Book & Resource Reviews: The Teacher Handbook: SEND – Second Edition

Back in January 2022 Whole School SEND launched a fabulous resource to support all teachers to consider, understand and meet the needs of learners better within the school setting. The second edition just like the first, supports staff in primary, secondary and specialist settings from teaching assistants to headteachers and CEOs.

What’s different?

The second edition is identical to the first but with the addition of subject specific guidance for humanities, specifically geography, history and religious studies.

SEND Handbook

Six Ways this Handbook supports inclusivity and excellence

We firmly believe that this (like the first edition) is going to be a really useful resource. Teachers will be able to refer to the handbook over time, drawing inspiration and ideas from it to develop high-quality inclusive teaching practices.

1. A handbook for all – not just for the SENCo

Whilst the title has SEND in it, this handbook is aimed at every teacher with the aim to reinforce the view that meeting the needs of learners with SEND is everyone’s responsibility and not just the SENCo. The content covers pastoral issues including safeguarding, subject-specific and condition-specific guidance as well as looking at the wider educational landscape.

2. Considering learners holistically

This is a holistic document that really considers learners as a whole, what their barriers may be, and what teachers and all staff in schools can do to support learners to access the curriculum better. Over time, the document is intended to support professional reflection and offers additional guidance as to what strategies might work in the classroom by subject, and in relation to learners having specific needs.

3. Linking to the school’s inclusivity journey

The handbook could have a powerful effect if linked to the school’s inclusive journey – whichever stage they are currently at. Senior leaders will need to consider which aspects of the handbook might be the most appropriate starting point for their own setting. Sections of the handbook can then complement professional development and learning that is already underway in schools, enriching what is already in place.

Teaching and learning leads, pastoral leads and SENCo could then work together to create one, clear and consistent message that’s communicated about the handbook.

4. Professional learning & practice

It would be helpful to chunk some of the content with clear plans to show how topics will be introduced and when they will be re-visited for professional learning and practice to be consolidated and built upon. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) have produced a useful guidance report for delivering Effective Professional Development.

5. Distributing leadership

In terms of distributing leadership there is the potential for teams of staff to take responsibility for specific sections in order to reflect on current practices and seek out further developments and improvements.

Pastoral teams could look at intersectionality and focus in on particular learners in order to create a holistic overview of vulnerabilities. This work can then be shared and discussed with subject teams to explore how vulnerabilities may impact on the learner within the classroom setting. Additional strategies and reasonable adjustments can then be explored and put in place to address and remove barriers.
Subject teams could review the suggested strategies in the handbook and trial them in lessons. The impact can be discussed in team meetings with staff sharing their experiences and suggesting how approaches could be refined. Over time the list of strategies can be added to so that further developments in high quality inclusive teaching can be made. These strategies could also link in with those outlined in Surrey’s Ordinarily Available Provision.
Teaching assistants could share strategies that they use to support learners to engage within lessons. Their insight can contribute to additional strategies being adopted by teachers and other colleagues so that good practice is shared across the school. Teaching assistants can also discuss strategies that have helped learners to become more independent and include them in updated one-page profiles to highlight what the learner can do to support themself.

6. Reading and writing at secondary level

There is a focus on phonics, reading and writing at primary level, but these are not covered at secondary level. A study by GL Assessment in 2019 Read all about it: Why reading is the key to GCSE success revealed national statistics that illustrate the need for consideration at secondary level too.

• 25% of 15-year-olds had a reading age of 12 or below
• 20% had a reading age of 11 and below
• 10% had a reading age of 9 and below

It’s clear that secondary teachers also need guidance on how they can support reading within their classrooms. Reviewing the primary guidance on reading and writing will be a useful starting point, and then refined to suit secondary aged learners. How staff introduce and reinforce vocabulary in lessons can also be added to these strategies as learners face more complex and increasingly demanding subject specific terminology.

“We believe that the Teacher Handbook: SEND can support schools and their staff to continually develop and improve inclusive practices so that learners are better understood and are able to engage more within the learning environment”

Kenny Wheeler, Inclusion Lead for SAfE.

A 3-step guide for Leaders to use this Handbook

At a glance

This is a useful resource that can be a great reference point for developing inclusive practices over several years in any school setting.

However, at 202 pages it will need careful consideration about how to introduce and implement within school settings. Much as we talk about cognitive load theory for learners, such a weighty document could be overwhelming for staff. Without guidance this excellent resource might well gather space and dust on shelves or school’s digital shared areas.

Ultimately, this is a handbook that can be used very effectively to consider the holistic learner and support teaching and learning across the school, rather than just a bolt-on for SEND.


Kenny Wheeler, Inclusion Lead for SAfE.
Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE) supports inclusivity and excellence

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