Practical advice on specific and carefully planned interventions for those pupils’ needs that cannot be met in ‘ordinary’ classrooms

Last week and the week before, we looked at inclusive practice and how children’s diverse needs can be met in ‘ordinary’ classrooms. This week, we acknowledge that for some pupils, this will not be enough. There will be a small but often significant, minority of learners for whom specific and carefully planned intervention can be extremely valuable.

Support for SENCOs

You will have a ‘provision map’ (or a differently named document) listing all the different kinds of SEN support being offered in school, with details of which pupils are benefiting from each.

If this isn’t already shared with colleague, it can be very useful to do so. First, it illustrates the scope of your work and how much is on offer, and secondly, it enables teachers to suggest individual pupils for a particular intervention, (though you may already have ‘waiting lists’ for small groups and one-to-one work).

An important issue in some schools is to avoid the situation where a class or subject teacher constructs a sort of ‘waiting room’ in their heads − where pupils who are waiting for extra help reside and thereby become solely ‘the SENCO’s responsibility’. There is a huge range of interventions currently employed by schools − not all of them requiring a vast amount of time and/or additional funding. The list below offers some ideas.

Examples of additional provision:

  • One-to-one tuition − eg Reading Recovery (highly trained teacher required, but this is the Rolls Royce of literacy interventions and very good value in the long run); precision teaching (training needed, but many TAs deliver this very effectively).
  • One-to-one support − eg TA, reading buddy, mentor: are there possibilities here for involving parents, governors, early-retirers from the local community, past pupils, students from a local FE college or HEI?
  • Speech and language therapy − SLTs are very thin on the ground in most areas, but some schools now collaborate to employ a therapist between them. If you can’t secure a SLT to visit on a regular basis, arrange for a ‘consultation’ meeting where he or she can advise about suitable intervention programmes (see
  • Small group intervention − eg language development, reading, writing, spelling, numeracy: whether delivered by a teacher or TA, the effectiveness often relies on following a carefully planned and well structured programme, with high quality materials − and importantly, making sure that class teachers keep up with what is being covered so that they can reinforce new learning in the classroom.
  • Social skills/emotional literacy development − again, this can be effectively delivered by volunteers as well as TAs and teachers, but good planning and clear objectives are essential; there is plenty of published material available , including the SEAL resources.
  • Behaviour support − this can range from frequent ‘touching base’ liaison between pupil and teacher/mentor through the day, to the keeping of detailed behaviour diaries, specific rewards/sanctions and daily updates to parents.
  • Motor co-ordination programme − ‘wake up and shake up’ type programmes are proving very successful in many schools; your occupational therapist may be able to help with designing a programme − or see for example, Michele Lee’s book Co-ordination Difficulties (David Fulton) which details step-by-step interventions.
  • Nurture group − a small special class that provides a safe and predictable structured environment in which children are given opportunities to re-visit early missed ‘nurturing’ experiences (see
  • Circle of friends − setting up a supporting peer group can make a big difference to a child at risk of being bullied, or just ‘left out’ − whatever the reasons.
  • Lunchtime reading club − somewhere warm and comfy, with adults and/or older pupils to listen to readers; make sure you have a good range of books and audiobooks (plays are always especially popular for reading aloud). You may have to limit numbers, but always allow a child with SEN, whom you really want to attend, to bring a friend.
  • Keyboard skills − can make all the difference to pupils who benefit from using a keyboard rather than handwriting; follow a scheme and award certificates for achievement, eg 2Type, available from 2simple Software (
  • Anger management − this can be especially effective when delivered by someone from outside school – the educational psychologist, a PE teacher/tutor from a local secondary school or college, judo expert from youth centre, etc.
  • Peer tutoring − train the tutors and tutees.
  • Parent workshop − lots of the strategies that we as teachers take for granted are unknown to many parents. Invite them into school, reassure them that they are not alone and offer some straightforward, practical ideas for how they can help their children to make good progress in school.

Remember to monitor and evaluate every intervention you use. You need to know what is effective and what is not, and be able to provide evidence of your success to the HT and governors. Some interventions are much more long-term than others: parent workshops for example, may not translate immediately into better reading scores for the children − but collect parents’ comments (‘This has really helped me to be more confident about reading with Harry and practising his key words’) and ask teachers about pupils’ behaviour, as well as achievement (‘Amanda has been a different girl since her mum started coming to school on Thursdays – much better behaved’). When an intervention does not produce the results hoped for, you may need to observe how it is being run and assess it for pupil/adult relationships, timing, venue, resources, quality of planning and delivery, suitability/training of adult involved.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2007

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.