Proven Practice: Helping children with additional needs in school

The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes highlights a project that aims to narrow the gap in educational achievement and improve emotional resilience for children with additional needs

The  Centre for Excellence and Outcomes  highlights a  project  that aims to narrow the gap in educational achievement and improve emotional resilience for children with additional needs


The term “additional needs” is increasingly used in policy documents to refer to children and young people who need something more than high quality universal services if they are to do well. The term encompasses both children and young people with special educational needs and those who need something “additional” but do not meet the threshold for specialist intervention.

Between 20% and 30% of children and young people have additional needs at some point in their lives. Targeted support within universal settings is regarded as the best service response to this group.

Concerns have been raised about the gap between the outcomes for these children and young people and those of their peers. The most obvious gap is in educational achievement, but other aspects of children’s and young people’s lives can create barriers to learning. In particular, children’s emotional resilience – their social behaviour, self-esteem and ability to cope with the difficulties and obstacles that life presents to them – has a central influence on outcomes.

The Every Child Matters agenda as a whole offers the possibility of addressing children and young people’s needs holistically and bringing multi-dimensional interventions to bear. Schools are seen as having a key role as sites where children’s additional needs can best be identified and addressed.

Below are summarised interventions that research shows can make a positive contribution to the narrowing of this attainment gap and promoting children’s emotional resilience.

Narrowing the achievement gap

Multi-strand programmes targeting a wide range of children and young people with additional needs are a promising way of addressing barriers to learning.

There is promising evidence that extended schools, multi-agency teams working with schools and alternative curriculum programmes can achieve improved engagement in learning, improvements in behaviour and attendance, and changes in aspirations. Improvements in attainment may emerge over the longer term and help to narrow achievement gaps.

The key features of interventions that seem to be achieving positive outcomes are flexibility, links with school structures and systems, holistic approaches, activities that build on children and young people’s strengths and interests, and striking a balance between a focus on individuals and the wider organisation.

Improving emotional resilience?

There is promising evidence that integrated strategies can address resilience issues. Outcomes of promising interventions include improvements in children’s emotional well-being and social functioning, improvements in family functioning and circumstances, and improved community relationships and opportunities for local people.

School-based interventions have a clear role to play as part of a broader strategy for improving children’s resilience. Successful interventions are implemented in the context of a whole-school environment that supports social and emotional skills; take a universal approach that focuses on preventing difficulties; integrate targeted interventions into more general approaches and involve parents in programmes.

Early intervention

Intervention in the early years is particularly important for improving outcomes for children with additional needs, but intervening at any stage to help children and young people will have positive benefits.

There is promising evidence that the common assessment framework (CAF) can, in some circumstances, facilitate service integration and early intervention.

Successful local approaches to integration have much to tell us about what works and how in particular contexts. This knowledge needs to be shared widely across the system.

The challenges for schools

Schools will need to develop varied and flexible strategies in order to meet the wide variety of additional needs that children and young people may bring.

Children and young people with additional needs may well need help from other services, beyond the educational. Schools therefore need to be equipped to identify and respond to needs that may fall outside of their traditional areas of expertise, and will need training and support to do this.

Partnership working with other agencies and organisations is an important part of working with children with additional needs. There is no single model of how schools and their partner services should work together and collaborations may involve a range of activities in addition to direct interventions with children and young people.

There are several features of effective partnership working. They include clear aims that are understood by all parties; clearly identified roles and responsibilities; commitment from both senior management and frontline staff; strong leadership; good systems of communication and information sharing and good structures for joint planning.

Local organisation

The broad principles and approaches around which services are organised are more important than particular organisational models. Aspects of organisations identified as characteristic of higher performing authorities include basing prioritisation on local need, being innovative, communicating ambitions for young people, embedding partnership working and having strong leadership.

There is a good case for using local experience and success to inform the development of approaches to additional needs across children’s services areas.


