Research School Network: What are Learning Support Plans and how can they support SEND students? SENDCO and Research School Associate Kate Blight explains the creation and use of Learning Support Plans
What are Learning Support Plans and how can they support SEND students?
SENDCO and Research School Associate Kate Blight explains the creation and use of Learning Support Plans
by Durrington Research School
In today’s diverse and inclusive educational landscape, teachers often find themselves faced with students who have varying learning needs. In secondary classrooms, where subjects become more specialised, catering to these diverse needs can be a significant challenge. This is where Learning Support Plans (LSPs) can be a vital tool in our teaching toolkit, helping us to create a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students.
The starting point for LSPs is accurate diagnosis of need. In the EEF’s Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools guidance report it suggests that learning needs can be defined in three ways:
1. all children have common needs — for example, the need to receive effective teaching;
2. some children have specific needs that are shared with a similar group — for example, pupils with a hearing impairment need access to means of audiological support; and
3. all children have individual needs — for example, pupils with a Speech and Language Disorder may benefit from pre-teaching of vocabulary and scaffolded talk opportunities.
Further to this, the report shares the graduated approach structure, explaining how schools can use it to better understand and respond to a student’s learning needs. Briefly, that looks like this:
Assess—build a holistic picture of the pupil’s learning needs by gathering information from several sources, such as the pupil, parents and carers, colleagues, and external professionals.
Plan—using the kind of information gathered above, generate a hypothesis about the type of support that could work; this decision should consider the research evidence about effective classroom teaching strategies and targeted interventions (see Recommendations 3 and 4) as well as evidence-based strategies suggested by an external professional.
Do—implement the planned support.
Review—did the support work? Any information gathered in response to the testing of a hypothesis is useful: a successful response to support helps identify a strategy that works while a non-response helps to refine our understanding of a pupils’ needs and inform a new hypothesis
Using this structure, we can create effective and constantly adapting LSPs. Before we go any further, let’s define what LSPs at Durrington are:
- Personalised documents that outline an individual student’s specific and individual learning need.
- Strategies and accommodations required to help them succeed academically.
- They generally have no more than three strategies for teachers to enact in lessons where appropriate, but are strategies that are known to work for the individual student based on previous feedback from both our staff/parents/students and primary school in the case of year 7
Learning Support Plans are indispensable tools for teachers in secondary classrooms. They promote inclusivity, inform targeted instruction, enhance classroom management, facilitate communication, and support the overall well-being of students. By recognising and addressing the unique learning needs of each student, teachers can create a learning environment where every student has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.
One of the most significant advantages of LSPs is that they foster inclusivity in the classroom. Inclusion is not just about having students with diverse learning needs in the same room; it’s about ensuring that each student can participate actively and make progress. LSPs outline the necessary exam access arrangements (extra time, seated away, readers, laptop etc), These adjustments make it possible for students with SEND to access the curriculum effectively, when used effectively in lesson time, homework and exams.
Effective classroom management is crucial for a conducive learning environment. LSPs can contribute significantly to this aspect of teaching. By addressing students’ specific behavioural needs or challenges, teachers can implement strategies that reduce disruptions and maintain a positive atmosphere in the classroom. This might include implementing a reward system for a student with attention difficulties or establishing clear expectations and routines for a student with autism.
Implementing LSPs demonstrates to students that their individual needs are valued and respected. This can help build trust and rapport between teachers and students, as well as foster a sense of belonging in the classroom. When students see that their teachers are committed to their success and well-being, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated learners.
So how can you make the best use of LSPs in your classroom?
Know the students who have an LSP – read the strategies and be mindful about how you can use them in your classroom, remind yourself, and other adults in the classroom, of these strategies regularly. If a student has an exam access arrangement make sure you incorporate it into lessons and homeworks, as well as for assessments. Giving extra time in a lesson is tricky but can be done by expecting them to complete less questions in the same time frame, giving them extra thinking time when asking them questions in class. Pass on any strategies that work for particular students to the SEND team so that they can put them on the LSP for other staff to try. LSP’s are a working document and must be updated regularly.
Finally, Learning Support Plans are not just about academic success within the classroom; they also prepare students for an inclusive society. By experiencing inclusive education, students develop empathy, tolerance, and an appreciation for diversity. These are essential qualities that will serve them well in their future endeavours and interactions with others.
By Kate Blight – Research School Associate and SENDCO