Intervention and the medicalisation of SEND.

I’ve never liked the word ‘intervention’. I first heard it with regard to my son; it seemed so clinical and impersonal.

There is the sense is it is being ‘done to’ the child, not with them. It is any wonder learners become passive?

In schools, the word is used to describe 1-1 or small group sessions wherein students receive support outside of the classroom to help them progress (usually ‘evidence’ based).

Do children even know what the word means?

A closer look at the history of the word does not reassure:

Inter = between, and venire = to come (to come between).

It doesn’t feel like a collaborative process does it?

Children will often refer to it as being ‘taken out’. They can’t miss a core subject so it is often during a lesson which is low in the hierarchisation of subjects, one which they enjoy or a have a talent in: art, drama, PE.

There was one particular child who did not like being ‘taken out’ and I realised that this active process wherein an adult was seen to extract him from the classroom and walk with him to our destination led to embarrassment for him. I considered a process which was less passive for him: an appointment card; supported by the teacher to be timely, he would come and find me at the allotted time.

Research into the efficacy of interventions suggests they are not effective, read more here:

TAs and interventions

The language comes from the medical model:

Intervention: The act of intervening, interfering or interceding with the intent of modifying the outcome. In medicine, an intervention is usually undertaken to help treat or cure a condition.

Of course, there are a great many talented practitioners who make interventions engaging and enjoyable for students. However, the knowledge is not always transferred to the classroom. Why?

Is it because the lessons are discrete and students see them as ‘other’?

Is it because there is not enough time for teachers to communicate with those intervening: to learn about strategies that work, or new learning targets, and embed them?

Teachers have the biggest impact on learning. Sensitive to the staff hierarchy, children often do not afford the same focus, effort and respect to support staff.

Clearly some children get behind in learning and need help. Focus should be on early identification: the Early Years phase. Practitioners are still reluctant to identify students in the EYFS phase. Why?

It is perhaps a phase which sees itself as separate (it has unique training and may be physically located separately); embattled by changes to its ways of working, entrenched. The phase is concerned with protecting the right to play and with a linear model of development, soandso is …’not THERE yet’.

Focus has been on Reception for good reason. It is here that learners start to fail and they don’t catch up. Research shows that quality teaching has a significant impact here:

Impact of Reception attainment

We know a lot more about learning and cognition since Piaget. I am a huge advocate of leaning through play by the way.

Perhaps if children were identified and supported early: with working memory difficulties, dyslexia, speech difficulties there would be no need to ‘intervene’ later on.

There are many ways to encourage students to be active participants, facilitating metacognition (thinking about thinking and learning) :

Engage them in targets:

Embed teaching points within the classroom:

Ask for their feedback:

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top