A majority of schools rated themselves as mostly inclusive. These ratings were usually based on high level aspects such as the school’s philosophy or culture and the attitudes of staff and students. Schools’ policies reflected these views, and most had developed systems to identify and address students’ needs. Eighty percent of schools had a SENCO.

Almost all schools described a range of ways they included students with various special needs. These covered individualised support and programmes, adapting curriculum programmes, targeted teaching, providing teacher aides to support students in classrooms, working with parents, obtaining specialist advice and guidance, and property projects.

Almost all schools had accessed PLD to help them provide for students with special needs. However, several schools noted that some teachers needed to develop their expertise in differentiating the curriculum.

Although most boards funded a variety of interventions, they did not receive comprehensive information about all their students with special needs and the effectiveness of the programmes provided for them. Schools did not report information that evaluated their programmes in terms of outcomes for learners with special needs. Many schools reported outcomes in general terms or referred to improved attitudes. Some schools collated achievement or progress data for particular programmes or interventions such as Reading Recovery, but did not have comparable data on other interventions.

It is a concern that boards do not have robust information to monitor how well they are meeting the needs of their students with various types of special needs and to inform their decisions about allocation of resources. Very few reports to the board included information about the cost of different programmes in relation to either the number of students participating or the outcomes for students. This means schools are not able to judge whether their resourcing decisions are having the intended outcomes, or are the most appropriate way of supporting students with special needs.

The academic progress of these learners may be improved if schools had better self-review data that shows which programmes and teaching strategies are most effective. This sort of information could be shared more systematically with other staff and may also identify needs for additional PLD for the staff involved.