The Graduated Approach, SEN Support and Education Health and Care Plans

Every child with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities should have SEN Support. This means help that is additional to or different from the support generally given to other children of the same age.  SEN support can take many forms.

The purpose of SEN support is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives set for them by the school. Schools and settings should involve parents in this process.

Find out more about Education, Health and Care Plans

How should the school or setting help my child?

All schools and settings must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to support your child.  They do this as part of a graduated approach to meeting needs. 

Depending on your child’s needs, this may include;

  • differentiating tasks (i.e. making tasks simpler or tailoring them to your child’s ability),
  • offering different ways of recording information (e.g. labelling pictures, diagrams or flow-charts),
  • using multi–sensory activities,
  • breaking down learning into small manageable steps,
  • helping children to organise their written work by using writing frames,
  • allowing extra time to complete tasks,
  • keeping instructions short and clear,
  • constantly praising and encouraging the child for achievements made.

Some children may work with a teaching assistant – before, during or at the end of a lesson. However, children should be encouraged to work independently whenever possible.

Your child or young person may have different types of observations, assessments to help inform the support they need to reach their individual learning, social and emotional potential. 

The Graduated Approach

Generally, support for pupils with Special Educational Needs follows a ‘graduated approach’.

That means the school builds up the intensity of support if they are not responding as hoped to the work being done to increase their progress.

There are currently three graduated stages of intervention:

  • firstly, additional support provided by schools themselves, some schools and settings call this SEN Support, others may call it something different,
  • secondly, additional support by the school, together with the advice or involvement of external agencies providing a package of support. This stage is known as SEN Support by all schools,
  • thirdly, an Education, Health and Care plan provides a statutory assessment from a range of agencies for children and young people with complex needs.

If you have concerns over the progress your child is making, you should first talk to the class teacher or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)

Alternatively, the school or pre-school may contact you to let you know of their concerns.

If it is agreed that the pupil has Special Educational Needs, the school will assess what adaptations and additional support they can provide to meet those needs.

If this support over an agreed timescale, reflects that the needs of your child cannot be fully provided for by the School or Early Years provider, the school will request support from the Local Authority or other SEND Support Services and so your child will be considered for SEND Support 

Who decides what SEN provision my child has?

Key workers or class teachers, supported by the senior leadership team and the SENCo should make regular assessments of progress for all pupils. These should seek to identify pupils making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances.

The school or setting should then decide if your child needs additional support. The school or setting should talk to you and your child about this.

If a young person is 16 or older the school should involve them directly.

Sometimes you may be the first to be aware that your child has some Special Educational Needs. If you think your child may need SEN support you should talk to your child’s key worker, teacher or to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo).

If you are not happy about the support your child has you can ask to talk to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator, headteacher or centre manager. 

“I think my child has Special Educational Needs (SEN) What can I do?”

If you have concerns about your child’s progress:

  • Have you spoken to your child’s school or setting about your concerns?

  • Does your child have an Individual Plan?

Who should you speak to in school or setting?

The first person to speak to is always your child’s class teacher or form tutor.

You might want to do this at a parent consultation session or to make a separate appointment to see them. If you want to, you could ask for the meeting in writing or by email, setting out what it is you want to talk about.

Here is a sample letter /email:

Dear Mrs Jones,

I would like to arrange to see you in school next week to talk about James’ progress.

I do not feel that James is reading as well as his sister did at the same age and would be grateful for an opportunity to discuss this with you.

I can be available during the morning/after school/at lunchtime etc. and can be contacted on….

Yours sincerely, …..

After you have spoken to the key worker/class teacher, they may involve another teacher in the school known as the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo).

The SENCo has responsibility for what happens on a day-to-day basis in the school for pupils with Special Educational Needs.

The SENCo also provides professional advice to other teachers in the school to help all pupils to make progress.

The centre manager, head teacher and school governors also have responsibilities in law, in relation to children with Special Educational Needs.

