Speak to us 01273 35 80 80
or Make a Booking
Sign up to TSP Briefing
Confidence through competence
Course Browser


The importance of developing flexible programmes of support for learners in schools


Dr Sue Sheppard, our resident specialist educational psychologist, discusses the key notes of her forthcoming talk at the Autism Show

[Hear Sue speak about this and much more at the Autism Show on Friday 17 June 2016 at The Hub: Theatre 1 – from 10.25–10.55.]

I’m looking forward to speaking at the Autism Show about the importance of developing flexible personalised programmes for students on the autism spectrum. This area is explored in-depth on Real Training’s two Autism modules, where the following areas are prioritised:

  • Profiling – creating school-based pro formas.
  • Developing holistic personalised programmes that integrate the findings of the profiles.
  • Autism audits – whole school/staff skills.
  • Case studies – creating a narrative around ‘personal journeys’ to help with solutions.
  • Measuring the impact of interventions on ‘real’ students in ‘real’ schools.
  • Comparative work on interventions.
  • Developing school-based action/research plans.

During the talk, I will highlight pertinent examples of good practice by teachers and support staff, some of whom have overcome great challenges – perhaps due to gaps in their school-based provision, the complexity of their student groups, or a lack of external support services. Such good practice is even more admirable when one considers the fact that delegates on the Real Training programmes are based in diverse settings and include international delegates.

There will be some exploration of the tensions that can emerge as schools strive to measure outcomes and track data using evidence-based practice, while also trying to personalise and support students on a day-to-day basis. The limitations of research into ‘what works’ will be examined to promote the idea that an intervention is only effective if it works for a specific student in a specific setting. I will discuss important dimensions such as resilience, motivation, personal insight and rigidity as being significant factors that can both aid and limit the impact of interventions. The high incidence of secondary mental health issues among young people with autism spectrum conditions means that there is a real need to carefully balance high expectations with young people’s actual capacity to engage and sustain a programme, while maintaining emotional well-being.

I will also draw on my direct experience of working in a range of schools, where my current interests include:

  • Exploring and recognising the impact of learning styles and uneven cognitive profiles on student progress in schools.
  • Dimensional frameworks for understanding and assessing those with autism spectrum conditions.
  • Working with students who ‘school refuse’ (or are at risk of refusing to attend school) in order to analyse the underlying reasons for this pattern of behaviour and identify solutions to move forward.
  • Listening to pupils and, where necessary, using structured and unstructured frameworks to support students in reflecting on and prioritising their goals to help them increase motivation.
  • Addressing anxiety across their day-to-day and assessing levels of personal insight.
  • Working collaboratively with parents to create solutions.
  • Adapting interventions to support the girls in schools who are now increasingly recognised as being on the autism spectrum.

Finally, I will be encouraging those who develop support programmes to build on the available good practice and valuable research around interventions, while remaining focused on the ‘individual’ and dynamic interaction within the learning environment and the broader social context.

About Dr Sue Sheppard

Sue is a senior specialist educational psychologist who is a consultant to the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism (part of the National Autistic Society). She has been a specialist ASD advisor/EP for a number of London boroughs for over 20 years and has also worked as a specialist teacher. Sue has been instrumental in setting up provision for children and young people with ASD across early years, primary and secondary, and has an eclectic career portfolio covering lecturing, training, consultancy and diagnosis and assessment. She is a specialist speaker in autism for EPs in training at University College London and has worked in collaboration with other universities – her doctoral research focused on autism outreach services.

Sue has significant experience of supporting learners online and has been a module leader on a number of ‘special needs’ programmes for various universities. Sue works with Real Psychology to provide extensive specialist EP services across London. She is also the module leader for Real Training’s Autism Spectrum Conditions: Skills & Knowledge (S&K) and Application & Reflection (A&R) modules, which are part of Real Training’s MEd SEND Programme.

Find out more about our modules on Autism Spectrum Conditions.

Useful websites

The HE White Paper

Edward Farrow

In mid-May, the government published its higher education White Paper. The mixed reception that it received hinged on legislation that will, ultimately, enable new education providers to confer their own degrees. While the university sector, including the NUS and MillionPlus, responded warily to the publication, other voices were more positive.

Read more about it in our SEND Practitioner here.

So, what are the government’s key proposals and why are they controversial?

New universities, improved standards and greater choice

The government states that the ultimate aim of the legislation is to improve the quality of teaching standards by ensuring that universities are more accountable. Through this, the government hopes that this will not only enable graduates to benefit from enhanced standards, but will also ensure greater choice and access when alternative education providers are able to confer their own degrees. Understandably, the notion of new providers being given degree awarding powers strikes its critics as the next step towards marketisation/privatisation of the higher education sector. To them, the prospect of alternative institutions/corporations offering learning courses in ways that undercut the traditional higher education sector’s prices and modes of delivery threatens the very fabric of the university structure and its world-renowned reputation.

