What is special educational needs?

What is special educational needs? Find the UK definition here as well as information about what different kinds of special educational need there are plus what resources and support are out there to help you.

What is special educational needs?

What is special educational needs? Find out here.

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is a legal term. It describes the needs of a child who has a difficulty or disability which makes learning harder for them than for other children their age. Sometimes schools in the UK will say SEN or Special Needs but they mean the same thing. Schools aim to provide students who have identified SEND with support, or special provisions to allow them to have the same education opportunities as others of the same age.

What kinds of SEND are there?

SEND usually fall into one or more of the following four areas:

1. Communication and interaction

  • Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)
  • Autism (ASC/ASD)

2. Cognition and learning

  • Specific learning difficulty (SpLD)
  • Moderate learning difficulty (MLD)
  • Severe learning difficulty (SLD)
  • Profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD)

3. Emotional, social and mental health

  • Attachment difficulties
  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Mental health issues
  • Attention and hyperactivity difficulties

4. Physical and sensory

  • Visual impairment (VI)
  • Hearing impairment (HI)
  • Multi-sensory impairment (MSI/Deafblind)
  • Physical disability (PD)


Children who have needs that fall into a mixture of these four categories are considered to have ‘complex needs’. A child may also be described as having ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ learning difficulties depending on the degree of their needs and the impact these have on their lives.

Where can I find support materials?

The good news is that there is a wealth of information out there to support your individual needs. The advent of social media and the internet means that information is now easier to come by than ever before. We even have our very own SEND Resources section here on the Axcis blog! You’ll find worksheets and practical ideas as well as guest articles from professionals in the field and useful support sheets which give guidance on how to work with people who have particular SEND conditions. We are also affiliated with the National Autistic Society and nasen. Both of these organisations can provide a broad range of information, training and support, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for with Axcis, why not try them, too?

Did you find what you’re looking for?

If you are looking for information that you’ve simply been unable to find, why not let us know in the comments section below? We can then do some research and provide an answer in a future blog, or point you in the right direction for guidance. We’d love to help you in any way we can.

Are you seeking SEND work or staff?

Register with Axcis and become connected to a range of specialist and mainstream schools in your area for work.

If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with us today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area, so if you need work (or indeed staff), why not give us a call today?


Introducing our new Axcis South West Consultant…

Axcis are pleased to announce that our South West Team has a new consultant – Suzie Bridge, so if you’re seeking work (or staff) in the South West England area, why not register online or get in touch with Suzie? Find out a bit more about her here.

We asked Suzie to tell us about herself:

Suzie Bridge

Prior to joining Axcis, I achieved a degree in education, specialising in disability. I also have experience teaching children and young adults from mainstream and SEND backgrounds.


I have always enjoyed supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities. The rewards for both the children and myself are incomparable – and knowing that I am making a difference to their lives is something which I feel honoured to be a part of. There really is something special about seeing children flourish.


I am proud bring this knowledge and experience to my role at Axcis. I am passionate about listening to the needs of both my candidates and clients, and ensuring that I find the very best possible recruitment solutions for both parties.


When not at work, I spend a lot of time with my horse – Ollie. I have a keen interest in all equestrian activities. I also enjoy rugby, gardening and reading. I have done charity work in the past – my most favourite was when I went to India for a month and helped teach children there. I love the feeling of giving something back and contributing to the greater good.


Would you like to work with Suzie?

If you are seeking work (or staff) in South West England, then get in touch with Suzie today to see how she can help. Or if you’re seeking work in any other area, register online and we will put you in touch with your personal consultant in your local office.


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Name Axcis Andy’s new sidekick and win £100 in shopping vouchers for your school

We have exciting news here at Axcis Education Recruitment. Our loveable teddy bear mascot, Axcis Andy has made a new friend. We are asking for your help to give him a name.  We are providing you with two classroom worksheets to complete with your students. You can choose which one you use, or you can do both – it’s up to you!


Axcis Andy (left) and his new lion friend (right). Help us to name him and you could win £100 in shopping vouchers for your school.

