Chapter six of the SEN and Disability Code of Practice 2015 (the “Code”) deals with the actions that mainstream schools (including mainstream academies) should take to meet their duties in relation to identifying and supporting children with SEN. (This chapter does not apply to children in special schools, because special schools are specifically organised to provide for children with SEN, and all children in special schools should have an EHC plan setting out the provision required to meet their needs.)

Schools should assess each pupil’s current skills and levels of attainment on entry and regular further assessments should take place. These should seek to identify pupils making less than expected progress. The Code refers to four broad areas of need:

  • Communication and interaction;
  • Cognition and learning;
  • Social, emotional and mental health;
  • Sensory and/or physical needs.

There is more detail given in relation to each area in the Code; a child could, of course, have needs falling in more than one area. The expectation is that schools will plan how to deal with each of these areas of need, and ensure that their staff have relevant training and are equipped to respond. Special educational provision in schools is called SEN Support.

The school should use a graduated approach following the cycle of Assess, Plan, Do and Review:

  • Assess: The class teacher or subject teacher (working with the SENCO) is responsible for carrying out a clear analysis of a pupil’s needs, drawing on teacher assessments and experience of the pupil.
  • Plan: Where it is decided to provide a pupil with SEN Support, the parents must be notified. All teachers and support staff who work with a pupil should be made aware of their needs, the outcomes sought, the support provided and any teaching strategies that are required.
  • Do: The planned interventions should then be put into place. The class or subject teacher should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved and the SENCO should support the class or subject teacher.
  • Review: Reviews should take place and inform feed back into the analysis of the child’s needs. The Code is not prescriptive about how often reviews should take place, but given the Code suggests schools should meet with parents three times a year, good practice would indicate that such reviews will be at least termly. The decision to involve specialists can be taken at any time and should always involve parents

Where, despite the school having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify and meet the pupil’s needs, the pupil is still not making expected progress, the school should consider requesting an Education, Health and Care needs assessment. (The parents or young person are also entitled to make such a request.)