SEN Support

When a key worker, class teacher or the SENCo identifies a child with SEND the class teacher should provide interventions that are additional to or different from those provided as part of the school or setting’s usual differentiated curriculum offer and strategies.

The basis for intervention through SEN Support could be the teacher’s or others’ concern, underpinned by evidence, about a child who despite receiving differentiated learning opportunities:

  • makes little or no progress even when teaching approaches are targeted particularly in a child’s identified area of weakness,
  • shows signs of difficulty in developing literacy or mathematics skills which result in poor attainment in some curriculum areas,
  • presents persistent emotional or behavioural difficulties which are not ameliorated by the behaviour management techniques usually employed in the school,
  • has sensory or physical problems, and continues to make little or no progress despite the provision of specialist equipment,
  • has communication and/or interaction difficulties and continues to make little or no progress despite the provision of a differentiated curriculum.

The school or setting has a duty to inform the child’s parents that special educational provision is being made for the child because the child has SEND.

The key worker/class teacher should draw up a plan for the pupil and will discuss the plan with the parent. The name of this plan can be different in different schools and settings, however every plan should set out:

  • the child’s difficulties,
  • short term targets for them to achieve,
  • details of who will work with the child and what materials might be needed,
  • when the plan will be reviewed.

Plans should be reviewed at least three times a year and possibly more frequently for some children. At least one review in the year could coincide with a routine Parents’ Evening, although schools and settings should recognise that some parents will prefer a private meeting. Reviews need not be formal, but parents’ views on the child’s progress should be sought and they should be consulted as part of the review process. Schools and settings should encourage parents to make their views known.

Wherever possible, the child should also take part in the review process and be involved in setting the targets. If the child is not involved in the review, their ascertainable views should be considered in any discussion. You may be given some tasks to do at home with your son or daughter as part of the plan.

What happens if my child or young person continues not to make progress?

If your child is at the SEN Support stage but despite the actions taken by the school or setting, continues not to make progress, then as well as these actions, your child should be accessing support from outside agencies alongside the school.

Each Local Authority has professionals from different ‘specialisms’ and they work as multi-agency teams with the schools.

These could be (depending on the child’s needs):

  • An Educational Psychologist;
  • Specialist Advisory Teachers;
  • Other health professionals

The different professionals meet regularly with the SENCos at their schools. They will work closely with the school staff to provide advice to the school on how to work with individual pupils; they may provide an additional specialist assessment or they may work directly with the child. They will suggest new targets for the child or young person’s plan.  This plan is called a SEND Support Provision Plan (SSPP). Find out more about SSPPs here.

Find out more about the Specialist SEND Support Services

Statutory Assessment - 'Education, Health and Care Assessment'

The Special Educational Needs or Disabilities of the great majority of children will be met effectively within mainstream settings through SEN Support, without the Local Authority needing to make a statutory assessment. A statutory assessment can also be known as an Education, Health and Care assessment.

In a very small number of cases the Local Authority will need to make a statutory assessment of special educational needs, and then consider whether or not to issue a Education, Health and Care Plan. There are clear time frames set out for the stages of Statutory Assessment, the total length of the process should be no longer than 20 weeks. There is also a clear process of appeal for parent/ carers.

You can find out more about Education, Health and Care Assessments and Plans, including how to request an assessment. 

Person Centred Planning

Person Centred Planning (PCP) is a way of working together and communicating positively with each other, always with the child or young person at the centre of the process.

The views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person will be at the heart of decision making. PCP involves using a variety of different ‘tools’ or methods to develop the child or young person’s plan.

There are many different approaches to PCP but they all centre on the child or young person’s views, wishes and feelings, their aspirations and hopes for the future.

The EHC plan and The Person Centred Connection – film

Download the Information leaflet

PCR Information for Parents Carers



All children are regularly assessed. However, children with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities require closer monitoring and regular reviews to ensure that they are progressing according to their age, ability and aptitude.

All plans should be reviewed at least termly to help check that your child is making progress towards the agreed outcomes. 

An Education, Health and Care Plan must be reviewed in full, with relevant SEND support services, at least once every twelve months.  This is usually called an annual review.  