Once you have completed your worksheet(s), simply scan (or take photos of them) and email them to us at info@axcis.co.uk. You can send one per student, or you can choose the best entry from your class and just send us that one.

About the worksheets

Worksheet 1 is a story activity. All you need to do is use the missing words (listed under each paragraph) to complete the blanks. The last paragraph asks for a name, which isn’t listed. This is where your students can get creative. We’d love to hear your ideas! Download worksheet 1 here. 


Worksheet 2 is a drawing and colouring activity. We’ve provided a photograph of the lion toy. The task for your class is to simply draw him in the space provided, and come up with a name. Again, we are open to any and all suggestions. Download worksheet 2 here. 

The small print

For confidentiality purposes, we have not asked for student names or details on the worksheets themselves. However, if you would like to submit class or individual student details when you send us your entries, you may of course do so at your discretion. Any details submitted may be used when announcing entries and winners.


Axcis reserves the right to use all images submitted for marketing and communication purposes. Selected entries will be displayed on our website and winners will be announced on our social media pages.


This competition will close on Friday 19th October 2018, with the winning name to be announced after the half term break. We regret that entries received from Axcis staff, families or affiliates will not be considered.

Do you need to find SEND staff?

If you need to find a SEND specialist for your school or setting, Axcis can help! From teachers and teaching assistants to therapists and school leaders, we have a broad range of staff on our books seeking work. We can assist with day to day supply cover or long-term and permanent requirements. Plus, our service is free until we find you someone you want to hire, so what do you have to lose? Get in touch with Axcis today! 

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How to learn names… it’s that time of year again!

Are you a teacher or member of school support staff who is struggling to learn the names of the children in your class(es)? If so, this blog is for you. Read on for some helpful ideas…


When I was a teacher, I worked in secondary schools as a science specialist. This meant that I saw around 200 different faces each week. It was a nightmare to learn all their names, so I did some research and came up with these simple ideas which might help you, too.

1 – Seating Plans

This is an obvious one which you’ve probably already tried. By asking the children to sit in assigned places, you can simply keep a plan on a sheet of paper in front of you with their names written in the spaces where each child sits. This method works well until you have a room change, or do an activity where the children are not in their usual seats. So it’s a useful tool to help, but is not the answer in the long-run. Plus, building relationships with pupils is about showing them that you want to get to know them and looking down at a sheet of paper because you can never remember their name is probably not sending the right message on that front!

2 – Name Badges

Name badges can be a good starting point for learning names

Again, an obvious idea and one that can be useful for the first few lessons each year. Simply get your students to put their name on sticky labels and wear them while they are in your class. This will also help the children to get to know each other (and you can sell the idea to them in this way!) But after those first few lessons, you’ll be on your own so you need some other tricks up your sleeve to get those names committed to memory.

3 – Visual Associations

This article gives some useful hints and tips to learn names. One of which is from a teacher called James Paterson, psychology teacher at LVS Ascot, and finalist in the World Memory Championships. He explains that:

“My top advice for recalling names is to create a visual association between the student’s name and their face, no matter how weird or illogical it might seem,” he says. “If your student is called Oliver for example, you could imagine him begging for more marks, like Oliver Twist – it’s incredible how easily the full name can be recalled with only the most tenuous of associations.”

This method may take a little time to implement but should help you to remember many of the names of your students.

4 – Flash Cards

Learning names isn’t just going to happen by itself. Much like learning information for an exam, you’ll need to invest a little time and energy into learning the names of the children in your classes. Another simple method is to make some flash cards and practice at home. Many schools can provide you with a visual register of your class. This should include a photograph alongside the names of the students. Use this to create a set of flashcards with the children’s names on one side and their photo on the other. You can then test yourself, or get someone else to do it with you until you know all of their names. This method could also be combined with the visual association method to speed up the process.

5 – Use their name labels for help

The vast majority of students will have something with their name on – it may be their bag or it may be their pencil case/books etc. Identify a time in your routine when you can see such items and use it to practise the names of your students. For example, if your class come in every morning with a book bag, you could stand by the door and greet them each by name as they come in, using their bag as a cue if you get stuck. If you repeat this every day, you’ll know their names in no time. Alternatively, you could insist that each lesson is started with exercise books/diaries etc on desks and whenever you walk around the room, have a quick peek at it for a reminder of the names as you speak to the children. The more you say it out loud while looking at them, the faster you’ll commit those names to memory.

