Expectations, progress and outcomes

The Lamb Inquiry identified the need to place children’s outcomes at the heart of the education system. In this unit we explore what this means for your practice. The unit includes information on the following:

  • Standards and data about progress and attainment in SEN.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of provision on a whole school level.
  • Wider educational outcomes for pupils with SEN.
  • Exclusion, attendance and bullying data for children with SEN.

How important is evidence-based practice?

This clip features a discussion between psychology and habilitation studies lecturer Karl Wall, SENJIT coordinator John Brown, and professor of psychology and special needs Julie Dockrell. They talk about how evidence-based, or rather evidence-informed, practice might benefit teachers and pupils.

This audio clip relates to task 3 in your PDF of unit 8.

Show transcript
Discussion at the Institute of Education involving Specialists in Special Educational Needs.

John Brown – SENJIT Co-ordinator:

What do we know about interventions that can really help? And how can evidence informed practice benefit teachers and pupils?

Karl Wall – Lecturer in Psychology and Habilitation studies:

It depends to some extent which aspect or area of Special Educational Needs or disabilities that you’re talking about. I mean some of the discussions we’ve been having in relation with how to support young people in FE is partly about issues of the extent to which particular strategies and practices are disseminated, so that people have a repertoire of possible ways of addressing particular needs and how they play out in particular lessons.

It would be nice to say that there is a wealth of strategies for every aspect of special needs or disability but the reality’s not there, that’s not the case, and indeed one of the issues is being clear about what is evidence based, and what is simply practice of long standing. And that is not at all clear in many areas. I mean there is the role of phonics in relation to reading and dyslexia and more broadly, but there are other areas where interventions for example that might be useful, are less clear and who they are best suited for and in what circumstance is less clear as well.


Well our practice doesn’t match up with the holy grail of double blind controls does it, that’s one of the issues I think in general educational research.

Julie Dockrell – Professor of Psychology and Special Needs:

Well there are some random control trials that exist, but there are also lesson analyses where the literature has reviewed and identified interventions that are effective. So I think it’s wrong to say there isn’t an evidence base, there’s a very good ‘what works’ web page. But I think Karl’s point is the important one isn’t it’s ‘for which child?’, ‘at which point in development?’ and ‘in which context?’ and within that there’s the debate about whether there is a special needs pedagogy that Norwich and Lewis work on, at all. But I think there are studies out there, there is an evidence that you can use to inform practice. There are very few random control trials and in some cases the question might be ‘do you actually need a random control trial?’ or ‘can you do it through a Causey experimental method of different types of ways as well?’ So I think for some things there is evidence, but for some thing’s it’s just, we think this is what’s working and education is not specific.


I think it’s also different depending on the nature of need in the sense that, if we believe the data that we have in terms of survey statistics then dyslexia is relatively common. Certainly it’s relatively common compared to visual impairment which is a very low incidence disability and may have a whole range of associated learning difficulties, or auditory impairment which may have slightly different implications. But where you have a low incidence need where there is very high variability even within a particular condition, then coming up with a ‘one size fits all’ strategy is very difficult, equally doing a large scale study where it’s very difficult to get a reasonable sample size for example, wouldn’t be practical, certainly a randomised controlled trial in that sense wouldn’t work. So we have different standards in that sense of evidence available to us, but that doesn’t prevent us from looking at them systematically, drawing out common points, and investigating those common points as practical strategies.


And I’d say that’s evidence informed teaching and learning rather than evidence based.


And I’d agree with that, yes.


In the 2006/07 academic year...

47% of primary school persistent absentees


42% of secondary school persistent absentees

What is defined as 'persistent absence'?

The rate of ‘persistent absence’ is defined as the percentage of enrolled pupils who have accumulated sessions of absence exceeding the annual threshold of 64. This takes account of all absence, whether authorised or unauthorised.

Guidance on the attendance of pupils with SEN 2009 (PDF, 661KB)


...were recorded as having SEN.

The rate of persistent absence is defined as the percentage of enrolled pupils who have accumulated sessions of absence exceeding the annual threshold of 64. This takes account of all absence, whether authorised or unauthorised.

GCSE grades and SEN

Likelihood of pupils being formally, permanently excluded

Pupils without SEND

Pupils with SEND are over 8x more likely

Pupils at School Action Plus are over 20x more likely


These figures do not include informal exclusions, which the Lamb Inquiry heard were routinely used to manage children’s behaviour. Statutory guidance is clear that informal exclusions are unlawful.


Reports indicate that...

80% of children with learning difficulties

70% of children with autism

40% of children with speech and language difficulties

...are bullied and/or victimised.

Schools do not always take action

National Autistic Society survey (2006)

44% - no action

MoreAbout 'no action'

Forty-four per cent of parents said schools took no action on bullying of pupils with autism, according to research carried out in the make school make sense campaign of 2006, based on 1,400 responses from families in the UK.

B is for bullied: the experiences of children with autism and their families (PDF, 796KB)

Children with autism

Contact a Family survey (2011)

68% - negative or unhelpful

MoreAbout 'negative or unhelpful'

Sixty-eight per cent of families reported a negative or unhelpful response to the bullying of disabled pupils, according to this UK online survey conducted between January and April 2011. Of the respondents, 35% were families of a child with SEN, 62% of a child with a disability, and 3% of children identified as having both.

