Support with schools & learning

Children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) often need extra help and support to learn. In England, most children with SEND attend mainstream schools and their needs are met through a process known as a graduated response which involves planning tiers of support, implementing the support and then reviewing the impact of the support. This is known as the plan, do and review cycle.

The plan, do review cycle should take place at every stage of the graduated response. For an in-depth visual guide to the plan, do and review cycle click here.

What does a graduated response mean?

A graduated response to SEND means starting with small levels of support and increasing the level of support (sometimes very quickly, there is no need to wait a certain period of time) until the child or young person’s needs are met. Schools must quickly identify your child’s needs and put in place support to meet those needs. Areas of need covered are:

1. Communion and interaction
2.Cognition and learning
3.Social, Emotional & Mental Health
4.Sensory and Physical.

The important thing to remember is that some children can be doing very well in one area (such as academics, covered by cognition and learning) but they may still need extra support to be made for them to support another area (such as social and emotional needs). 

All needs must be supported via the graduated response. If you have spoken to your child’s setting and are still having difficulty securing the right support for your child, contact SEND and You or the Bristol Peer-to-Peer EHCP page for help and advice or use the IPSEA model letter to complain.

What is, ‘Plan, Do, Review?’

You may hear this phrase when talking about the support that is in place for children and young people, usually in an educational setting.

It simply means that, after a setting has planned the type of support that is needed, they must then put it into action and, once it has been carried out, they should review the impact that it has had. The review should be carried out with parents, carers, children and young people. Together it should then decide if the support should be carried out again or maybe if something else might work better.

Plan, do and review by a school can determine if the child or young person is receiving the correct level of support via the correct type of Plan. You can view our visual guide here

It is important to note, that the plan, do, review cycle works differently in each education setting but each educational setting must (by law) follow this process and families, children and young people should always be involved. This ensures families receive the right support, at the right time and in the right way that suits the needs of the child or young person.

If you have spoken to your child’s setting and are still having difficulty securing the right support for your child, contact SEND and You or the Bristol Peer-to-Peer EHCP page for help and advice.

Stage 1: Graduated response, quality first teaching

There is a visual guide to the graduated response here.

The important thing to remember is that every teacher is a teacher of SEND, which means regardless of the level of support your child or young person receives, they should always have work planned by the class teacher who should oversee all of their support and ensure that the child or young person has a sense of belonging in their class and the whole school. If you are not sure about the type of support your child receives you should ask their class teacher or contact SEND and You.

Quality first teaching is a word used to describe the first level of support is in-class support. Support is provided via quality first teaching from the class teacher and any support staff. This doesn’t normally require any sort of written plan as it is part and parcel of good high-quality teaching.

Stage 2: Ordinarily Available Provisions

There is a visual guide to the graduated response here.

Step 2 of the graduated response asks the setting to look at what provision they have in place for the child or young person and what more needs to be in place to ensure a child or young person achieves good outcomes.

Bristol City Council has implemented guidance for settings known as the Ordinarily Available Provision document. You can learn more about this by reading the parent’s guide to the ordinarily available provisions here.

Normally a school will implement this type of support via something known as a Target Plan or an Individual Educational Plan, each education setting has its own terminology for the type of plan they use.

Stage 3: Advice from other services

Whilst implementing the ordinarily available provision, schools may find the child or young person needs advice from external services such as speech therapists, educational psychologists or occupational therapists.

Sometimes this support will be written into a Target Plan, but depending on the needs of the child or young person and the budget available to the setting, it may be necessary to offer the support via Bristol Support Plan or an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Stage 4: Bristol Support Plan

A Bristol support plan is a non-statutory plan that allows schools to access extra funding without needing to request an Educational, Health and Care Plan.

A Bristol Support Plan should be used as a short-term measure to access extra support that the school can not deliver from their budget, sometimes this might be needed to deliver lots of provision from the Ordinarily Available Provisions document.

There is more information on Bristol Support Plans here.

Stage 5: Education, Health and Care Plan

The highest level of support is an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This is a statutory plan, which means the Local Authority has a legal duty to ensure the child or young person receives the support in the plan. The support covers educational, health and social care needs. There is more information on EHCP here.

What does ‘reasonable adjustments’ mean?

A reasonable adjustment is a legal requirement (Equality Act 2010, there is a guide to the act here) that says education settings must change what they would usually do so that all children and young people with Special Educational Needs and or Disabilities can access their facilities and services. There is a very thorough guide here.

In order to meet this legal duty, the ‘responsible body’ of a school (such as the governing body) must prepare, implement and review a written ‘accessibility plan’, after having regard to the resources required to implement the plan. They must also publish a SEN information report explaining how they identify and support children with SEND. This can be found on the school’s website.

Schools must take steps to ensure that disabled pupils receive the same quality of education as their peers. The school has a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, where typical provision might put a disabled pupil at a ‘substantial disadvantage’.

Nurseries, Schools and Colleges should be thinking in advance and reviewing what adjustments they may need to make to avoid substantial disadvantages for disabled children. All aspects are covered, such as:

1. Homework, school trips, provision of education and exclusions.
2. Reasonable adjustments to procedures, criteria and practices and by the provision of auxiliary aids and services.
3. Nurseries and post-16 providers must also make reasonable adjustments by making physical alterations.
4. Schools and the local authority are not required to make physical alterations, but they must publish accessibility plans (and local authorities, accessibility strategies) setting out how they plan to increase access for disabled pupils to the curriculum, the physical environment and to information.