Do you have any other methods?

If you have any useful tricks to learn the names of your students, why not share them with us in the comments section below? We’d love to hear how you manage to learn all the names of your students each year, and it might help other people, too!

Are you seeking SEND work?

Register with Axcis and become connected to a range of specialist and mainstream schools in your area for work.

If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with us today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area, so if you need work, why not register now?

Axcis, proud to sponsor a nasen SEND award

Axcis are thrilled to sponsor a nasen SEND award – find out more here!


The nasen awards seek to recognise and share the best practice which, ultimately, really benefits children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities (SEND).


Axcis are thrilled to sponsor an award again this year. The award we are sponsoring is the Excellent Practice in Special School or Provision Award. This prize is for any special school, setting or provision who have improved outcomes for children and young people with SEND through their outstanding outreach work. We can’t wait to find out who has won and what for (nominations are now closed).

About the event

This year’s nasen Awards ceremony will take place on Friday 19th October at The Waldorf Hilton Hotel. Those shortlisted to win an award will be invited to the black-tie ceremony which will include dinner and drinks.

What are the other categories?

School and organisational categories

  • Excellent Practice in Early Years Award
  • Excellent Practice in Post-16 Education
  • Excellent Practice in Primary School Award
  • Excellent Practice in Secondary School Award
  • Excellent Practice in Special School or Provision Award
  • Exceptional Parental Engagement Award
  • Effective Technology or Resource Award

Individual Categories

  • Young person/Youth achievement Award
  • Inspirational Teacher Award
  • Inspirational Leader Award
  • Learning Support Staff Award
  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Who won  last year?

Last year’s event was a huge success, celebrating the hard work and achievements made by many organisations and individuals within the SEND sector. To find out more, take a look at the nasen webpage dedicated to last year’s winners here.  If you want to learn how to improve your personal or professional practice, or if you’d simply like to stay up to date with developments in the SEND arena, don’t forget to book your place for nasen Live 2019 – early bird tickets go on sale soon, and Axcis will be sponsoring this key event again next year, too.

Are you seeking SEND work or staff?

Register with Axcis and become connected to a range of specialist and mainstream schools in your area for work.

If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with Axcis today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area, so if you need work, why not register now? Alternatively, if you are a school or alternative provision in need of SEND recruitment help, why not contact us and find out how we can help you today?



Child Mental Health Difficulties are rising at an alarming rate. What can we do to slow it down? (Guest post)

An SEMH school leader, Graham Chatterley has become a regular guest-blogger for Axcis. In this post, he discusses the rising issue of child mental health difficulties and what can be done to help our young people before it’s too late.

When the intervention is too late

Graham Chatterley giving a presentation at a recent event

I’ve said many times that the sooner we can get a child into our SEMH setting, the higher the chance we can engage them, repair some of the (emotional) damage and equip those children for a more positive future. Having a child start with us at age 15 gives us little opportunity to influence change for them and we can do nothing more than helping them to get a few qualifications.

When it’s just in time

It is common for the transition to secondary school to be the point at which things become too much for many of our children. They leave the more nurturing, close knit, smaller pool of staff in a primary setting and move into a huge arena of different adults, personalities and a multitude of other children and it becomes too much to cope with. When children come to us at age 11/12, they will often still remember when school was a more positive experience. We have a better chance to rebuild self-esteem and confidence and have a positive impact on that child.

A better time

The bottom line is that the earlier we receive a child, the greater the opportunity we have to help repair any trauma that the child has experienced. It doesn’t need to be rushed or forced – and because of this even more success can usually be seen. Sometimes we can even turn that child around and get them successfully ready to return to a mainstream setting. However, even though this is viewed as success, it must still be remembered that the child has experienced trauma and must continue to receive support.

At a time when child mental health difficulties are skyrocketing. What is causing it? What is being done to prevent it or at least slow it down?