To counter this claim, the government has stated that each new university that wishes to enter the higher education ring will be rigorously tested for quality. As an additional safety and enforcement measure, the government stated that each new awarding organisation will be policed by a newly created regulator called the Office for Students. This ombudsman-type entity will have the regulatory power to take action whenever and wherever needed.

A regulator and watchdog with teeth

As mentioned, this regulatory body, in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will replace the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) – something that was most probably set in train in 2011, when teaching funding was taken out of its hands and replaced by tuition fee loans. To the chagrin of its critics, this organisation will promote student choice and competition and, even more dangerously in their eyes, will be funded not by the government, but by the universities themselves, prompting questions around the importance of regulators being independent.

A new framework to drive up teaching quality

The government claims that more than 60% of students are unhappy with their course [editor’s cheeky note: this is in stark contrast to our courses, which enjoy exceptionally high approval ratings from past delegates]. To mitigate this perceived shortfall, they intend to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This form of assessment will be student-focused and will look at the standards of teaching, the teaching and student experience, etc. Through this, they not only want to give each student as much information as possible about each institution, when they are going through the selection process, but want to also ensure that each university’s performance is directly linked to the fees that they can charge. This new focus is intended to ensure that the quality of teaching (of each course and of each student outcome) is directly linked to the funding that each university can set. In addition, the government also hopes that such a move will encourage universities to do as much as possible to enable their students to find employment after graduation.

Improve accessibility and social mobility

To improve accessibility and encourage social mobility, the government will demand that all universities produce detailed demographical information on their students. This announcement has been received positively by some groups. However, critics of the aim state that charging students higher fees via student loans will reduce accessibility and put poorer students off degrees.

This is just a snapshot of the changes envisaged in the government’s recent HE White Paper.

To find out more, read the government’s HE White Paper.

If you have any questions about this topic, or any suggestions for future topics, please email the editor: edward@realgroup.co.uk

The SEN reforms and The SEND Practitioner: a health check with Brian Lamb OBE, Channel 4’s Educating the East End and Mark Blois

Edward Farrow

We were really pleased to welcome Brian Lamb back to The SEND Practitioner well over a year since he first graced the pages of our inaugural issue. Since then, the SEN reforms have made some qualified progress. However, on balance, the sheer scale of the cultural change that is afoot reflects on a timescale more rooted in years than months. And it is against this background that a health check of the state of the current reforms reveals both positives and negatives.

More specifically, as Mark Blois pointed out in the ninth issue, Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and personal budgets continue to cause concern for some of our readership, against a broader palette of ongoing tweaks, adaptions and reinventions that many schools will need to make over the coming years.

However, what is interesting, and what comes across in Brian’s analysis, is that ‘many’ does not mean ‘all’. In that, I mean that there are some schools who have not been troubled by the reforms at all. One such school was Frederick Bremer – the brilliant institution at the heart of Channel 4’s Educating the East End.

When we interviewed Emma Hillman (deputy head) and Francesca Richards (SENCO) towards the end of last year, I asked them whether their person-centred approach had enabled them to navigate the SEN reforms more easily. Because of their inclusive person-centred practice, they both responded with a resounding ‘yes’. Francesca Richards stated that:

‘Yes, it’s been pretty smooth for us. This is because a lot of our SEN practices were already person-centred. For example, our annual statement reviews already constructed a person-centred approach that puts the child and the child’s voice at the heart of the process, alongside rigorous support systems that foster this child-centred approach. So, the practice that we have put in place has allowed us to adapt to the changes quite easily.’ Francesca Richards in the eighth issue of The SEND Practitioner

Of course, no school is the same. However, the type of whole-school person-centred approach that an inner-city school like Frederick Bremer follows has reaped extraordinary dividends — echoed by the words of Brian Lamb in our latest issue:

‘At root, it’s about adopting a quality first teaching approach. Get that in place and you will get parents onside to help your whole-school approach really take off. It’s a big investment upfront, but very big rewards will follow if you get it right.’ Brian Lamb in the 11th issue of The SEND Practitioner

The challenges are huge; the rewards are great; and, over the coming months, we hope that The SEND Practitioner will help you on your way.

Read issue 11 of The SEND Practitioner.

Sign up to The SEND Practitioner.

The SEND Practitioner: one year and ten issues later

Edward Farrow

This month, The SEND Practitioner is 13 months old.