The scale and diversity of additional needs means that no single type of intervention is likely to work for all students, nor to meet all the needs of children facing multiple difficulties. There are, however, some clear common principles that are associated with interventions that have had some promising impacts on barriers to learning and on factors related to emotional resilience.

Full report 

Case study: An Education Improvement Partnership

Promote family well-being through schools

St Ann’s and Sneinton Education Improvement Partnership’s (EIP) parent counselling project promotes family health and well-being through providing parents with individual counselling, peer support and signposting to other sources of support.

The project employs a counsellor who leads parent support/therapy groups at the schools, provides one-to-one counselling to individual parents and works with schools and other agencies to develop support and activities for parents and families. The counsellor facilitates weekly therapy groups in 10 schools. These are attended by between five and 20 parents per school each week.

The aim is to establish self-sustaining groups whose members can support each other outside school hours.

The counsellor also facilitates after school family play clubs in four EIP schools, attended by up to 20 families per day. Families for this project are usually identified by the school as needing intervention and support. The counsellor also signposts parents and children and young people to other activities such as holiday clubs and community sessions organised by the EIP.

Each of the EIP schools has a link person with whom the counsellor works closely to promote the group sessions.

The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO) identifies and coordinates local, regional and national evidence of ‘what works’ to create a single and comprehensive picture of effective practice in delivering children’s services. It is focusing its work on a number of themes identified in Every Child Matters.

Practitioners’ messages

● Address several goals simultaneously and work at multiple levels (individuals, families and communities, including schools).

● Provide group work and individual support, and build on the strengths of children.

● Establish strong partnerships between schools and other statutory and voluntary sector services

● Use CAF to facilitate service integration and early intervention and prevention.

● Provide strong strategic leadership and clear aims to guide schools and services in developing their own approache.s

● Embed new initiatives into schools’ wider approaches and systems to improve the environment, curriculum, support and teaching and learning for all children and young people.

Research abstracts

Author ANTHONY Elizabeth K, et al

Title Development of a risk and resilience-based out-of-school time program for children and youths

Reference Social Work, 54(1), January 2009, pp.45-55. ISSN paper: 0037-8046 ISSN online: 1545-6846

Abstract Out-of-school time (OST) programmes offer a unique opportunity to provide educational supports to high-risk children and youths. The authors describe the utility of applying principles of risk and resilience to the development and evaluation of an OST programme. Academic outcomes among participants at the Bridge Project, an OST program located in three urban public housing communities, are presented to illustrate a risk and resilience approach to service delivery.

Author FRANKLIN Anita, et al

Title Shaping the future: the educational experiences of 5-16 year old blind and partially sighted children and young people

Publisher Royal National Institute for the Blind, 2001, 185p, tables, bibliog

Abstract Based on the RNIB’s survey of the experiences of visually impaired children, this covers topics such as type of school attended, provision for special needs, reading media and equipment, access to the national curriculum and examinations, mobility lessons, bullying, careers advice and what young people think makes a good school.

Author/publisher Department for Children, Schools and Families 2009

Title Children with special educational needs 2009: an analysis

Abstract This report presents information at national and local levels about pupils with special educational needs. The main body of this publication presents national level data and some breakdowns by government office region. Chapter 1 looks at the characteristics of pupils with special educational needs. It provides information by gender, age, ethnicity and type of need.

Every social worker who wants to re-register with the General Social Care Council has to have done 90 hours (15 days) of post-registration training and learning (PRTL) in the previous three years. Community Care’s magazine, website and events provide ways to meet the requirements.

We also offer a training log for social workers to keep a personal record of their progress on PRTL – just click on the Learning and Development tab on the home page. Community Care can help you meet many of your development goals: our articles provide valuable opportunities for insight and learning; our conferences and events, including Community Care Live, are specifically geared to clear learning outcomes.

Upcoming Community Care events include:

● Children’s services case reviews, 13 July,

● Implementing the National Autism Strategy, 1 July,

● For more information, click on the “Events” button at the top of the home page.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.