Mental Health referrals for under 11s are up by a third compared to 2 years ago. This is a scary increase and for a setting like ours where the youngest child is 8, we are having to react to a huge national issue.

As part of my outreach work,  I am now liaising more and more with nurseries and key stage 1 settings. Staff at these settings are increasingly struggling to manage the volume of children showing signs of early trauma, and many (staff) lack the skills and training to cope with such children.


What is the reason for this?


Are more children now suffering neglect?


In my opinion, yes they are, but not physical neglect. Although there are definitely more children on the poverty line who are struggling to have their basic needs met – and this is contributing in some cases and is partly attributable to the increase in referrals, the neglect is more often emotional and in many cases it isn’t malicious. It comes from ignorance and a lack of understanding of how damaging it can be.


It comes from a lack of understanding of how a child’s brain develops and how much damage a lack of interaction can cause. I firmly believe that there are so many parents who are unwittingly causing their child trauma by ignoring them while they are on their phones or laptops or occupying children with technology instead of interacting, bonding and teaching them important things like how to regulate their body and emotions. These children are clean, well fed and live in nice houses but their brains aren’t growing as they should be because their needs for interaction, bonding and attunement aren’t being met. This results in a child who fears physical contact, who can’t self-regulate or calm down and who has massive struggles socially and fitting in.

Myth – ‘A quiet baby means they are happy!’

Not necessarily. A quiet baby can mean they have given up trying to get attention and interaction and this can be extraordinarily damaging. When that baby does not have their emotional needs met it can have a lasting impact. They grow up wondering why they weren’t worthy of love and attention. They grow up with brain deficiencies and without all of the tools needed to navigate their way through life.


So, if we can intervene at reception or nursery age, we stand more chance of repairing the damage. We can meet that need for understanding and becoming comfortable with physical contact and repair this fear. We can teach a child to better regulate their emotions and we can improve their social skills. Most importantly, we can build self-esteem up at a point in their lives before education has become about repeated failure. This has to be a good thing but it takes time, it takes resources and it takes very skilled educators. It also usually has to be done at a time when they are falling behind academically (because that’s when “issues” are more likely to be identified) which brings with it its own challenges, especially if developmental damage has already been done.


Again though, it is being reactive and it is trying to repair damage that has already been done. Can’t we just for once be pro-active?

The best time

Before writing this, I spoke to everyone I know who is due to have or has recently had a baby about what advice and knowledge they have been given regarding caring for their baby – and there was plenty. I am not criticising midwives and health visitors. Those new parents knew lots about nutrition, feeding, changing and basic care needs. They all knew the benefits of interacting with respect to bonding and communication and why they should do it.


Sometimes though, just knowing that we probably should do something puts us in a position of complacency. When tired and stressed it’s easy to become a bit lax. However in amongst the guidance and information they had been given, none of them knew to what extent they could damage to their baby if they don’t interact with them enough. For example:


  • They didn’t know that the brain does 80% of its growing in the first 3 years of life.
  • They didn’t know that just as with walking, talking and toilet training, the caregiver must also teach the baby to regulate their ability to calm down and self soothe – otherwise the child will be constantly in a state of stress and alarm.
  • They didn’t know that if babies don’t learn that touch is a pleasurable experience then they will fear physical contact and struggle socially and not know how to play with others, because they have never learned that touch is meant to be a pleasurable experience.
  • They didn’t know that without enough attention the baby’s brain won’t grow! The thinking part of the brain will not develop the same as other children. Impulse control, ability to calm down, memory retention and ability to learn will all be significantly damaged.



If this information was given to them, then I would like to think that they would get off the devices more, interact better and play more. Therefore going some way to put a halt to this alarming rise in children who are showing signs of emotional neglect. Even if a small percentage of parents were shocked into action then the impact could be huge. I spoke to one parent who is due her second baby any day now and her other daughter is 1. She hadn’t been given this information but she remembered me showing her a 3 minute video called the ‘still face experiment’ about how not interacting with baby quickly causes distress. That video impacted her so much that she went from being on the phone regularly to it only coming out when that child is asleep. Now, I’m sure she would have been a great parent anyway but having that information in the back of her mind made her an even better one! If this vital information was a big part of pre and antenatal care it could make such a difference. I am convinced that if parents knew the extent to which they could damage their children just by being lax in their parenting and not as emotionally available as possible then we could get a lot to change.



