The SEND reforms of 2014 introduced a whole-school approach to SEND, meaning there should be complete understanding and co-operation between the whole-school community, including governors, the SENCO, teachers and teaching assistants (TAs).

Pupils should be at the centre of all decision-making and planning, and there must be collaboration between education, health and social care services to provide support for all, from birth to age 25. There must also be high quality provision, and a focus on inclusive working and removing barriers to learning for all pupils with SEND.


The approach


The graduated approach starts at whole-school level and was introduced, whilst encompassing the elements of ‘assess, plan, do, review’, to replace the support of School Action and School Action Plus. A pupil who is experiencing difficulties should be identified as early as possible using the graduated approach, in order to improve their life chances. There should be access to a high quality of learning and the teacher, not the SENCO or TAs, is responsible for the pupil’s learning. Teaching for pupils identified as having additional needs should be adapted, differentiated and built into the school’s planning, rather than existing as additional support for those with SEND. Teachers should invest in the expertise of outside agencies and specialists to provide the best outcomes for those with additional needs.

The whole-school approach involves identifying pupils who are not making the required progress. Where a requirement for additional needs is suspected, schools should take into account:

  • Teacher knowledge.
  • Assessment data.
  • The comparing progress of peers.
  • External test results and observations.
  • A complete profile of the pupil’s education to date.

High quality teaching interventions should be put into place and opinions should be sought from parents. If required, extra training for the teacher should also be available.


Implementing the approach


Schools should expect all pupils to work and behave well, and should ensure all teachers are trained and equipped to meet the needs of all pupils, including those who are grouped in in the four categories of the SEND code of practice. For example, teachers should have explicit training to meet the needs of pupils with communication and interaction challenges, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Teachers should be confident in these areas and have the ability to adapt lessons to enable pupils to be included.

For pupils with cognitive and learning challenges, work should be broken down and high-quality interventions should be implemented to enable success in lessons.

For pupils with social, mental and emotional health difficulties, specialist provision may need to be provided through the utilisation of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services provision or by employing the skills of a qualified counsellor.

Similarly, schools should work with outside agencies to provide sensory approaches to learning for pupils with sensory or physical challenges − this might include visual, hearing or multi-sensory impairment. In all cases, external specialists should be invited to share their expertise. Work should also be modified to ensure that all pupils can take part at their own level, without losing sight of high expectations.

A school that adopts a whole-school approach to SEND will be better placed to help pupils with additional needs, as their staff will have access to more training and the ability to modify teaching. By doing this, schools will make better use of their TAs and will be able to identify additional needs early on, before putting the necessary interventions in place. All intervention strategies will be reviewed and updated regularly for the benefit of the pupil, who remains at the centre of all planning.

SEND should be embedded into the wider school environment and be part of the school’s strategy. The school should encompass inclusion and equality in its ethos and vision, and should be committed to achieving a whole-school approach, as this improves the future for pupils with SEND.

Schools should publish information about how they implement their SEND policy on their website.

Policies and procedures that could assist schools in developing a whole-school approach to SEND include the following:

  • Inclusion policies
  • Equality objectives
  • Accessibility plans
  • Behaviour policies
  • Pupil Premium funding
  • The school’s values and ethos
  • Information on how the school has worked with the LA to provide the local offer


Achieving the whole-school approach


A whole-school approach can be achieved through a variation of good practice methods that would be advantageous to all pupils within the school, including the creation of a provision map. This document would list all pupils and the interventions they receive that are specific to their individual needs. The document would also show how the interventions are tracked and monitored for progress and effectiveness.

Multi-sensory teaching can also be implemented as part of the curriculum – this might include role play, dressing up, or acting and singing. Not only will pupils with SEND benefit from these lessons, but so will other pupils – encouraging all pupils to use their senses enables teachers to create a more unique learning experience. Visual aids are also examples of good practice, which could include visual timetables and reminders for behaviour. All pupils would find these interventions useful, as these can help to better understand and retain information.

Standard practice should also include separating classwork into small and manageable chunks so that all pupils can access the lesson easily. Group work could involve a combination of mixed ability pupils rather than just a group of lower achieving pupils.

A whole-school approach to SEND is the responsibility of the whole school community and should be essential to the school’s strategic direction.


Improvement and performance management


School leaders should regularly review how resources used to support pupils with SEND are being, and can be, used to improve provision, as part of their approach to school improvement.

Alongside the SENCO, school leaders and teaching staff should identify any patterns in the identification of SEND – both using data within the school and nationally. Pupils and parents should be actively involved in any school improvement and performance management procedures in relation to SEND.


Next steps


Our SEND Code of Practice Chapter 6 - 3 Minute Read on TheSchoolBus summarises chapter 6 of the SEND Code of Practice, outlining the actions that schools should take to meet their duties in relation to identifying and supporting all pupils with SEND.

Use our comprehensive SEND Policy and Child-friendly SEND Policy model documents to implement policies in your school in no time at all. 




DfE (2015) ‘Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years’

Nasen (2014) ‘SEN Support and the graduated approach’