Thinking about what might help a child or young person do well (with parents and carers).


Education setting based assessment

The first step of ‘assess’ is for the class teacher or practitioner is to carry out detailed observations as this will allow them to gain an understanding of a child or young person’s strengths and areas of needs and will help plan for strategies to support the child or young person. An essential element of gathering information also involves talking to parents and/or carers and all those involved with the child/ young person’s development to gain a more detailed understanding. All settings would be expected to be carrying out their own assessments and intervention cycles in the first instance.  Class teachers can refer to their school's Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for support.  All schools must have a SENCO and they must be qualified or undergoing a qualification to do this role.  Sometimes SENCOs will recommend  using standardised assessment tools, observation schedules and tests.  Some assessments will be done by the SENCO and some may be done by the class teacher.

The SENCO must be a qualified teacher working at the school. A newly appointed SENCO must be a qualified teacher and, where they have not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, they must achieve a National Award in Special Educational Needs Coordination within three years of appointment.

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

More detail of what Early Years settings do is in appendix 2.1. Early Years graduated approach.


Assessment involving specialists

Sometimes a request for help from a specialist team (often called an outside agency) may be suggested at the SEN Support Plan Review Meeting if it is evident that there are continuing concerns. It is essential that this decision is discussed and made with parents/carers. Settings can refer to a wide variety of specialists, for example Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Support Service, Early Years Portage & Inclusion Team, CAMHS, and the Inclusion Service.

Find out about which specialists are available on the Findability Early Years, Primary, Secondary, Preparing for Adulthood pages.


Assessment for additional funding (including Top Up)

There may come a time when it becomes clear that the interventions required/in place for a child or young person cannot be met solely though the setting's resources.  If this point is reached then the setting may apply for Top Up funding.

The “Top Up” process is based on the graduated approach through the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle. This involves providing all the evidence of what's been tried so far, the costs and a review of its impact against expected progress.  An application must be clear about how any requested Top Up will be used.  Top Up is available for settings for children and young people from school years Reception to Year 13. All settings will have carried out Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle/s involving specialist assessment as appropriate.

In Bristol an Education, Health and Care plan is not needed to access Top Up funding.


Information regarding Top Up panels can be found in appendix 2.6 How top up works - Schools and Colleges

Find out about the Early Years panel.



2.1. Early Years graduated approach

2.2. Bristol Universal Descriptors - Early Years

2.3  Bristol Universal Descriptors - Schools and Post 16

2.4 Early Years Funding Application Guidance

2.5 How funding works in Special Educational Needs - Schools and colleges

2.6 How top up works - Schools and Colleges

If you need any of these documents in a different format please contact us at


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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.


Explanation of terms

A Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) is the lead teacher for special educational needs in the school.  They have developed specialist skills and knowledge around working with students with special educational needs. They work with teaching staff, parents and carers to make sure the school is offering 'High Quality' teaching to children with special educational needs and monitor their progress.


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

Last Update 1 December 2016 by Findability Team.