I work with many parents who can’t put their children 1st and this won’t change them. However I also work with many more who just weren’t aware of the damage they were doing. If we can help them by linking services, being proactive and informing them of potential harm, then surely that makes sense.


Graham Chatterley



Introducing our new North West Regional Manager….

Axcis are pleased to introduce our new North West Regional Manager, Emma Brown Lyons. Emma is managing our Manchester, Liverpool and North Wales Teams, so why not get in touch with Emma if you’re seeking work or staff in those areas?

We asked Emma to tell us about herself:

Emma Brown Lyons, Axcis North West Regional Manager

I hold a BA (Hons) in Physical Education and have four years of experience supporting children with additional needs in both mainstream settings and alternative provisions in the Manchester area.


This experience, combined with the fact that I live with a profoundly autistic individual gives me the understanding, passion and drive to ensure that I find excellent candidates for the provisions I work with.


My approach is very much to first understand – I do this by visiting your setting and listening to what works for you. Every provision is different and every child an individual, so their staffing needs must be met accordingly.


With regards to overseeing my teams, quality comes first! I would rather that we didn’t send candidates to our schools at all than send staff who are unsuitable, and I advise my teams to follow this mantra as well.


In my spare time, I enjoy running and I have recently developed a love for OCR (obstacle course racing) training – having now completed Total Warrior and Tough Mudder. Who knows – maybe there could be a NW team event here soon!


Would you like to work with Emma?

Emma oversees the North Wales, Manchester and Liverpool areas for Axcis. If you are seeking work (or staff) in this location, then get in touch with Emma today to see how she can help. Or if you’re seeking work in any other area, register online and we will put you in touch with your personal consultant in your local office.



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Axcis September Giveaway: Classroom Craft Hamper (over 650 items!)

September is back to school month and to help you stock up your classroom craft cupboard, we are giving away this fantastic classroom craft hamper, containing over 650 items! So why not take a look and get your name in the hat for our FREE September prize giveaway?

About the prize

In our fantastic classroom craft hamper, you will find the following items:


WIN this fantastic classroom craft hamper in the Axcis September giveaway.

  1. 200 sheets of A4 coloured paper
  2. 70 coloured felt pens
  3. 60 sheets of A4 plain white card
  4. 60 colourful pipe cleaners
  5. 60 colouring pencils
  6. 50 plain lolly sticks
  7. 50 coloured lolly sticks
  8. 32 blue ball point pens
  9. 30 HB pencils
  10. 20 rolls sticky tape
  11. 20 tubes colourful glitter
  12. 10 glue sticks

How to enter the Axcis Giveaway

It’s completely free to enter, simply click on the link below


and select how you’d like to enter. That’s it!

Register today and work for Axcis

If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with Axcis today and find out how we can assist you? We have offices nationwide and a team of expert consultants who have proven relationships with specialist and mainstream schools in your area, so if you need work, why not register now?


Terms and Conditions are applicable to all giveaway entrants.

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Candidate of the Term: Summer 2018 Winners

Who are the winners of the Axcis Candidate of the Term Summer 2018 awards? And what did they do to go above and beyond the call of duty for the schools they are working in?

The nominees

All nominees were given a certificate of appreciation. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?!

We had lots of lovely nominations from the schools we work with. These were all published on our blog for anyone who missed them. Selecting a winner wasn’t easy, and all nominees received a certificate of appreciation for the hard work they do, but after much deliberation, winners were selected…

And the winners are…

Georgia, working for Axcis Liverpool

Reason for nomination: Georgia has supported Sam, a 6 th form student with an EHCP during this academic year.  Sam had a history of difficulties prior to coming to us. Georgia has helped Sam immerse herself into 6th form and has given her the support she requires to be a valued member of the 6th form. Georgia has inspired Sam and equally Sam has changed as an individual. The support has been both academic and social. Georgia has instilled in Sam our 3 R’s – .Respect , Responsibility and Resilience. Georgia quickly and efficiently integrated herself into our provision and is highly professional. She has produced a portfolio of evidence as a case study which is exemplary. For us, Georgia has been a wonderful TA to Sam and a credit to your agency.

