School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality

by Denise Yates and Adam Boddison

The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality, part of the nasen Spotlight series. was published by Routledge in June 2020 and is available from here.

What is DME?

The terminology of DME (Dual and Multiple Exceptionality) was introduced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in 2008 as part of the National Strategies and it is sometimes known as 2E (Twice Exceptional). This is when a person has both SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) and HLP (High Learning Potential) at the same time.  Since 2013, the terminology of HLP has increasingly been used in place of the terminology of ‘gifted and talented’ and more information about the rationale for this can be accessed from Potential Plus UK.  Terminology does change over time and the book has chosen to use the language of DME, SEND and HLP to reflect that which is currently being used nationally and/or by partner organisations.  An independent report, DME: the current state of play commissioned by nasen in 2018 discusses some of the tensions in relation to the terminology.

Do all children have ‘High Learning Potential’?

All children have potential and effective teaching is often the key to helping them to realise their full potential.  Identifying the areas in which this potential may occur is important so that a strengths-based approach to provision can be taken.  In the context of DME, High Learning Potential is about recognising that with the right support children with SEND can achieve just as well as children without SEND.

The beginning of the book sets out some of the underpinning principles for effective DME provision and at the top of the list is co-production.  It is essential that meaningful child-centred strategies involving parents/carers, teachers and pupils as equal partners are at the heart of ensuring children realise their full potential.

Why is nasen interested in DME?

nasen has always been interested in supporting the workforce to deliver effective provision for all children, including those with SEND.  Over the past five years, nasen’s work on DME has progressed as part of its collaboration with partners and with the support of nasen’s Patron, the late Professor Stephen Hawking, for whom this was an important area.

In some instances, there is a misconception that SEND means low ability.  nasen’s work on DME is primarily about tackling the misconception that children with SEND cannot excel in the same ways as children without SEND.  These exceptional achievements may be academic (particularly if their SEND is not related to cognition and learning), but they may also be in the arts, music, theatre or sport.  Proactively identifying HLP, particularly for children with SEND, means a strengths-based approach can be taken in relation to their provision.

There are two other key groups of children, who can be supported through the focus on DME.  The first are those children who achieve well academically and are therefore assumed not to have SEND.  These needs deserve to be identified and met. The second are those children who may coast through the middle of our education system and appear fine with average achievements and no particular needs identified.  In some cases these children are using highly advanced coping strategies to mask their needs, but at great personal cost.  For these children, their needs are not identified and met and their potential is not realised.

The purpose of the School Handbook for DME is to raise awareness of these key groups, so that needs can be identified and met more effectively and so that more children can realise their full potential.


Denise Yates MBE:  Denise has worked in education and training for over 35 years to enable all individuals to maximise their potential.  Over the years this has included children with moderate learning difficulties, adults with numeracy and literacy problems, ex-offenders, and in inner-city areas working with young people at risk of offending.  For 10 years Denise was Chief Executive of the national charity Potential Plus UK (formerly the National Association for Gifted Children).  In 2017 she left to pursue her passion which could be summarised as ‘hidden potential’: children and young people with Dual and Multiple Exceptionality, those with mental health problems, and those who have been failed by the system for whatever reason.  A Cambridge economist Denise is currently, among other things, a Trustee of The Potential Trust (a charitable trust that supports more able children from low-income backgrounds), a non-executive Director of the Nisai Education Trust which is interested in exploring different models of education, and a member of the Above and Beyond group which looks to work in partnership with organisations in the UK, in whatever sector, for the benefit of children and young people with gifts and talents (including those with DME.  Denise is a Fellow of the RSA, a consultant on issues related to inclusion, and also a trained Adviser with Citizens Advice and spends time offering practical help to individuals and families in her community.  In 1920, with Adam Boddison, she wrote the School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality and in 2020 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List she was awarded an MBE for services to children and young people.  In early 2022 her second book about DME, written for parents; and carers, will be published.



Professor Adam Boddison:  Adam Boddison is Chief Executive of the Association for Project Management. He is alsoChair of the Corporation at Coventry College, a Visiting Professor at the University of Wolverhampton, and a Trustee at two Multi-Academy Trusts, spanning 80 primary, secondary and specialist settings, which together provide education for more than 40,000 children.  Adam has held a number of roles in recent years in support of children and young people with learning differences. Notably, he was a Trustee of the Potential Trust, Chair of Whole School SEND and Chair of the National SEND Reference Group. Adam is also co-author of the School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality.  Prior to this, Adam held a number of senior education roles including Chief Executive for nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs), Director of the Centre for Professional Education at the University of Warwick and Academic Principal for IGGY (a global educational social network for gifted teenagers). He has published a range of education books and is a qualified clinical hypnotherapist.