Supporting SEN in the Classroom Environment

Children busy working in the classroom at St Stephens

Current government statistics record that over 14% of pupils in education in the UK today have some requirements in terms of special educational needs. These will vary in terms of level and detail but will give rise to practical issues and concerns impacting on day to day learning. Supporting SEN in the classroom is a challenge for every educational establishment, focused around appropriate teaching strategies for SEN pupils.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice set out the duties of local authorities, health bodies, schools and colleges to provide adequate facilities for SEN education in line with Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014. The Code clearly identifies four specific areas of need.

These are:-

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
  • Sensory and/or physical needs

Practical and operational considerations

Accessibility is a vital consideration. Pupils using the space may require walking aids or wheelchairs so additional space may be required for navigation as well as ramps and low-level thresholds.

Research has highlighted the benefits of specialist acoustic and lighting provision in SEND classrooms, alleviating considerations around sensitivity to noise, light and reductions in anxiety levels. Reduced levels of distraction can be achieved with careful planning of space and reduction in clutter. Alongside sensory stimulus and sensory and physical experiences, creating calm, safe spaces is one of the primary objectives when designing an SEN classroom.

Specialist teaching aids and equipment

Special needs resources and multi-sensory equipment are now widely available with free downloadable activity guides. These materials are designed to help maximise the potential for SEN teaching strategies. Resources cover autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia, amongst others, and provide valuable tools to optimise activities for children with additional and special educational needs. Topics include communication, visual aids and social skills.

Creating effective spaces

Alongside clearly demarcated areas for individual activities and calm, ‘safe’ places, SEN classrooms should be designed to engage children to promote confidence and independence. These are essentially safe spaces where SEN pupils can learn and interact safely and with confidence. Zoning areas to denote activity and calm will help to create a positive learning environment.

The sensory room at Kingsleigh Primary school
Multi-sensory Learning Space

Careful consideration should be given to lighting, acoustics and textures as well as easy access to toilets and hygiene facilities. In addition, practical considerations include carefully located hand railing, planned and accessible storage areas to reduce clutter and enable children to move safely around the classroom.

The end result should be the creation of multi-sensory spaces which are functional, engaging, safe and uncluttered.

Building a SEND classroom – the modular solution

If your requirement for SEND space is urgent, there’s no need to compromise in terms of quality, purpose and performance. Selecting a modular build process provides a fast and cost-effective solution. In general, modular classrooms can be constructed in a far shorter timeframe and at significantly reduced costs in comparison with traditional construction methods.

The new SEND teaching space at Appleton Academy, West Yorkshire

Start by deciding what space and facilities are required. The building can then be designed and manufactured offsite in a factory environment and brought to site for installation and commissioning. This approach significantly reduces disruption on site. In addition, modular builds are typically 50% quicker than traditional build.

The specification is limitless in terms of space and specialist facilities. Modular SEN classroom plans can be developed to individual specifications and purpose-designed for SEN requirements in terms of access, space and facilities. The objective is to produce a specialist learning space developed to match individual needs.

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