In a year of seismic education reforms, we’ve published ten issues, have thousands of subscribers, and have interviewed a host of experts in their fields.


  • A leading lawyer to a top person-centred planning expert.
  • The stars of Channel Four’s Educating the East End to the chief executive of nasen.
  • An outstanding SEN author to a highly regarded SENCO.
  • The director of the Autism Education Trust to one of the DfE’s leading civil servants.
  • The former chief executive of nasen to one of our country’s most influential SEND experts and author of the highly regarded Lamb Report.

It’s been an utterly illuminating ride, one that has been made even greater by our genuinely engaged readership, who have asked us questions every step of the way.

To celebrate over a year of The SEND Practitioner, we were delighted to speak to Brian Lamb OBE for the second time yesterday. Brian took centre stage for our inaugural first issue and we thought that it would make perfect sense to talk to him a full nine months after the SEN reforms took place.

The 11th issue Q&A with Brian will publish before the month is out and will be followed closely by June’s 12th issue – featuring an interview with a world-class Cambridge University academic, psychologist and working memory expert.

If you already subscribe to The SEND Practitioner, thank you for reading. If you don’t and would like to, please sign up to our free-zine here.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a selection of quotes from some of our more recent contributors.

Gareth D Morewood on adapting and preparing for SEN reform

‘As with any change, a lot of potential issues may arise. However, with change comes great opportunity. There is an awful lot of information and support out there, so embrace it and you will find that being a SENCO doesn’t need to be a lonely job.’

Read the fifth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Natalie Packer offers a few final words on preparing for SEN reform

‘Don’t panic! Remember, 1 September is the start of the process. To that end, schools, local authorities and the DfE are all anticipating at least a three-year transition period. It’s an organic process, so we aren’t expected to do everything at once. Develop an action plan to help you prioritise.’

Read the sixth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Jane Friswell speaks about the post-SEN reform landscape

‘Keep calm and don’t panic. If you’re confident that you’re providing good quality provision for all children in your setting, then the new SEN requirements should not be a great challenge for you.’

Read the seventh issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Exploring Channel Four’s Educating the East End and the SEN landscape

‘[Our] inclusive approach, combined with effective classroom support (particularly in maths and English), means that we are able to meet the needs of our students.’

Read the eighth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Mark Blois looks at the SEN legal landscape

‘If SEND practitioners get hung up on the pitfalls and negatives, rather than seizing the opportunity to try and push through cultural change, then we probably won’t see the level of change that most would acknowledge that we should.’

Read the ninth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Colin Newton explores person-centred planning

‘Let’s use the person-centred planning way of working as tools to enable us to reach a truly inclusive society built around the needs of its most challenging and vulnerable young people.’

Read the tenth issue of The SEND Practitioner.


The SEND Practitioner is five months old

Edward Farrow

This month, The SEND Practitioner will be five months old. And if you said in response: ‘that’s not old’, well, you’d be absolutely right. It is, however, a milestone that we’re rather pleased to have reached. Why? Because in the deepest darkest depths of winter, when the germ of The SEND Practitioner was being discussed in our London office, we knew one thing – that we wanted to produce a monthly free-zine for SEND practitioners containing informative guidance from some of the best SEND practitioners and experts around.

To date, we think that we’ve done that. Just a few short weeks past the summer solstice – and many months from the winter one – we’ve produced four free-zines packed full of insights from some of the leading SEND experts in their fields. We’ve asked our experts the questions that our SENCOs want to ask and have looked at the prospective SEND reforms from a broad range of perspectives. Not only that, hundreds of SENCOs and SEND professionals have joined our list since we first published The SEND Practitioner – which we like to think is a pretty good ‘thumbs up’.

To mark The SEND Practitioner’s fifth month – equal to the lifespan of the dragonflies that flit around Greenwich Park just a stone’s throw from our London office – we are pleased to include a few choice quotes from the marvellous experts who have graced our pages. Thank you to our SENCOs, to Brian Lamb OBE, Lorraine Petersen OBE, Stephen Kingdom, Steve Huggett, and our loyal band of readers – we couldn’t have produced it without you.

From the author of the influential Lamb Inquiry 2009, to the former director of nasen; from the DfE’s most senior SEN civil servant, to the director of the Autism Education Trust, The SEND Practitioner has featured the voices of a host of SEND luminaries.

I’ve jotted down a few author grab quotes from each of our issues to give you a taste of their thoughts. If you want to find out more, simply click on the link that follows each quote to read the actual issue.

Brian Lamb OBE on preparing for the new Code of Practice (Issue one)

‘The Code of Practice is about a change in culture. It sees children with SEN as the school’s responsibility, delivering a personalised approach that recognises that they might need additional specialist support.’

