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Setting the Stage: An Introduction to Target Setting in Special Educational Needs

by | Aug 1, 2023

Setting the Stage: An Introduction to Target Setting in Special Educational Needs

Introduction to Target Setting in SEN

In the realm of Special Educational Needs (SEN), the process of setting targets plays a pivotal role in supporting the educational journey of diverse learners. This blog post serves as a foundation for our exploration of target setting in this context, delving into its significance and outlining key principles.

The Significance of Target Setting in SEN

Target setting in the realm of Special Educational Needs goes beyond a mere academic exercise. It holds the power to shape the future of students with diverse learning requirements. By establishing clear and individualised goals, educators can help students progress and thrive in their academic endeavours. One of the crucial aspects of target setting is the impact it has on students’ progress and motivation. When students have well-defined objectives tailored to their unique needs, they are more likely to stay focused and engaged in their learning journey.

Moreover, target setting aligns harmoniously with the principles of inclusive education. Inclusive education aims to provide equal opportunities for all learners, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Setting attainable targets for students with special needs fosters an environment where every child is encouraged to reach their full potential.

It is important to acknowledge that the process of target setting in SEN involves multiple stakeholders. Parents, educators, and specialists collaborate closely to ensure that the set goals are realistic and beneficial for the students. This holistic approach empowers students with special needs, as it combines expertise from various domains to create a tailored learning experience.

Person-Centred Approach

The heart of effective target setting in SEN lies in adopting a person-centred approach. This approach emphasises understanding each student as an individual with unique strengths, weaknesses, interests, and preferences. By considering these individual characteristics, educators can craft personalised targets that resonate with the students.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of the person-centred approach. Teachers, parents, and students work together as a cohesive team to develop and implement educational plans. By involving all stakeholders, educators gain valuable insights into the students’ lives outside the classroom, making it easier to align targets with their real-world experiences and aspirations.

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are commonly utilised in the target-setting process (but they don’t have to be, schools may opt to use passports or some other form of record keeping document!) These plans are comprehensive documents that outline a student’s learning goals, support requirements, and progress monitoring strategies. IEPs are not rigid prescriptions; rather, they evolve over time, reflecting the student’s development and changing needs. The flexibility of IEPs ensures that targets remain relevant and adaptable as the student’s journey unfolds.

SMART Targets

When it comes to target setting in Special Educational Needs, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) targets are an invaluable tool. Each component of the SMART framework contributes to the effectiveness of the set goals.


Targets must be clear, well-defined, and tailored to the student’s individual needs. The more specific the target, the easier it becomes to chart a path towards achieving it.


Measuring progress is essential to determine the effectiveness of the set goals. Quantifiable indicators allow educators and stakeholders to monitor the student’s development objectively.


While it is important to challenge students, setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration and demotivation. Targets should strike a balance between aspiration and feasibility.


Targets should be relevant to the student’s overall educational journey and should contribute to their growth and well-being.


A time frame adds a sense of urgency and structure to the target-setting process. Having deadlines fosters accountability and helps track progress more effectively.

To illustrate the concept of SMART targets, let’s consider an example: A student with dyslexia might have the specific target of improving their reading comprehension by 15% within the next three months. This target is measurable, as reading comprehension can be quantified using standardised tests. It is achievable, given the student’s current reading level and available support. Moreover, it is relevant to the student’s overall learning objectives and is time-bound with a clear deadline.

Monitoring and evaluating progress towards SMART targets is a dynamic process. Regular assessments allow educators to identify any barriers or areas that require additional support. Based on the outcomes, adjustments can be made to the targets and the instructional approach, ensuring continuous improvement and growth.


This blog post has laid the foundation for our exploration of target setting in the context of Special Educational Needs. By recognising the significance of individualised goals and adopting a person-centred approach, we pave the way for meaningful and inclusive educational experiences.

In the world of SEN, setting targets is not merely a checkbox to tick. It is a transformative process that shapes the lives of students with diverse learning requirements. By embracing the principles of inclusivity, collaboration, and the SMART framework, educators can unlock the full potential of their students and help them soar to new heights of academic achievement and personal growth.

“In the pursuit of excellence, target setting in Special Educational Needs becomes the guiding beacon, illuminating the path towards inclusive education for every learner. Empowered by collaboration, students, parents, and specialists unite to nurture academic growth and foster personal development, ensuring that no potential remains untapped.”

Target Setting for SEN
Abigail Hawkins FCCT

Abigail Hawkins FCCT

Director of SENDCO Solutions

Abigail Hawkins was a SENCO for over 25 years and has worked with pupils with all types of needs.  Abigail has worked with Ed-Tech companies on developing their software and also been chair of governors for a multi-academy trust. Abigail now runs SENsible SENCO and SENDCO Solutions, with the aim of working with SENCOs and inclusion leaders across the UK to improve their support for SEND pupils. See our school services for more information.

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