managing these relationships.
  • Achievement for All is most successful when schools build on existing good practice and share ideas between schools.
  • For schools with high proportion of FSM, EAL and children with complex needs, schools should think about focusing additional resources on supporting these groups when implementing Achievement for All.

The Government is investing £14 million to roll out the programme across the country so more children can benefit. The programme is being delivered by a new charity, Achievement for All 3As, chaired by Brian Lamb, supported by PwC. The charity is working with the New Schools Network to support Academies and Free Schools to take up the Achievement for All offer. Achievement for All 3As is currently working with 41 local authorities and 598 schools. The Government estimates that overall 1,000 schools will have signed up to the programme by April next year.

Brian Lamb, chair of the inquiry into SEN and of the 3As Achievement for All charity, commented:

The results of the evaluation are great news for the million-plus children with SEN and their families in this country. My inquiry showed that the single biggest challenge is improving outcomes for children with SEN. The evaluation totally endorses Achievement for All's approach. For the first time we now have a proven intervention that can improve outcomes and change the lives of children and families. By adopting this approach schools can ensure that children with SEN have the chance to reach their full potential.

PwC partner Steve Beet commented:

Achievement for All is a ground-breaking programme for its success in working with schools to improve the education and social outcomes of children across the nation. In leading delivery of this programme for Government, our partnership with 3As as a new social enterprise, mainly staffed by experienced school practitioners, is a great example of how the public, private and third sectors can combine their diverse skills and expertise creatively and have a positive impact.

Author of the report, Professor Neil Humphrey, said:

Our various analyses suggest that Achievement for All has been extremely successful in improving academic and other outcomes for children with special educational needs. These are amongst the most vulnerable children in the education system, and as such the findings are very encouraging indeed. AfA is not about revolution, but rather the evolution of systems, processes and practices designed to support pupils with special needs in school. It provides a clear framework for action but also allows schools flexibility so that they can tailor the suggested strategies and approaches to their own needs and circumstances.

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