‘The SEN Support should take the form of a four-part cycle through which earlier decisions and actions are revisited, refined and revised with a growing understanding of the pupil’s needs and of what supports the pupil in making good progress and securing good outcomes. This is known as the graduated approach. It draws on more detailed approaches, more frequent review and more specialist expertise in successive cycles in order to match interventions to the SEN of children and young people.’

6.44. DfE (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice


All children and young people should have the opportunity to make progress through the usual curriculum available in their setting. If they are  not making reasonable or expected progress or because they have a very specific need (for example, have a visual impairment) then an appropriate intervention or approach is tried for a period of time. Hopefully, with the right level of intervention or approach the child or young person will be able to access classroom learning and no further interventions are needed..

'Inspectors will consider the progress of pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities in relation to the progress of all pupils nationally with similar starting points. Inspectors will examine the impact of funded support for them on removing any differences in progress and attainment. The expectation is that the identification of special educational needs leads to additional or different arrangements being made and a consequent improvement in progress.'

185. Ofsted, 2016, Handbook for inspecting schools in England under section 5 of the Education Act 2005.

SEN Support: Assess has more detail of how SEN Support assessments.



Plans are written to help everyone understand what intervention are being made and what approaches should be taken. SEN Support plans will have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time related) targets and outcomes.  In the past plans have been called Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Pastoral Support Plans (PSPs), now they are known as SEN Support Plans.

SEN Support: Plan has more detail of SEN Support plans.



Any interventions, approaches or adjustments made for a child or young person need to be given time to see how well they are working. It is usually recommended to continue with an intervention or adjustment for at least 3 months to give it time to make an impact on the learning of the child or young person.  Sometimes interventions need longer or need to be repeated at different times.

SEN Support: Do has more detail of SEN Support ‘doing’.



Reviews need to be able to judge whether interventions, approaches and adjustments have been successful and the child or young person has made expected or reasonable progress.

Three things can happen from a review:

  1. The intervention has been successful and the child no longer has any relevant difficulties.
  2. The approach or intervention is being successful and it is agreed it should continue.
  3. The approach or intervention has not made a significant difference to the child or young person’s progress and she/ he does not make reasonable or expected progress. The current intervention will need to be updated in light of the information from the Review.

When reviewing it might be decided that a child or young person’s special educational requires more long term or significant intervention plan.

SEN Support: Review has more detail of SEN Support reviews.


All education is about preparing young people for independent life. Therefore all additional support should be based on the least amount of purposeful and appropriate intervention to support a child or young person to make good progress in their education. If interventions are not working then they might gradually become more detailed and more specific.


Most schools and settings have a significant level of resourcing delegated to their budgets in order for them to carry out their statutory responsibilities to meet individual’s special educational needs above and beyond ordinary classroom arrangements and all settings that receive government funding must act in line with the SEND Code of Practice 2015.


Moving beyond the graduated approach

If it is felt that everything has been done that is possible through the SEN Support cycle of assess, plan, do and review and a child or young person is still not making expected or reasonable progress then  it  might  be  time to consider an Education, Health and Care plan assessment.


In Bristol all educational settings can apply for additional funding if it is considered that a child or young person’s needs could then be met in mainstream setting.  This is called the Top Up system.


This means the vast majority of children or young people’s needs can be met and outcomes improved in mainstream settings through using the graduated approach. The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says that children should always be educated in mainstream settings unless their needs cannot be met or if their parents do not wish it.

SEN Support: Assess has more information on Top Up.

Where a child or young person has SEN but does not have an EHC plan they must be educated in a mainstream setting except in specific circumstances (see below). The School Admissions Code of Practice requires children and young people with SEN to be treated fairly. Admissions authorities: must consider applications from parents of children who have SEN but do not have an EHC plan on the basis of the school’s published admissions criteria as part of normal admissions procedures, must not refuse to admit a child who has SEN but does not have an EHC plan because they do not feel able to cater for those needs, must not refuse to admit a child on the grounds that they do not have an EHC plan.

1.27 DfE (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice

The formal education, health and care needs assessment process should be necessary only when the child or young person’s needs are so complex that they are not understood and it appears that despite resourcing these needs will only be possible to meet within specialist provision (which might be a special educational provision like a special school or specialist provision made within a mainstream setting).

Education, Health and Care Plans has more information.

Local Authorities... must have regard to the general principle in section 9 of the Education Act 1996 that children should be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes, so long as this is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and does not mean unreasonable public expenditure.

9.84 DfE (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice

Explanation of terms

Progress is broadly defined as the 'growth in pupils’ security, breadth and depth of knowledge, understanding and skills.' (175. Ofsted, 2016, Handbook for inspecting schools in England under section 5 of the Education Act 2005).  Previously schools were asked to measure the progress a student makes against the National Curriculum levels and level descriptors.  Schools are no longer required to do this and are encourage to form their own systems for measuring the progress of their students

A learning intervention is when a specific activity is used to develop or support a student's learning.  For example, a programme of reading recovery might be used for a child who needs support to improve their reading skills. 

A teaching approach is the way a teacher or school looks at learning.  It can be the way the whole school approaches learning, for example a school might have a Steiner school approach, or it can be an approach introduced to support a student's inclusion in the school, for example staff are trained in using the Makaton words a student uses.

Outcomes will usually set out what needs to be achieved by the end of a phase or stage of education in order to enable the child or young person to progress successfully to the next phase or stage. (9.69 DfE (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice). 

Targets are the steps to meeting an outcomes; 'the development of an individual learning programme outlining longer term outcomes covering all aspects of learning and development, with shorter term targets to meet the outcomes'. (9.92 DfE (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice)


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If you are a young person, parent or carer and you think you might need some further information, advice or support contact Supportive Parents, Bristol's SEND Information, Advice and Support service.


This page has information for residents in the City of Bristol.  Find out about what other Local Authorities do.

Last Updated 1 December 2016 by Findability Team.