Getting your SEND learners ready for GCSE part 2

As we approach the GCSE season we have to start preparing our learners for the exams.  Unfortunately, our SEND learners need a little bit of extra help with their preparations if they are to reach their potential in the terminal exams.


Special needs students find revision difficult – it can be difficult knowing what to revise and what the best way to revise is. Some students simply aren’t capable of revising without support and this is where we can take a lead.

I’ve posted before about spaced recall or retrieval practice. The theory is simple, the more you retrieve a memory the stronger it becomes. Ideally, four instances of retrieval can significantly strengthen a memory – so how do we use this to our advantage?

Spaced retrieval works best with a scaffold or structure rather than just expecting learners to highlight notes or read through their work. Two simple solutions are either graphical information organisers for students to summarise their notes or exam questions. If you are going to use exam questions for this, stick to simple recall questions that test A01 – you should be able to access plenty of these from old specifications that will serve the required purpose.

Applying knowledge

No amount of working at home is going to help these learners develop their application skills. These need to be modelled in a classroom environment so students have a method or scaffold to complete these questions. An excellent idea I heard at the ASE conference (credit to @sciencedouglas) which I’ve shamelessly stolen and reproduced below is a way of preparing students for A02 questions. As Euan stressed during his presentation, these are only useful as application questions if students haven’t studied the context in question.  Euan’s department teaches students to identify the science in an A02 question and work from there.

Confidence and self-esteem at answer questions.

Lower attaining learners often suffer from self-doubt and lack of confidence. Start off with easy questions and build up to harder ones at their targeted level.  Train students to check marks available and how to answer free response questions (this is a huge task so don’t underestimate how long this will take!)

Praise success and use your reward system to get learners on board – involve parents when possible.

Finally, remember that targets are just that. I say to my learners that I would like for them to be able to look back in future years and say I couldn’t have done any more, I did my best. If they’ve done their best that’s all you can ask for!