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5 ways to improve SEND provision in mainstream schools

5 ways to improve SEND provision in mainstream schools

Following the Green Paper on SEND and Alternative Provision Plans in 2023, it has been highlighted that mainstream SEND provision needs work. Not through lack of trying, the SEND provision available in mainstream is not consistently fit for purpose throughout England, meaning many children are being moved to Alternative Provision (AP) through lack of suitable options.

Some schools are intentionally utilising their outdoor space to meet all four broad areas of SEND need during unstructured times like playtime and lunchtime. We share some ideas on how you can intentionally improve your SEND provision as a mainstream school.



How to improve your SEND provision: the first steps

Firstly, what do we mean by intentionally improving your provision? You may have noticed your playground and outdoor space only offers children a few play opportunities aside from the traditional no-resource-needed games like tag and stuck in the mud. Therefore, you look at your available funding from SEND, Pupil Premium or Sports Premium and decide to invest in outdoor play equipment.

But wait! The intentionality needed to really get the most from your play equipment relies on knowing the why.

Here are a few questions to help you decide how your SEND provision will benefit from an upgrade:

  • How many SEND children do you have on roll?
  • Are there trends of SEND needs that have increased in the last few years?
  • Do you have a specialist base attached to the school?
  • How inclusive is your playground already? (Take our inclusive playground audit)
  • Is your playground surface safe and engaging?
  • Do you have a diminished support assistant team?
  • What are your current EHCP students’ outcomes?
  • Is Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) challenging for your school?
  • Do you have limited outdoor space?

Want a free playground consultation? Contact our SEND-trained sales team at 01252 515199

Mainstream SEN support

Many children now educated in special schools began their journey in a mainstream setting. With a considerable number of children identified as SEN Support or having an EHCP attending mainstream schools, having a specialist provision is essential.

The Green Paper for SEND Reform highlights the increased need for two-way communication between mainstream schools and APs, helping to keep children in the right school for them but getting expert advice on how to meet their needs.

Some children may need increased access to sensory equipment and sensory circuits (tailored to meet all eight sensory systems) or intentional practice with managing frustration tolerance. All of these can be facilitated by careful playground design created to encourage inclusive play.

Do you know the top 3 common SEN Support needs in schools?

These children have access to limited funding, and unfortunately, many struggle to get their needs met in mainstream provision.

Mainstream schools are often larger than specialist settings, catering for more children and having less space and flexibility within the timetable to meet specific needs. When choosing a playground design to improve the provision for all, you will need to creatively brainstorm to have areas and equipment that can be versatile and flexible.

Check out our recent projects. Schools like yours have transformed their inclusive playground space with the advice and guidance of our expert team.

Current SEND challenges for schools

Schools face many challenges when trying to improve their SEND provision, with the budget being the elephant in the room for most of the challenges.

We understand that if there were unlimited budgets, your playgrounds would rival a theme park. We also recognise the need to invest in value-for-money equipment that will provide support, motivation and enjoyment for several of the most common needs in mainstream settings.

If you are unsure about any of the following, get in touch with one of our team:

  • Which funding budgets can be used for playground equipment?
  • How can I make the equipment suitable for all children?
  • What makes inclusive play equipment?
  • Which playground design or pieces of equipment will meet my needs best?

How to improve SEND provision in mainstream schools

Each playground design is unique and fit for the school. Whether you are looking to tailor your outdoor playground for a specific SEND need or give the children more inspiration during unstructured times, it all begins with intentionality.

Here are some top tips when planning to improve your SEND playground provision:

Be intentional

Think of your children’s current and future SEND needs and where your current provision needs some life breathed into it.

Choose carefully

Ensure you choose sensory equipment that meets several needs, from providing vestibular feedback to encouraging SLCN using outdoor equipment.

Be aware of EHCP outcomes

Do you know the similarities between EHCP outcomes across the school? Are some children working towards developing sharing and turn-taking with others? Try to combine teaching assistants to allow for physical development, sensory equipment access, and SLCN development using your outdoor play equipment.

Be creative

Your school playground may be small or unusual. Get creative with our design team to create the inclusive playground of your dreams.

Next steps…

Looking for some ideas of playground transformations that are just like your school? Check out our recent projects page for more inspiration.

Playtime by Fawns has over 30 years of experience designing and installing high-quality outdoor play equipment for schools. Get in touch for a no-strings chat with one of our SEND-trained sales team at

More articles you may like:

What inclusive play looks like for children with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

Who is the winner? The top 10 inclusive playground equipment pieces.