“How to support children with additional needs to progress in their Personal, Social and Emotional Development”

By K.K


After liaison with Redbridge Early Years team and the class teachers at my own school we noticed a rising trend of pupils entering Reception with additional needs but are not yet eligible for EHCP statements. Thus teachers such as myself, are finding it difficult to manage the teaching of children with additional needs because of the additional care and attention they require.  This study aims to research ways to improve the way we plan for children with additional needs with the limited resources available.

Inspiration for the study was developed by adopting the ‘Framework for Leadership’ model posed by Michael Fullon (2001). ‘Moral Purpose’ is crucial to leadership as ‘leaders who combine a commitment to moral purpose with a healthy respect for the complexities of change …will be more successful.’


Highlands is a larger than average-sized primary school.  33% of pupils are from an Asian or Asian British Pakistani heritage. Other pupils are from a variety of other ethnic heritages, including Asian or Asian British Indian (22%), Asian or Asian British Bangladeshi (17%).  80% of pupils speak English as an additional language. This is well above the national average. 13% of pupils are known to be eligible for the pupil premium. This is below the national average.  The proportion of pupils who have an education, health and care plan or statement is around the national average. The proportion of pupils who receive special needs support is around the national average.


Government figures show that since 2010, the proportion of children with special educational needs has fallen sharply from 21.1 per cent to 15.4 per cent. However, the proportion of children with Education, Health and Care Plans or statements of special educational needs has not fallen in that time, so the apparent decline is solely among children with less severe difficulties, who may no longer be included on the SEN register.

For schools and early years settings, these changes have introduced new ways of working and fresh challenges. However, in a research report published by the DFE in 2017, it was identified that these, “new ways” of working are very varied when comparing settings to settings.


Action Research:

Action research is a process where participants reflect on their own educational practice using the techniques of research. Teachers work effectively when they examine and assess their own work and then consider ways of working differently. Teachers help each other, work collaboratively, and improve their professional development (Watts, 1985, p. 118).

Denscombe (2010) identifies four defining characteristics of action research:

  1. Practical nature. It is aimed at dealing with real-world problems and issues,typically at work and in organizational settings.
  2. 2. Change. Both as a way of dealing with practical problems and as a means of discovering more about phenomena, change is regarded as an integral part of research.
  3. 3. Cyclical process. Research involves a feedback loop in which initial findings generate possibilities for change which are then implemented and evaluated as a prelude to further investigation.
  4. 4. Participation. Practitioners are the crucial people in the research process. Their participation is active, not passive.

A review of Research that informed this study:

The Mosaic approach (Clark and Moss, 2001; Clark, 2003).

The Mosaic approach was developed during a research study to include the ‘voice of the child’ in an evaluation of a multiagency network of services for children and families.

The elements of this approach are:

  • multi-method: recognises the different ‘voices’ or languages of children;
  • participatory: treats children as experts and agents in their own lives;
  • reflexive: includes children, practitioners and parents in reflecting on meanings, and addresses the question of interpretation;
  • adaptable: can be applied in a variety of early childhood institutions;
  • focused on children’s lived experiences: can be used for a variety of purposes including looking at lives lived rather than knowledge gained or care received;
  • Embedded into practice: a framework for listening that has the potential to be both used as an evaluative tool and to become embedded into early years practice.

PCP is a set of approaches designed to assist an individual to plan their life and supports. It is most often used for life planning with people with learning and developmental disabilities, though recently it has been advocated as a method of planning personalised support with many other sections of society who find themselves disempowered by traditional methods of service delivery, including children, people with physical disabilities, people with mental health issues and older people. PCP is accepted as evidence based practice in many countries throughout the world.

Fullon (2001) ‘A Framework for Leadership’ aims to transform systems through people and teams. It consists of personal characteristics of energy/enthusiasm and hope, and five core components of leadership: moral purpose, understanding change, relationship building, knowledge creation and sharing and coherence making.  (Figure.1) From this model I created my own ‘Framework for Leadership.’ (See images below)

Figure 1. Framework for Leadership


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Fullon (2001)

Background of the child:

Child A entered Reception with very limited skills in the Prime areas of learning, predominately the Personal, Social and Emotional areas of learning. Child A struggled to engage in social interactions with both adults and children. Skills such as ‘Self -Confidence and Self- Awareness’ according to the Early Learning Goal is where ‘children are confident to try new activities, and say why they like some activities more than others. They are confident to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help (DfE Development Matters).’

An Overview of the Practice:

The project was conducted in a Reception setting over a year. Following on from informal discussions with the Early Years practitioners in the setting, it became evident that some practitioners lacked understanding behind the reasons why SEND children display a lack of personal, social and emotional development and what provision can be put in place to help. Thus it was concluded that the following provision needed to be implemented:

-Ten minutes of targeted play every day to encourage social skills with observations alongside.

-‘Targeted play’ added to reception provision map when planning for children’s interventions.

-Meeting with parents of the targeted child every half term.

-Setting up individual times tables, tray work and baseboards to encourage independence.

As a team we looked heavily on the Reception provision map how to best make use of the time and adults already available to plan for targeted play, learning and teaching with children with additional needs in the year group.

-Ensuring additional adults are informed of SEN changes of provision and are trained to implement new provision. This is executed through weekly SEN training.

– Developing practitioners understanding of how learning should be differentiated.

Click on Picture to Enlarge

–          The child has accelerated progress in all Specific and Prime areas of development from Autumn 1 to Spring 2 term 2019.  This   includes a significant rise in the following areas of learning:

–          Child A made accelerated progress in Self-confidence and self-awareness since the start of academic year.

–          Child A made accelerated progress in Managing Feelings and Behaviour since the start of academic year.

–          Child A made accelerated progress in Self-confidence and self-awareness since the start of academic year.

–          Child A made accelerated progress in Making Relationships since the start of academic year.


  1. Over the course of the project as a class leader, managing and ensuring that enough time is delegated to spend with the focus child every day is crucial.
  2. During class time adults give greater priority to focused adult based activities rather than learning through play.
  3. Ensuring new members off staff are confident in the EYFS curriculum and understand the importance of child interaction and play based learning as well as SEN provision.

This research project has successfully shown that adult interaction, good time management, SEN provision and regular parental engagement has accelerated the progress of Child in the ability to manage their Personal, Social and Emotional behaviour. After sharing the results of this project with the team of Receptions teachers in the school it has been agreed that the provision and framework model will be applied to all children with additional needs in the upcoming Reception year group.


Before implementing this strategy in your learning environment, consider the following:

  • Ensuring new members of staff are confident in their knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
  • Think about new Reception teachers entering the team and sharing the research project with them before the start of the academic year so they aware of the provision that needs to be in place.
  • Ensuring that the school provides regular SEND training for additional adults to develop their knowledge and understanding.