Read the first issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Lorraine Petersen OBE on the Children and Families Act 2014 (Issue two)

‘It’s a time of great opportunity and yet it’s a long journey that we’ve been on since 2011. It will probably be 2016-2017 before we start to see the fruits of this. However, in the long term, I really do feel that it will be better for our children.’

Read the second issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Stephen Kingdom on SEN reform (Issue three)

‘This isn’t a big bang, a lot has been going on over time to help the teaching profession increase its capacity and capability to support children with SEN.’

Read the third issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Steve Huggett on SEN reform (Issue four)

‘The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. It’s what we do about it – rather than what we say about it – that will be critical.’

Read the fourth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

We’ve got a couple of interesting summer issues lined up – and we’re also arranging discounts to a key SEND reform conference this autumn for all of our readers.

So, if you’ve stumbled across this blog and would like to receive it in your in box every month, you can sign-up here. Or, if you have any comments, queries or suggestions, do get in touch.

The final SEND Code of Practice was laid before Parliament on 11 June

Edward Farrow

We are pleased to announce that the final SEND Code of Practice and Regulations were placed before Parliament last week. The Code is rather a large document, but we’ve had a quick look through and we’re really pleased to know that we fully comply with the changes that are due to take place this September.

If you are interested in the particular detail of the Code and Regulations – and how they apply to us – please take a look at the excerpts that we have taken from the Code and the Regulations respectively.

Excerpt from the Code of Practice

6.85 The SENCO must be a qualified teacher working at the school. A newly appointed SENCO must be a qualified teacher and, where they have not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, they must achieve a National Award in Special Educational Needs Co-ordination within three years of appointment.

6.86 A National Award must be a postgraduate course accredited by a recognised higher education provider. The National College for Teaching and Leadership has worked with providers to develop a set of learning outcomes (see the References section under Chapter 6 for a link). When appointing staff or arranging for them to study for a National Award schools should satisfy themselves that the chosen course will meet these outcomes and equip the SENCO to fulfil the duties outlined in this Code. Any selected course should be at least equivalent to 60 credits at postgraduate study.

Read the Code of Practice in full.


Prescribed qualifications and experience of SENCOs

49. (1) The appropriate authority of a relevant school must ensure that the SENCO appointed under section 67(2) of the Act meets all of the requirements in either paragraph (2) or (3).

(2) The requirements in this paragraph are that the SENCO–

(a)is a qualified teacher;

(b)if required to complete an induction period under regulations made under section 135A of the Education Act 2002(1), has satisfactorily completed such an induction period; and

(c)is working as a teacher at the school.

(3) The requirement in this paragraph is that the SENCO is the head teacher or acting head teacher (or equivalent in the case of an Academy school) of the school.

(4) Where a person becomes the SENCO at a relevant school after 1st September 2009, and has not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, the appropriate authority of the school must ensure that, if the person is the SENCO at the school at any time after the third anniversary of the date on which that person becomes a SENCO, that person holds the qualification, mentioned in paragraph (5).

(5) The qualification referred to in paragraph (4) is a postgraduate qualification in special educational needs co-ordination, for the time being known as “The National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordination”, awarded by a recognised body.

(6) For the purposes of paragraph (5), a recognised body is a body designated by the Secretary of State by order made under section 216(1) of the Education Reform Act 1988(2);

Read the Regulations in full.

What is The SEND Practitioner?

Edward Farrow

Whilst it might not have escaped your attention, we launched our first issue of The SEND Practitioner a couple of months ago.

Our aim is to publish an illuminating free monthly publication disseminating the latest thinking from experts and practitioners across the SEND spectrum. To date, we’ve interviewed Brian Lamb OBE (author of the influential Lamb Report), Lorraine Petersen OBE (former CEO of nasen) and a group of SENCOs on many aspects of SEND education. In the next issue, we’re particularly excited to be speaking to the DfE’s Stephen Kingdom. Stephen is the DfE’s Deputy Director of SEND and will be answering a broad range of questions that we will source from educationalists who subscribe to The SEND Practitioner.

The Children and Families Act 2014 and the forthcoming Code of Practice mean that this year is set to be one of the more challenging years for educationalists. With this in mind, we hope that this blog, The SEND Practitioner and our Twitter feed will keep all of our students, delegates and experts in the loop – with the latest guidance, advice and expertise from those in the know to those on the go.

You will be able to access a copy of both published issues of The SEND Practitioner on our website very shortly.

In the meantime, you can sign-up to and read the first two issues of The SEND Practitioner here.


Speak to us

01273 35 80 80

or Make a booking

Complete the online booking form to
enrol on one of our training courses