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Are Your SEND Interventions Doing What They Should Be? Here’s How To Check

If an intervention isn’t working, it shouldn’t be happening, says Meriel Bull

Meriel Bull
by Meriel Bull
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As a modern SENCo you will, of course, regularly update the availability of interventions in your school, train your team of teaching assistants to implement them, and add them to your Provision Map.

However, any intervention is only as good as its outcome. If a pupil is on the wrong one, they will not make progress, and both time and finances will have been wasted. Effective monitoring and tracking of interventions to identify which are working and which are not is, therefore, an absolutely crucial part of the SENCo’s role.

Many intervention strategies are introduced as a reaction to slumps in assessment results or concerns raised by teachers or support staff. In fact, they should be in place for all students with learning or behavioural needs, as the true purpose of intervention with SEN pupils is to prepare and equip them with the skills they need to face the barriers to their learning. It is always preferable if any additional support that’s required is put into place before a pupil experiences problems with their learning or their peers.

Ideally, a SENCo will have intervention plans in place from the beginning of a new term, for periods of transition, and whenever change is on the horizon.

Four steps

SENCos will have been familiar with the mantra ‘Assess – Plan – Do – Review’ since before the Green Paper came out and simply waving a magic wand (or putting an intervention in place) was officially no longer enough to demonstrate effective provision for students with SEN. As human resources and budgets become increasingly stretched and questioned, the effectiveness of every intervention must be robustly assessed; so it’s worth reviewing how this process should work in practice.

ASSESS:

What does the pupil need? It is important to be clear about the outcome you are looking for them to gain. Learning interventions should be specific, such as to move up a reading level or achieve 8/10 or better spelling scores; social interventions may be to improve behaviour in unstructured time, or increase social skills such as turn taking.

PLAN:

As SENCo, use your judgement to decide which intervention is likely to be best fit. However, the pupil will be best supported as part of a team. Have a short but structured meeting with the class teacher, nominated teaching assistant, the parents, and where relevant, the pupil, to discuss the assessed need, and to structure a plan of what the intervention involves, who will implement it and when, length of sessions and programme overall (it is thought between 12 and 20 weeks are best for maintaining impact), and how it will be monitored. Full understanding and consent of the parent or carer is paramount. They are the expert on their child and their opinion is the most important one. They will look to you for support and guidance, but for your strategy to be successful, they must be supportive of it. Ensure the plan is recorded and everyone concerned has a copy. It does not have to be complex, and should be linked to your provision map and your records for that pupil. If you do not have a template document already, then may I suggest “Beating Bureaucracy in Special Educational Needs” 2nd Edition, Jean Gross (2012), which has many useful templates that can be easily adapted as needed.

DO:

Whoever carries out the intervention, ensure they are fully trained, have all the resources they need, and are clear about the objectives. Observe and monitor the sessions regularly to offer further support.

REVIEW:

Without checking effectiveness, the intervention could be draining both time and resources and be of no benefit to the pupil, which is demotivating to both the child and the TA or whoever carries out the intervention. However, tracking does not need to be time consuming. The specific intervention may have its own methods of monitoring, but even so, it is advisable to check progress early on, and at regularly stages (at least at mid-point) as well as at the end of the given period of time. Methods of tracking effectiveness will often match the assessed need, for example:

  • Teacher assessed literacy level
  • Improved spelling scores
  • Reading age or level assessment
  • Improved mental maths scores
  • Changes in reported behaviour incidents
  • Observations of classroom behaviour, as well as during unstructured time
  • Pupil’s self-assessment (this could be through a verbal or nonverbal diary or a mood-board)
  • Peer assessment (recording of informal conversations)
  • Parental feedback
  • Key-worker feedback
  • Changes in attendance/ punctuality
  • Timely task completion
  • Improved fine/gross motor control (handwriting, PE activities)
  • Boxhall Profile (this is best for major social or emotional interventions and carried out by fully trained individuals)

Recording the progress and feeding back to everyone involved in the ‘Plan’ stage is essential, not least if it is to establish that no progress has been made – in which case a different intervention can be identified and a revised plan agreed. Just as we evaluate our teaching, we must also assess the strength of the interventions on an individual basis. Even if one intervention program helps a pupil to make remarkable progress, it may not have the desired effect on another, so don’t hang on to one that is ineffective – changing direction through tracking is key to a sound intervention strategy. When you’ve found a good fit, the progress your pupils make will reward that flexibility.

Interventions: the dos and don’ts

Once you have an environment that is as accessible as possible for all children it is important to make as much use of that space as you can. here are a few tips and some useful information to help you differentiate:

Do:

  • Consider interventions before they become reactive.
  • Engage parents and ensure they are informed and their opinions considered at each stage. This is key to a successful home school partnership.
  • Monitor the intervention sessions and ensure that they are well supported.
  • Reflect and respond to the impact of the intervention through tracking at regular intervals.

Don’t:

  • Allow an intervention to be carried out without the correct training and support. The success of many interventions depend on their accurate execution.
  • Put an intervention into place without the parent’s knowledge and support. Nothing less than this is acceptable practice.
  • Put the intervention into place and leave it to run indefinitely. Impact is suggested to be higher for 12 to 20-week intervention periods. if the process becomes too familiar to the pupil they may become complacent and make little or no progress, which is demoralising for the child and the professional.

About the author

As a well qualified SENCO, Meriel Bull has taught in the West Midlands and Norfolk for over 12 years. She is now using her experience and passion for Special Educational Needs to write full time.

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