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SEND Provision Across The Curriculum: Start and End Points

Updated: Jun 3

SEN Provision Across The Curriculum: Start and End Points - Aidan Severs Consulting Ltd

“All pupils should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum. The National Curriculum Inclusion Statement states that teachers should set high expectations for every pupil, whatever their prior attainment... In many cases, such planning will mean that pupils with SEN and disabilities will be able to study the full national curriculum.

- 6.12, The SEND Code of Practice

"Schools should know precisely where children and young people with SEN are in their learning and development. They should... have high ambitions and set stretching targets for them..."

- 1.25, The SEND Code of Practice

“'What would it look like if we started with the students who are the hardest to reach?‘ 'Where can you start so that everyone is successful, and build on that strength instead of relying on a retrofitting process that focuses on deficit?' - let's start where everyone can be successful. This is how we look at diverse classrooms.”

- Dr Shelley Moore, SEND Huh

If we are honest, much of curriculum development is done with a 'core' group in mind - the majority of learners within an age group, if such a thing exists. General practice is then that we go back to it and tweak it for pupils with differing needs.

Dr Shelley Moore, in John Tomsett and Mary Myatt's 'SEND Huh' book suggests something different. She speaks of a starting point that takes into account the success of everyone.

Is such a starting point ambitious enough? Does it exemplify high expectations for all? Perhaps not, but it's only a starting point. Such a starting point can represent the highest of expectations for those who, in Moore's words, are 'hardest to reach' and then be adapted in response to the needs of other children in the class, particularly in order to ensure the curriculum is ambitious enough for them.

Moore goes on to give 5 Ps of Inclusion; here they are with my summary of each of the Ps:

  • Presume competence – ensure that every pupil can get something out of any context

  • Place – ensure pupils are in the place of learning

  • Peers – ensure they are with their peers

  • Purpose – ensure they know why they are there

  • Planning – ensure all pupils are planned for

Pulling all this together, curriculum and subject leaders can begin to think about how their curriculum works for pupils with additional needs (or SEND).

The key is in the first and fourth Ps: presume competence and purpose. If leaders and teachers believe everyone can get something out of any given subject's curriculum all that's left to do is define the what. What will everyone get out of the subject? Is there something that all pupils can takeaway, or is do leaders and teachers need to define multiple takeaways? I'd suggest the former: as soon as you start thinking of differing takeaways, you are in the realms of expecting and defining differentiation by outcome, which can be limiting, and is usually based on the idea that some pupils can and some can't.

So, what is it in each subject area that all pupils can achieve, regardless of need, diagnosis, or prior attainment?

The clue, perhaps is in that fourth P: ensuring that pupils know why they are learning something, and what they are aiming for.

'Start with the end in mind' is a common enough mantra in education and it applies here. Dr Shelley Moore suggests we look for a common starting point and in order to know where to start we must think too of where we want to end up.

So that pupils know what they are aiming for, teachers and leaders must identify clear end points. You can have high expectations of end points, but the journey there can look different based on the needs of the children. End points don't need to be a set of facts (substantive knowledge) and skills (procedural knowledge). A better end point, and one that arguably all pupils can aim to grasp come the end of their time learning that curriculum, is an understanding of the subject, and an ability to think in ways specific to that subject.

Christine Counsell has some useful ideas that will help us to think this through:

“One very helpful distinction is that between the temporary or 'working' knowledge that pupils build up during a detailed study, and the broader and lasting understandings such as broad chronological awareness, awareness of institutional structures or cultural values of a period.
The first might be called 'fingertip' knowledge. It is the kind of detail that one needs in ready memory and that is acquired through familiarity after extensive enquiry. It does not matter if much of the detail then falls away.
The second type can be likened to the residue in a sieve. It is not just the ability to remember that the Tudors came before the Stuart and that they used Parliament a lot. It is also that loose, amorphous objective of 'a sense of period' - the retention of all manner of mental furniture, gleaned from a rich visual and active experience of period stories and scenes. Such a residue is bound to enrich current and future study by preventing anachronism and sharpening judgement, even after the particular stories and scenes have long receded.
'Fingertip' and 'residue' do not create an absolute distinction. The distinction becomes helpful in relating the function of each type of knowledge to other kinds of learning. One kind of knowledge can be used by the teacher to create another. One of the purposes of 'fingertip' knowledge is that it leaves a residue.”

If we are thinking of defining curriculum end points that we believe all children can achieve, regardless of what their journey there looks like, thinking more about 'residue' knowledge might be more helpful than thinking about a list of 'fingertip' knowledge which, in most cases, will be eventually lost.

So then, the question for subject leaders to ask is:

At the end of their time studying this curriculum, what ‘residue’ knowledge all children to have?

The answers to this question require only a simple success criteria:

  • Demonstrates high expectations for all

  • Not just ‘knows [fact]’ or ‘can do [skill]’

In essence, the type of end point I'm suggesting here is linked to disciplinary knowledge: what do the pupils know and feel about this subject in general? What principles are they left knowing that relate to this subject? And what do they know about how to work within the parameters of this subject? Once all the specific facts have drained away, what do they still hold that will help them both now and in the future, both in everyday life, and in their academic pursuits?

A quick example, then:

End points in primary geography that all children can achieve, regardless of the journey they take to get there, regardless of how much of the 'fingertip' knowledge is learned or drains away:

  • Geography involves looking at places with curiosity, asking questions such as 'How and why has this place changed?' with an awareness that the answers could include both physical and human processes.

  • Geography involves investigating places by visiting them, reading about them, watching videos, looking at images, maps and data, and analysing these different sources of information.

The above isn't an exhaustive list, but hopefully it gives a flavour of how the learning of more specific pieces of knowledge and skills leads to what in essence is an intent statement for the subject, but is also a summary of the 'residue' knowledge that you want all pupils to have after studying the curriculum. If you have already written an intent statement for your subject, go back and look at it - it might provide a good starting point for this kind of exercise.

Now, obviously, these kind of statements don't lend themselves well to quantitive data gathering, but qualitive data should be acceptable here, particularly when thinking about pupils with SEN - but that's probably another blog post for another time!

Did you know I offer a remote curriculum review service? Curriculum development benefits from an outsider's perspective; my experience and expertise can give you the confidence you need to launch your new curriculum. Find out more and book your review day with me now:

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