Created in collaboration with our SEND expert.
With school budgets under increasing pressure, SEND budgets are being cut and staff numbers and resources are being reduced. Despite this, schools still need to be able to support their pupils with SEND effectively, to meet the statutory requirements laid out in EHC plans, and to meet pupils’ needs and support their learning. This article outlines some tips to utilise TAs, IT and intervention groups to help you make the most of your SEND budget.
Staffing costs are often the most expensive resource so, to ensure you make the most of this resource, you should:
- Consider what your SENCO is doing. They are a highly skilled and experienced member of staff – are you supporting them to work with teachers, TAs and pupils? Or are they completing administrative jobs that could be done by someone with different expertise?
- Be clear about what you expect from TAs. Consider whether all staff have the same expectations of TAs. Do TAs and teachers know what their roles are? How are these expectations shared?
- Ensure you know what your TAs are doing. Supporting pupils should be an active and purposeful process that involves engaging with pupils, but not taking over from either the pupil or the teacher.
- Observe your TAs so that you understand what they are doing and the impact that this is having on learning.
- Provide TAs with training. If you are to have high and specific expectations of staff, you need to support them to fulfil these.
- Provide teachers with training to manage their TAs, their relationship with TAs and to understand the role of a TA. It is different in every school, so you should ensure your school’s approach is included as part of staff induction training.
- Encourage collaborative working, particularly around planning. People won’t work well when they don’t know what they are doing – TAs, teachers and the SENCO need to see the planning in advance and have time to share and understand it.
To get the best out of staff, you need to provide them with the right training to do their job effectively. Training should be seen as an investment that can benefit all staff in the long run.
Training doesn’t need to be expensive – remember your school’s resources, including the SENCO, teachers and TAs who have examples of good practice and expertise they can share. You can also consider sending one member of staff on a course and asking them to share their experience with colleagues.
Consider working with local schools, sharing resources and expertise. Ask local special schools and schools with SEND units about opportunities to observe – if you’re sending staff to observe, it is more effective for them to work in pairs so they can share and discuss what they see. It can be cheaper to get an external trainer to come into the school and work with staff rather than send a group out on training.
If a speech and language therapist (SALT), occupational therapist or other professional comes into the school and works with TAs to help them support pupils, this information can be shared with other staff too.
You must ensure that all staff receive statutory training relating to safeguarding and manual handling of pupils with physical needs who may require lifting.
Use intervention groups
You should utilise TAs in most cases in the classroom. All pupils are entitled to quality first teaching (QFT) and teacher time. It is more effective to base all TAs in the classroom, including offering one-to-one support, as they can work with groups of pupils; however, using intervention groups outside of the classroom can have a positive effect on supporting pupils with SEND.
Consider the impact of your intervention groups; if they are not having an impact, change them. Establish a baseline, set targets and evaluate the impact. Ensure your interventions match the needs of pupils, rather than the skills of the TA. Remember that interventions can be used across classes, year groups and subject areas – if pupils have similar needs, consider grouping them together.
Avoid taking pupils out of an area of strength (e.g. music, art, PE, history or modern foreign languages) to attend an intervention, as they may resent it and not give their best efforts. They may also lose their chance to shine, which can negatively impact their self-esteem and ability to access learning. There should be a clear link between what is being covered in an intervention group and the classroom – if a pupil is being supported to develop skills that they are not able to practise, this will lack impact.
Give staff time to plan interventions, even if they are working through a scheme. To be effective, they need time to understand what they are going to deliver. Ensure that interventions are led by someone with the skills and expertise to implement the learning.
All pupils need to be given the opportunity to access learning and attempt tasks independently. It is rare for an EHC plan for a pupil in a mainstream school to say that the pupil should have one-to-one support at all times. Most indicate that the support should be individual, in pairs and in groups. EHC plans will also a focus on preparation for adulthood, so schools should promote pupils’ independence. This doesn’t mean leaving them without the support they are entitled to, but does mean that they won’t always have a TA sat with them. Consider the following strategies:
- Setting pupils short learning tasks or parts of a task, allowing them time to attempt them, then returning to re-focus and be provided with further support
- Scaffolding and breaking down activities so that pupils can attempt them
- Using ‘now and next’ boards, task management boards or visual timetables to guide and support pupils through tasks
These approaches can enable TAs to work with other pupils or undertake roles in addition to supporting their key pupil.
You should consider the use of IT, both as preparation for adulthood and as an effective use of resources. Most pupils will be expert IT users; however, schools don’t always allow them to harness these strengths to support their learning and may ask a TA to scribe for them.
To use IT effectively and to record their learning, pupils need letter recognition skills, including matching upper- and lower-case letters, and basic typing skills – this can require explicit teaching. Consider using voice activated software, on-screen keyboards, or predictive text software to support pupils to access IT – don’t forget headphones to prevent causing a disturbance to the rest of the class. Typing is also a good way for pupils to develop their motor skills and memory.
Consider the importance and cost of effective maintenance and updates, transport (between lessons or if equipment is going home), insurance, online safety and filter agreements, and who will own the equipment. If a child is going to use IT effectively to support learning, it must work correctly and be safe.
IT may seem like an expensive outlay, particularly when considering budget restrictions; however, it can be an effective use of resources that can help you to support a pupil and develop their independence.
Consider the deployment of TAs
Most TAs are deployed to support learning, leaving pupils to manage unstructured times and lesson transitions independently. For many pupils with social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs, however, these times are the most stressful and difficult to manage in the school day. As they manage these times independently, they often arrive in lessons in a state of high anxiety and are not ready to learn. If they had more support during these times, they could arrive in lessons calmer and more ready to learn and, therefore, would not require as much support in lessons.
You shouldn’t assume that, because a pupil has an EHC plan, they don’t have areas of strength which they can access without support. Equally, you shouldn’t forget the pupils with a lower level of support whose needs mean that they need support in particular areas, e.g. an able pupil with dyspraxia who can access academic subjects but needs support to access practical subjects.
Provide clear support for pupils
Too often, the focus of SEN support, record keeping and evaluation is on those with EHC plans. Schools may struggle to understand what they should provide for pupils at an SEN support level. If these pupils are not supported effectively, they require more time and resources, and more support through the SEND budget.
Ensure that you are using individual support plans or pupil passports to record and evaluate support for pupils at an SEN support level. If you don’t know what you are doing, you cannot identify whether it is effective and, without robust evidence of SEN support, it can be difficult to apply for an EHC plan.
Share information about SEN support pupils with all teachers, so that they are aware of how to support them. If pupils are receiving the support they need consistently, they will learn better and, therefore, need less support from TAs and the SLT. Remember that pupils who are not receiving the support they need will often communicate this through their behaviour.
Ensure teachers understand and are supported to invest and safeguard time with these pupils. Implement simple strategies, such as explicit teaching about classroom expectations, task management boards and visual prompts – it takes time to introduce these, but they often have a significant impact on pupils’ learning and independence.
For more guidance on TA deployment, have a look at our article – this quick guide gives senior leaders a list of questions to consider when they are trying to identify the best way to deploy their TAs for maximum impact.
You can also use our article on How to Use Teaching Assistants Effectively, which will help you to ensure you use your TAs to their full potential and in line with statutory requirements.
If you don’t have a method for tracking expenditure of your allocated SEND budget, our tracker can help – it will help you to ensure your school remains on top of all expenditure relating to SEND.
Sharples, J., Webster, R. & Blatchford, P., (2018) ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants’