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14th November 2023 - Is Catch Up® suitable for Learners with SEND or ALN?

A question we are often asked!

When considering this, it is first of all important to understand what is meant by these terms. SEND (Special Educational Need and Disability) is an extremely broad ranging term encompassing a vast array of needs. In England, the government's SEND code of practice highlights four broad areas of SEND needs:

Communication and Interaction
Children and young people with speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN) who have difficulty understanding and communicating with others. This may include those with ASD, including Asperger Syndrome and Autism.

Cognition and Learning
Children and young people who learn at a slower pace than their peers, and those with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). For example dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia.

Social, Emotional, and Health difficulties
Children who may be withdrawn or isolated, as well as those displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviours. The code states these behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties.

Sensory and/or Physical needs
This includes children with a disability that prevents or hinders them from making full use of general educational facilities. For example, those with visual or hearing impairments, multi-sensory impairments, and/or physical disabilities.

So often SEND and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) are extremely diverse and there is no one size fits all, which is where Catch Up® interventions are ideally placed to support the needs of individual learners.

Both Catch Up® Literacy and Catch Up® Numeracy are needs led, process-based interventions and as such are highly adaptable to meet the specific needs of the individual learners, particularly those with SEND and ALN.

In supporting struggling learners with the Catch Up® interventions the process always begins with the individual learner and where they are on their learning journey. By looking very carefully at what the learner is already confident in, as well as where they may be facing challenges, gives the supporting adult the opportunity to begin to recognise what will work best for the individual learner. This aspect of the intervention is what makes the Catch Up® interventions best suited for learners with more complex needs.

The Catch Up® interventions are always delivered on a one-to-one basis, by adults who have been trained by Catch Up®, which includes exploration of why young people face challenges in their learning. For learners whose needs are complex it is crucial to ensure that learning opportunities are tailored to meet the challenges they face.

So, which features of the Catch Up® interventions enable this support to take place?

Both of the Catch Up® interventions take an individualised approach, in order to meet the needs of each learner.

This approach is achieved in many different ways:

By the supporting adult: who builds a positive working relationship with the learner, enabling them to provide learning experiences suited to their specific individual needs. This adds security for the learner, which is especially important for learners with difficulties in building relationships and coping with change.

By the working environment: learners who have difficulties in larger and busier learning environments, such as main classroom teaching, will be supported by having a quieter less distracting space to work in on a one-to-one basis with a known adult. This will be a place where the adult is confident that the learner will be able to feel secure and have access to all the necessary resources. As the adult knows the learning environment well, they will be best placed to know the location and timetabling of sessions in their setting. This is particularly useful for learners with ADHD who may benefit from more active sessions and have access to outside spaces or larger areas, and the activities chosen to practise their understanding can involve running and jumping to find numbers or words/letters.

By the structure of the session: The sessions have a very clear focus, which is tailored to meet the gaps in their understanding. For learners who have ASD the defined structure of the session is very supportive and conducive to their security, having known timings and processes in each part of the 15-minute session enables them to focus on the area of learning to be developed in a way that makes them feel secure and more ready to learn.

By the activities undertaken including:
Reviewing the previous session

  • Enables the learner to reflect back on their previous learning and embed their understanding in a non-threatening way, as the previous session sheets are in view to support these connections.

  • This also supports the learning in recognising where the skills they are practising can be used in their wider learning and in their everyday lives. This is particularly beneficial for learners with ASD to make connections more explicitly clear.

Modelling (Catch Up® Numeracy)
  • Here the adult shows the learner exactly what is expected of them to complete the activity successfully, whilst voicing over their thinking process. This is extremely beneficial for learners who have speech and language difficulties as they are highly supported.

  • The learner is then guided in carrying out the same practical model themselves with the supporting adult voicing over the process. Hearing the voice over again allows consolidation of the language used to explain processing.

  • Finally, the learner repeats the activity voicing over themselves, the whole process is extremely supportive in the way processes are described as well as how the correct vocabulary is used to explain the thinking processes involved. Learners are then more secure in how to explain the processes using the appropriate vocabulary, this helps when they are in main class teaching to be able to know the language to use.