Meetings and reviews should be positively focused to explore a better and more positive future for the child or young person. The positive approach for meetings and reviews should focus less on what’s wrong, and more on what we would like to happen.

Your views (and those of your child) are an important part of the review meetings.

The timing of annual reviews should reflect the circumstances of your child, such as changing schools.

What is an Annual Review of an Education, Health and Care Plan?

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) the Local Authority must review that plan at least every year.

This means that a review of the progress the child or young person is making towards the objectives in the EHCP must take place at least every 12 months. EHCPs can be reviewed more frequently where needed.

For pupils in mainstream schools the annual reviews in Year 5 are the key ones where there should be a discussion about what type of school they should attend for the next phase.

If a place at a special school or a resource base attached to a mainstream school is recommended, the pupil’s papers will have to go to a decision making group for consideration. This will also apply to the review in Year 10 if a place at a special school for post–16 provision is to be requested.

If a specialist place is agreed, the pupil’s EHCP must be amended by the end of February so that they can move to their new school the following September.

Before the Annual Review

Your child’s school or setting will invite you and any relevant professionals to the review meeting. The school or setting will then request written advice about your child’s progress and the appropriateness of the EHCP from you and any professionals the Local Authority and/or school thinks are appropriate.

At least two weeks before the review meeting, the school or setting will circulate any written evidence and invite comments. Your views are very important.

When providing your written advice and reading the advice from others involved in the annual review, you may want to think about the topics you covered when you originally provided parental advice for your child’s education, health and care assessment and checked your child’s EHCP.

The Review Meeting

Often the review meeting will only involve you, teachers from your child’s school or setting and perhaps someone from the Local Authority.

Other professionals do not usually attend a routine annual review meeting, but will attend to discuss specific needs, or if the annual review meeting is to discuss your child’s transition. 

You can take a friend, relative or someone from the parent support services, such as a Parent Link Officer, to the review meeting to support you.

Your child may also attend all or part of the review meeting as appropriate. The older they are, the more likely they will be involved.

The review meeting should consider if your child’s EHCP is still appropriate, if there any amendments to be made to the EHCP and if the local authority should continue to maintain the EHCP.

The meeting should look at the progress made in relation to the previous targets and provide a new set of targets for your child for the coming year. These should meet the outcomes set out in the EHCP.

After the Review Meeting

No later than ten days after the review meeting, the school or setting must prepare and submit a report to the Local Authority.

The report will summarise the meeting’s conclusions and include recommendations, with reasons, as to whether the EHCP should be amended or maintained. The school or setting will also send a copy of the report to you and any professionals involved with the review process.

The Local Authority will decide whether to make any changes to your child’s EHCP.

They can decide to:

  • amend (change) the Education, Health and Care Plan,
  • leave the Education, Health and Care Plan unchanged,
  • cease to maintain (or end) the Education, Health and Care Plan.
Top Tips for Parents / Carers when attending a review of your child's plan

Before the school meeting/review – be prepared!

Do I know:

  • Where the meeting is? (Route, parking etc)
  • The time? (When? How long will it last?)
  • Who will be there? why it is happening?
  • What I want to achieve?
  • What outcomes might others want?
  • How am I feeling – how might I behave?
  • How are others feeling – how might they behave?
  • Have I written down all the questions I want to ask?
  • Have I got all the information and paperwork I need?
  • Will someone be taking notes? (Possibly a partner or friend)
  • do I want someone to go with me? (A partner, friend etc)
  • have I got the views of my child or will my child be there?

After the Meeting:

  • Have I understood everything that was said? (It may be helpful to confirm this by email or letter with the school or setting),
  • Am I happy with the way things have gone?
  • Do I feel that agreements have been reached that we can all stick to?
  • Does everyone know what they are doing next?
  • What am I doing next?
  • Is someone co–ordinating action?
  • Will I get notes or minutes of the meeting?
  • If it is an Annual Review meeting, will I see the Annual Review form before it is sent to the Local Authority?
  • When are we going to review progress?