Briefing paper for schools on the views and experiences of parents, carers and families (PDF, 145KB)



In this clip, three primary school head teachers talk about the methods they use to help prevent bullying and create a safe environment for pupils. They explain how a good understanding of pupil relationships and carefully planned behavioural guidelines may help to reduce bullying.

This audio clip relates to task 3 in your PDF of unit 8.

Show transcript

Michael Shepherd – Headteacher:

I’m Michael Shepherd, Headteacher at Hawes Side Primary School in Blackpool.

At Hawes Side obviously, as any school, we would take bullying very seriously. I don’t think any school would be naïve enough to say that bullying didn’t exist because, of course, bullying exists in society, in the workplace and in schools.

What we do in school is, we make sure that the children feel safe and comfortable reporting any incidences of bullying, or their perception of bullying, to a member of staff, or one of the peer mediators. We have children in Year 6 trained up to work throughout the schools as peer mediators, and they go round and support other children.

We have a respect agenda in school, and staff and visitors to school can give out respect tokens to children, and the children have really responded very readily to that.

We recognise anti-bullying week every year, which is a national initiative, but we call it friendship week to give it a more positive slant. Last year, we invited members of the community to come in with children and plant friendship trees. We’ve planted a friendship forest. Every child in school was involved in planting a tree, we brought local celebrities in, and we ran a café for 2 days for parents to come in as well, so we could talk to parents about perceptions around the issues of bullying.

So I’d like to think that we’re a very open and transparent school and that children have very clear lines of communication if they ever feel uncomfortable in any way.

Zoe Adams - Headteacher:

My name’s Zoe Adams. I’m Headteacher at Westwood Primary School here in Leeds.

It’s getting to the bottom of why the child feels they’re being bullied, and why the child who is doing the bullying is doing it, and it’s very often not as simple as one person feeling that they’re being stronger and nasty to another person. And it can often, it’s so complex every time, it’s understanding friendships, understanding relationships between children, it all comes down to relationships again, doesn’t it? And the relationships teachers and staff have with the children, and the relationship children have with each other. If you get those right, then the school’s just fantastic. And we do a lot of work directly on teaching in PSHCE as well, so there’s a lot of work going on, on how friends should speak to each other, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable, how you can show you care about somebody, how you can let them know if you’re upset by what they’ve said. So it’s implicit in a lot of our work, and it’s also very explicitly taught as well.

We have PSHCE taught weekly in very creative ways, so a lot of it through drama. We use drama a lot in PSHCE, and a lot of that’s to teach friendships and relationships.

Sarah Rutty - Headteacher:

My name’s Sarah Rutty and I’m the Headteacher of Bankside Primary School in Leeds.

Bankside Primary School is a school that serves a community of nearly 700 children now, ranging from 3 to 11. It’s challenging a school like Bankside to make sure that we have an ethos that feels just like the very small little church Primary school that my nephew goes to where there are 64 pupils and everyone knows everybody, and it feels like a family. That’s much harder to establish here. So in order to pull that off again is something we’ve got to be rigorous about. And I think to ensure that children have a sense of their duty of care to their peers, and children have a sense their duty of care to every single child, most of whom they may not know, particularly the teachers and top juniors who don’t get to know those children until they get to Year 6.

We have to have consistent rigorous principles, so here our expectation is, we expect the best for you and we expect the best from you, whether it’s my Deputy Headteacher or the youngest child to arrive in nursery. And that’s really enforced by 8 Key principles which are rules for life and not just for school, that are about owning your own behaviour, making problems smaller, not bigger, it’s about choosing your words carefully, it’s about listening, and it’s about safe hands and feet. All those are key rules for any adult in any socially, emotionally, mature society. And the children understand that because they’re rehearsed over and over again. So how do we deal with bullying? Any school will have bullying. Quite often children don’t realise that what they’re doing is bullying, so the first thing is to ask the child, what rule they’ve broken.

When a child comes to me and says, Miss Rutty, so and so has hurt me, it may be that the first child didn’t really know that they were exhibiting what could be bullying behaviours, but when I go and ask the child what rule they’ve broken, and the answer is inevitably, in that situation, I broke the rule ‘safe hands and feet’, they begin to take ownership of understanding that something even unintentionally done has a consequence, not just because Miss Rutty comes along and asks them about which rule they’ve broken, but because the other child has a feeling about that.

And another key aspect of success I think in that, in our school is, that children again from the very earliest time are given a language structure to express how they feel, it’s called an ‘I message’. So our children are able to tell you how they feel or indeed, more importantly, tell the perpetrator of the terrible thing how they feel.

It would go like this, you’ve come to me, and you’ve said, “I’m upset because Abdul’s hurt me”. We go and talk to Abdul, I ask Abdul what rule he’s broken, Abdul understands now that there is a consequence to something that he’s done and then you would give Abdul an ‘I message’, you’d say, I felt – “sad”, “upset”, “hurt”, when you – “hit me”. I would like you to – “say sorry”.

And then the problem, as we say at Bankside, the problem is made completely small, and the other key rule about this is once the problem’s been dealt with, it’s put in the bin and it stays there. Because one of the greatest problems I’ve seen in other schools is that the problem is dealt with by nice Mrs Tidy at lunchtime, and then what happens is, little Ashleigh gets the problem effectively out of the metaphorical bin, and drags it in to Year 3 History, and it starts all over again.

So the children need to know that once it’s dealt with, that’s it, it’s dealt with, it goes in a bin, and we don’t get things out the bin, do we?