SEN support in schools and settings (graduated approach)

If your child has been identified as having a special educational need (SEN) or a disability (SEND) that impacts on their learning, the school should identify and remove any barriers to their learning. They should put effective provision and interventions in place by changing the way they teach to help your child understand their learning. If your child’s school or setting has further concerns, they must talk to you about how they can support your child. This is called SEN Support.   

Further information about how education settings meeting the needs of children with SEND can be found in the Inclusion toolkit section 2. 

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Graduated approach to special educational needs

The SEND Code of Practice (page 94-95) explains the identification of SEN in school as: 

“A Pupil has SEN where their learning difficulty or disability calls for special educational provision, namely provision different from or additional to that normally available to pupils of the same age. Making high quality teaching normally available to the whole class is likely to mean that fewer pupils will require such support.”  

SEN support should be provided following a four-part cycle which is called the graduated approach.   

  1. Assess – identify and understand the needs of your child  

  2. Plan– involve your child and you in planning. This should include the support they need, approaches or strategies to be used and the desired outcomes. All school staff should read and understand this plan.   

  3. Do – the class or subject teacher should work with your child to implement the actions from the plan, with support from the school SENCo. Their role will be to further assess your child’s strengths and weakness and make sure that effective support is being given.  

  4. Review – the support received by your child should be reviewed by the setting and you and your child to see if progress is being made or targets have been achieved against the needs identified in the ‘assess’ part of the cycle. Depending on whether the outcomes have been met, arrangements may be changed, removed, or alternatives will be considered.   

Your child’s school or setting may have their own process of recording your child’s needs, provision and outcomes. This could be in the form of an Individual Education plan (IEP) or as a Provision map.  SEND support plans are also available for schools to use and can be found on the section 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3 on the Inclusion toolkit. 

When assessing and planning the support that your child may need, the education settings must make reasonable adjustments and use their best endeavours to ensure your child gets the support they need. Special educational provision is support that is ‘additional’ or ‘different’ than that which is usually provided within the educational setting or school.  

Monitoring and reviewing your child’s progress at SEN support  

Schools and education settings should give you clear information about the extra help your child is getting. They should meet with you at least three times a year to review the progress your child has made (stage 4 of the graduated approach) and plan next steps. Ideally, this should be in addition to parent’s evenings.  

Your child should have an SEN support plan (sometimes referred to as an individual support plan or a provision map). You and your child will be involved in contributing to this plan by setting targets/outcomes and agreeing with the school or setting how your child will be supported to achieve them.  

It should include information on where they started and the progress they have made. Targets should be smart, that is:  

  • specific 

  • measurable 

  • achievable 

  • realistic 

  • time measured 

These personal targets can be across the four broad areas of need (‘communication and interaction’, ‘cognition and learning’, ‘social, emotional and mental health difficulties’, ‘sensory and/or physical needs’) as described in the SEND Code of practice page 97 and 98.  

Data should be monitored to check your child’s progress and how that compares to that expected for children of the same age. 

Your child’s school can ask professionals from specialist support services to make observations or carry out an assessment on your child and contribute to their SEN support plan/provision map at any time. This should be clearly detailed.  

Specialist support from professionals can be vital in helping your child, as they can support teaching staff by advising on early intervention, best practice and developing resources.  

The SEND Code of Practice highlights that schools and colleges are likely to need additional services, which they can commission directly.   

Using the interventions suggested by professionals the school will plan, do and review the progress of your child using the graduated approach cycle.   

If your child is still not making progress with SEN Support   

If you have a number of professionals involved with your child and/or your child is struggling at home you may also need an assessment for early help. This is known as an Early Help Assessment Plan (EHAP). A professional may also suggest this to you.  

Most children who are identified as having SEN will have their needs met within a mainstream setting, with some form of SEN support. If you have any questions or concerns about the SEN support your child is receiving you can get free impartial advice and support from SEND and You (SAY). This is known as the SEND information, advice and support service (SENDIASS) for children, young people and families in South Gloucestershire. 

A very small number of children will not be able to make sufficient progress, even with additional SEN support. If your child is still not making progress, even after the school has requested specialist advice and provided different types of help and support, then the school or yourself may decide to request South Gloucestershire Council to carry out an assessment of the child’s special educational needs. This may result in a decision to issue an education, health and care plan (EHCP).  

What to do if you are unhappy with your child’s SEN Support 

Both you and your child should be involved in any decisions being made about their special educational needs support. It is very important that you communicate with your child’s school if you have concerns or disagree with the SEN support provided. 

If you are not happy with the support your child is receiving you can read about what to do in our article.

Further Information  

SEND and You (SAY) who provide the SEND information, advice and support service (SENDIASS) for children, young people and families in South Gloucestershire 

IPSEA is the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice. They provide information on how nursery schools, schools and colleges should be helping children with SEND  

Contact is a national charity who support families with disabled children and children with additional needs

For all enquiries about an EHC needs assessment, annual reviews and provision for pupils with EHC plans please contact Jennie Mackenzie, Team Manager for the EHCP team:

For all enquiries about school placements please contact Jane Whitworth, Commissioning Manager for Inclusion and SEND:

For general enquiries regarding SEND, including SEN Support Services, please contact Will Pritchard, Strategic Lead for inclusion and SEND: