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Evidence informed practice: Deploying specialists to improve outcomes for learners with SEND

Authors: The Sea View Trust

Purpose of the research 

When we embarked on this research project, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the creative ways in which schools were using Specialists, namely Speech and Language Therapists (SaLTs) and Educational Psychologists (EPs) to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND. 

We distributed a national survey and once we’d sifted through the responses, identified a range of schools that we felt, highlighted a demonstrable impact through the deployment of the specialist services that they had commissioned to improve outcomes and develop inclusive universal provision and strategic SEN Support provision. 

Why is this important? 

From the January 2020 School Census information, it was highlighted that just over 12% of our pupil population receive SEN Support. This clearly highlights a priority for schools and their leaders to ensure that they can provide the best quality of education for their SEND learners. If, by using EPs and SaLTs, they can improve the universal provision, 1/8 of our pupil workforce should see an improvement in their provision and outcomes. 


We received survey responses from 29 schools and identified 12 which highlighted demonstrable or replicable practice which could be shared within our community. The responses ranged from Primary, Secondary and Special schools; large and small schools; rural and urban schools; a range of schools from a variety of socioeconomic areas; we also identified schools which only commissioned local authority and NHS services, private services or a combination of both. 


As an expert panel, we focused on identifying demonstrable and replicable practice within the sample for the use of specialists to; 

  • Accelerate identification of SEND; 

  • Accelerate attainment; 

  • Improve attendance; 

  • Improve behaviour; 

  • Improve parental confidence; 

  • Improve engagement and participation; 

  • Improve pupil confidence; 

  • Improve staff confidence; 

  • Improve inclusive opportunities; 

  • Strategically improve SEND provision. 

Key findings 

Key Finding 1: Inclusive Culture 

Key Finding 2: Positive Relationships   

Key Finding 3: School Ownership 

Key Finding 4: Sustainable solutions 

Key Finding 5: Robust evidence sources 

So what? Now what? 

We know, as a community, that finding and commissioning an appropriate level of support, either from Speech and Language Therapists or Educational Psychologists is costly. Our budgets are finite and we must work creatively to commission the support that we need within our individual school contexts to have the desired impact. This assumes that we know what our desired impact is before we’ve commissioned them! This is key in establishing what we are willing to spend on any additional provision we’re commissioning. 

We also know that the limited number of Educational Psychologists and Speech and Language Therapists means that we can struggle to meet the demand required of all of our children and young people with SEND.  

We have developed a helpful self-evaluation audit which can support you to review your current practices and provision and help you identify key priorities to enable you to improve your deployment of specialists more strategically.  

Find out more 

We are releasing all supporting resources and hosting a webinar on Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 4pm follow this link to sign up!