Improving learner outcomes

Access to learning: high-quality teaching practice and targeted professional training in SEND

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Access to learning webinar series

Date 27th Oct 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ofsted carried out a qualitative case study (1) of 7 mainstream primary and secondary schools in the UK. The purpose of this research was to determine how the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were being met, and whether support approaches varied between education providers. Based on the testimony of 21 pupils, their parents, teachers, support staff and staff in external agencies, this focused review provides us with a unique window into how SEND provision and practice could be improved by closing the gap in SEND knowledge and targeted professional training.

Despite uncovering pockets of good practice, it was felt some SEND support wasn’t ambitious enough (see: Key highlights below). Some pupils lacked learning independence, and some were at risk of experiencing a learning loss and/or social exclusion.

Key highlights

1) The report recommends professional training for teaching assistants that focuses on how to teach subjects from the curriculum. Rob Webster – the author of Maximising the Use of Teaching Assistants (TAs) – argues that instead of focusing on greater curriculum knowledge, TAs should possess a broad set of skills around learning(2).

2) In some schools, SEND support consisted of one-to-one (and group) interventions with a key adult – typically a teaching assistant. Pupils appeared to miss ‘entire chunks of the curriculum’, lacked learning independence and seemed over-reliant on their keyworker. As support interventions often took place outside of the classroom, pupils were at risk of a learning loss and social exclusion due to limited opportunities to participate in the same high-quality teaching experiences as their peers. This impacted, most notably, the experiences and overall developmental ambition of pupils needing SEN support without an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

3) Efforts to adopt person-centred approaches and build a secure knowledge of SEND had not entirely closed the gap in understanding. Some practitioners did not always know the pupils well enough to support their individual needs

Introducing Access to learning

In response, OLT is joining the SEND community’s efforts to address some of Ofsted’s concerns with our new webinar series entitled ‘Access to learning’. From October to March 2022, our acclaimed speakers will share timely, evidence-based information and insights to help close the gap in SEND knowledge and practice, so that all pupils can benefit from equivalent access to high-quality teaching and learning experiences. We’ll be sharing strategies that remove barriers to learning participation, improve identification of the starting point of need, promote learning independence and build self-esteem for pupils with SEND.

We’ll be sharing interviews with our speakers via our social media channels, so don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Soundcloud to hear this exclusive content.

Confirmed speakers:

Margaret Rooke: 'Supporting and empowering children and teens with dyslexia', 27 October 2021

Gwyn McCormack: Individual access skills for pupils with a vision impairment, 23 November 2021

Other webinars in this series will be confirmed shortly.



Dyslexia Awareness Month

The ‘Access to learning’ webinar series commences in October during Dyslexia Awareness month (2021). Margaret Rooke - the author of Dyslexia is my Superpower! – will be joining us on 27th October (4pm, BST) to share examples of the ways in which pupils with dyslexia like to learn and think about their learning difficulty/difficulties.

Authentic examples of the pupil’s voice can also be found in our Dyslexia course, which enables schools to meet Ofsted’s call for more targeted professional training for teachers and teaching assistants.

OLT’s Dyslexia course

Providing 20 hours’ of professional CPD, the course focuses on enhancing the knowledge, skills and practice of teachers and teaching assistants responsible for supporting a child or young person with dyslexia. Our courses are delivered by the advisory staff teacher who normally supports staff in schools, as part of their outreach activities. It’s a highly effective, proven training model that is a worthwhile investment of your time – either at the beginning or throughout your career!



1. GOV.UK. 2021. Supporting SEND. [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 18 October 2021]. 

2. Webster, R., 2021. Why Ofsted is wrong about TA support for SEND pupils. [online] Tes. Available at: < > [Accessed 18 October 2021].




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