Introducing books to learners (Catch Up® Literacy)
  • Books at the appropriate level of challenge for the learner are prepared and introduced to learner, including the formats and their purpose such as the: blurb, cover design, contents and index pages as well as glossaries.

  • This then ensures the learners are familiar with the structure of the text and any unfamiliar vocabulary or sentence structure; so that when they read the book back to the adult, they are more secure in reading for themselves.

  • For learners with higher levels of anxiety in facing unfamiliar tasks this is an extremely effective strategy.

Using the pause, prompt, praise strategies (both Catch Up® Literacy and Numeracy):
  • Pause - gives learners who have difficulties the opportunity to work at their own pace to draw on their knowledge to problem solve. The adult will be analysing how the learner is attempting to tackle the problem and using their professional judgement in how to help the learner move forward. For learners who take time to process this is extremely beneficial, as they feel secure in knowing they can have time and space to try to solve the problem themselves.

  • Prompts given are well considered as the adult knows the learner well and understands which gentle nudges will help them to get to the solution with increasing independence. For learners with processing difficulties these opportunities to find the answer with support helps to increase their links in understanding.

  • Praise used is always specific to the strategies used, which really supports learners in knowing what was done well and why. Again, with learners who find making connections difficult this is extremely beneficial as it reinforces the skills used appropriately to solve problems.

By the resources used (both Catch Up® Literacy and Numeracy):
All resources used in supporting the learner are chosen with the specific needs of the learner in mind. For those with ADHD this may involve more physical and active sessions using equipment, which allows a multisensory approach, again facilitating learning suited to the individual. For other learners who require a secure quiet space the resources will be chosen to bring calmness and consistency. Each supporting adult will know the needs of their learners and use their professional judgment to make the learning experiences as supportive as possible meeting the specific needs of their learners.

By the feedback given: all feedback is tailored to the specific needs of the learner knowing how they understand and respond to the language used. It is a very positive experience for the learners within the Catch Up® sessions to gain immediate feedback. This helps them to recognise the progress they are making, this is highly beneficial for learners who have ASD as it enables them to link success to appropriate strategies used.

By the opportunities to succeed:
  • Targets regularly updated- learners are able to share their success in individual sessions and relate this to their next steps in learning. Each learner has specific targets they are working on based on the assessments undertaken at the beginning of the intervention. These are measurable and attainable targets, which enable the learner to feel the sense of achievement when they reach these. This is particularly important for learners who rarely feel this level of success in their wider learning environments. This celebration of achievement boosts the emotional well-being of the learner thus giving further motivation to keep trying.

  • Profiles updated- each learner has a profile which reflects their current attainment and with success in individual sessions brings the opportunity to update their profile. Learners relish the opportunity to help fill in their profile and see the progress they are making again boosting their level of self-confidence and wellbeing.

  • Joint choosing of next steps- a particularly valuable aspect of the Catch Up® interventions is enabling the learner, where appropriate, to take ownership of their next area to work on. For learners who find decision making very challenging this is extremely beneficial, as the targets and profiles facilitate choosing next steps in a very supportive way.

  • Gaining independence and transferring skills- our aim in the Catch Up® interventions is to support learners to become independent problem solvers. So, the end of individual sessions, where we celebrate the current learning and help the learner to recognise how they can use this in other learning experiences, really supports the transfer their new found knowledge and confidence in all areas of their life.

By the communication opportunities with other adults working with the learner: Catch Up® provides a range of tools to support the communication with others working alongside the learner, which is highly beneficial in ensuring the joint approach to learning is maintained. The positive outcome is that the learner is supported in the transference of their skills into all areas of their learning experiences. This also enables the incorporation of any specific measures shown on EHCPs, or other support plans in action, to facilitate the learner’s development.

So we can see that both Catch Up® interventions are not only effective but crucial to meeting the needs of learners with SEND and ALN. The proven effectiveness of Catch Up® interventions (see data available on the Catch Up® website, where learners make measurably increased progress is a testament to this. It is the aim of Catch Up to give all struggling learners the skills and knowledge which will enable them to reach their full potential in all areas of life, none more so than those with SEND and ALN.

For further details or to speak to a member of the Catch Up® team please contact us via

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