Joel, working for Axcis London

Reason for nomination: Joel has been temping with us for quite a few years. He has worked on both our after school club and holiday playscheme services. Joel has been employed as a playworker, planning and setting up activities and working closely with the children and young people. He regularly supports children needing 1:1 support who have challenging

We love to reward our staff here at Axcis. A little appreciation goes a long way!

behaviour or complex needs – Joel is great at understanding their needs and managing them accordingly. However, Joel also works equally well with groups of children and young people with less severe needs. He ensures that all children are integrated with one another, regardless of ability, background, age or ethnicity, and treats all children and young people with equal consideration and respect. In the school holidays, children are with us for a full day, and Joel helps to plan for more complex and challenging children.


His attitude towards the children is invariably mature and sensible, while also being imaginative, caring and creative. The staff here are very diverse, and his teamwork is exceptional; he always supports his colleagues, and has no trouble fitting in to whichever group of staff he is placed. He participates well in the daily planning, always contributing to the full, and displaying very well-developed communication skills. Joel is quick to learn and enthusiastic in his work, and is an exceptionally obliging, co-operative and pleasant colleague. He is very flexible and willing, and his interpersonal skills are very good indeed. We rely on the ingenuity and imagination of the staff in a very dynamic and changeable environment, and Joel always rises to the occasion with original ideas and new ways of dealing with situations and problems when required. The permanent staff have learnt an awful lot from Joel and he has become an integral part of the team.

Josh, working for Axcis North Wales

Josh was thrilled to be presented with his certificate and prize.

Reason for nomination: I would like to nominate Josh. He is a very pleasant member of staff who always is happy and smiling with both staff and pupils. I have copied below extracts from a recent reference the Headteacer provided for him:


“Josh has undertaken the leadership of our music curriculum and has built a thriving department from a very low starting point.  He has developed suitable medium and long term plans which meet national curriculum requirements, allow for KS4 accreditation and account for the learning needs of our pupils.  He invariably plans for individual progress, using available data and his own knowledge of pupils to ensure that needs are met and progress is maximised.  Music is now a popular curriculum option and Josh runs well-attended extra-curricular activities in a regular basis.”


“Josh has never failed to rise to any challenge we have set him.  A typical example is the way he was able to take over the teaching of English at short notice.  With little in the way of support, he produced units of work that enabled our pupils to make demonstrable progress and rekindled their enthusiasm for the subject.  He quickly became familiar and competent with the assessment requirement for the subject and was able to contribute to the reporting process.  He achieved this with the enthusiasm and good humour which typifies his approach.  During this period pupil engagement rose, attendance at English lessons rose, attainment rose and incidents of negative behaviour fell markedly.”


“I feel that Josh embodies our ethos and always responds to challenging behaviours in a compassionate, non-confrontational way.  He uses our policies and procedures very effectively to prevent negative behaviours and deescalate them when they arise.  Josh is adept at using our agreed scripts and contributes to a school-wide consistent approach.  During development and solution focussed meetings he always makes a contribution and is usually able to offer a potential solution to issues we have identified.  Every interaction he has with pupils or colleagues reflects our school values and mission.  He is passionate about the young people we care for and consistently ‘goes the extra mile’ to ensure that their needs are met.  His expectations are appropriately high and he is consistent in rewarding pupils when they are met, as well as resolving learning barriers when they are not.”


Do your Axcis staff go the extra mile?

If your Axcis contractor goes the extra mile and you’d like to nominate them for a Candidate of the Term award, don’t forget to keep an eye on our blog for when nominations open next term. Or if you’d like to hire one of our fantastic teachers or support staff, why not get in touch with your local office or email us your vacancy today?