Examples of Reasonable Adjustments

Examples of reasonable adjustments (not limited to):
1. Providing access to classroom materials through assistive technologies such as screen readers
2. Adapting the physical environment, for example, installing ramps
3. Modifying the curriculum and assessments, for example allowing a student to answer assessments orally or use a computer
4. Presenting classroom materials in a different way such as visual, oral or demonstrations
5. Adapting teaching style, for example breaking lessons and/or activities into smaller sections so they are easier to understand
6. Reducing the distance between classes/classrooms for students who have physical disabilities
7. Giving extra time to move from class to class
8. Allowing more time to complete an exam or assessment, or giving the student rest breaks
9. Planning excursions in accessible locations, for example making sure the location is wheelchair accessible.
10. Adjusting a uniform or behaviour policy to suit a pupils needs.

Does my child need a diagnosis to help get reasonable adjustments?

It is really important to understand that children and young people do not have to have a diagnosis in order to receive extra help from school or to have reasonable adjustments applied. In order to ensure early identification of your child’s needs, schools should be proactive with the support they offer. Sometimes waiting until a diagnosis is received means the chance for early support has been missed.

Nurseries, schools and colleges have clear duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2015. Both contain requirements related to what education settings should be doing to identify and support children and young people with SEN. The Code of Practice applies to all settings, except wholly independent schools. 

A child or young person has a right to an inclusive education in a mainstream school or college with their typically developing peers if they want it. This includes being included in the activities of the school such as school trips and clubs.

Can my child be excluded from activities if they have special educational needs or a disability?

The school can only exclude children with SEND from activities if:
1. it is not reasonably practicable for them to be included.
2. being included would prevent them from receiving the support they need.
3. being included would prevent the efficient education of other children or the efficient use of resources.

These conditions are set out in the law (section 35 of the Children and Families Act 2014). Therefore a child can only be excluded from activities if one or more of these conditions applies.

The Equality Act 2010 is also useful if a disabled child or young person is being excluded from activities. Their exclusion could amount to disability discrimination.

Inclusion is a fundamental principle underpinning the Code of Practice and schools, education and training providers are required to have Accessibility Plans outlining how they intend to make their settings more accessible for disabled pupils. 

If your child has been excluded from an activity due to their SEND needs, please contact SEND and You who will be able to offer advice and support.

What tools do schools have to help identify special educational needs and disabilities?

If a school thinks a child may have SEND needs they have a variety of tools to help them identify the needs and put support in place using the graduated response and plan, do review. See our visual guide to the plan, do and review cycle, here.

For example, they could use a screener which is like a mini-assessment which identifies any needs your child may have. Bristol City Council has a list of support tools here. Settings could also use Bristol City Council’s ordinarily available provisions document.

You may find it helpful to share these guides directly with your school’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities co-ordinator (SENDCo), class teacher and your school inclusion officer if there is one.

Schools can also refer pupils to health services such as Speech and Language therapists, occupational therapists or Educational Psychologists. You will need to speak directly with your class teacher, school SENDCo or your GP to arrange this.

What happens if a child or young person isn’t making good progress despite the support or if the school can not offer the support or knowledge from their own resources?

Sometimes, despite following the graduated response and the plan, do, review cycles, there may come a point where nurseries, schools, or colleges struggle to meet the needs of a child or young person.

This might be because they don’t have the expertise or funding to identify those needs fully or because they are unable to identify the provision or support the child or young person requires. Alternatively, it might be because they know what the child or young person’s needs are, but they cannot make the necessary provision from their own available resources. 

When this happens educational settings should seek additional support for the child or young person in one of the following ways:

1. They could request top-up funding for a Bristol Support Plan. 

Parents and carers need to fully understand that this type of plan is a non-statutory plan. If your child has this type of plan and the school fails to deliver the provision in the plan, you will not be able to legally enforce the provision and insist the school carry it out.

This type of plan does not legally require information or advice from an Educational Psychologist and health services are not legally required to offer your child provision to support their health needs.

This type of plan might be necessary where funding is needed urgently or when your child has short-term needs. Generally, if your child has had a Bristol Support Plan for more than 12-18 months or if they require small classrooms or specialist education, it would be a good idea to ask your school SENDCo to apply for an EHC needs assessment instead of a Support Plan or apply for one yourself.

For more information on Bristol Support Plans, see our page here.

2. They could request an Education Health Care (EHC) needs assessment. 

If a lack of resources is a barrier to inclusion then this may be used as evidence that more provision or improved provision is required.

If the school can show that the child or young person has or may have special educational needs and that they may need support through an EHC plan, because they cannot provide the support that the pupil needs, then Bristol City Council should agree to carry out an EHC needs assessment. This is a legal process and, once the assessment is complete, a decision on whether to issue an EHC plan will be made.

Parents or young people can also request an EHC needs assessment themselves if they want to. For more information on the EHC process see our EHC page here.