Preparing to support your pupils with SEND (nasen guest post)

How can you prepare to support children with SEND in the new school year? Alex Grady, Education Deveolopment Officer for nasen, has kindly provided us with this essential guidance in her guest blog for Axcis.


Get the new term off to a good start with this essential advice

Getting off to a positive start with your new class/es in September will help to set the temperature for future lessons, but knowing how best to do this can feel daunting, especially when you know that there are pupils with SEND (as there will be in almost every class). There are lots of things you can do now or early in the term to prepare to meet the needs of every child you teach to make for a more successful start to the year for everyone:


  1. Find out as much as you can about the pupils (particularly those with SEND – make sure you speak to the SENCO). As well as using data and assessment outcomes, also aim to find out about them as people – every pupil coming into your classroom is an individual with their own needs, strengths, fears, family, hobbies etc. Try to find something you can talk about or refer to for each child– the personal touch really helps with building relationships, and relationships will help to see you through any difficulties ahead.
  2. Find out as much as you can about any identified types of SEND (by looking at relevant websites, finding books etc) so that you have an idea of what particular strengths and needs might be. For example, most people with autism have sensory needs, so you may want to consider the impact of lighting, noise, seating etc However, do be aware that the child is not the diagnosis – every pupil with autism/dyslexia/Down syndrome etc is different, and knowing about this area will simply give you an indication of what an individual’s needs may be.
  3. Consider your classroom environment – even if you don’t have your own classroom, you can think about the aspects of the environment that are within your control. Clutter can be extremely distracting for many pupils, and some will not be able to filter it out, so aim for as little clutter as possible – tidy up piles of books, pen pots, desk tops etc (and train your class to keep them tidy!). What’s on the walls? Do you have word lists or prompts that you want pupils to refer to? If so, make sure they can easily be seen from everywhere in the room and teach the pupils how to use them. Are there old/tatty/irrelevant displays up? Take them down – a bare board is better than one with useless/confusing information on it. Can pupils access the equipment you want them to use? Can those pupils who need a writing slope or a chunky pencil get themselves one? Arrange resources so they can be used independently.
  4. Think ahead about how you want to respond to the individual needs of your pupils – for example, if you have pupils with literacy difficulties, what support will you offer them for writing? How will you manage spelling tests? For all pupils, but particularly those with SEND, how will you try to develop independence? What strategies could you employ to support the child with autism who needs a routine? (Think visual timetables and preparing them for changes). How will you avoid, and if necessary respond to, situations where a pupil challenges you verbally? (Read about restorative approaches to behaviour to help with this). You cannot possibly think through every possible scenario, but if you are clear about having inclusive values and respond using these, this will take you a long way.
  5. Make sure you know what resources you will need for particular pupils. For example, a dyslexic pupil may benefit from topic vocabulary lists, common exception word spelling lists, coloured overlays, high-interest low-reading age books etc whereas a pupil with autism may need a now-next board or emotions cards and so on. You will probably discover there are other resources you need as time goes on but having some prepared gives pupils the message that you care about them and want to support them
  6. If you are lucky enough to have support staff, consider how you will work effectively with them – use the MITA website information for good advice on this.

Remember – every pupil in every class is an individual with their own personality, so enjoy getting to know them – you will all learn a lot as the year progresses!

About Alex Grady, Education Development Officer with nasen

Alex Grady

Alex has worked in education for 25 years, almost all teaching children and young people with SEND. She has worked as a primary class teacher and SENCO, for a dyslexia teaching service, in a language resource base, with Looked After Children, for a Learning Support Team in a local authority, and she has been a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. She recently taught in and coordinated outreach support for a special school federation and has been a SEN governor for ten years. Alex has a wide understanding of the needs of pupils with a range of SEND and the challenges that providing the right support can bring to mainstream and special school staff. She is now an Education Development Officer for nasen, the leading organisation supporting professionals working in the field of SEND, where she has led the development of their Early Years SEND Resources. She is currently working on the Whole School SEND project. This project is based on collaboration across the sector and the sharing of effective practice to meet the needs of all children and young people, and Alex is excited to be a part of it.

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