Planning and meeting the needs of pupils who have SEND
Education health and care assessments
EHC plans
EHC reviews
Engagement with parents, children and young people
SEN information report
Special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs)
Training and support


This guidance sets out schools’ key responsibilities for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and what schools should do to address these needs in ways that avoid unnecessary and excessive workload burdens for teachers and school leaders.

It covers the requirements under the Children and Families Act 2014 set out in the SEND Code of Practice - references to the Code are indicated in parentheses throughout the document.

Planning and meeting the needs of pupils who have SEND

Every school is required to identify and address the needs of pupils who have SEND (6.2). The identification of SEND should be built into the overall approach to monitoring the progress and development of all pupils (6.5).

Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place. This SEN support should take the form of a four-part cycle (This is also known as Assess, Plan, Do, Review) (6.44).

NASUWT comment

The class or subject teacher should remain responsible for the pupil on a daily basis and should retain responsibility for the pupil when interventions take the pupil away from the whole class.

Class/subject teachers should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved to plan and assess the impact of support and interventions and how they can be linked to classroom teaching.

The SENCO should support the class or subject teacher in the further assessment of the child’s particular strengths and weaknesses, in problem solving and advising on the effective implementation of support (6.52).

NASUWT comment

It is vital that schools provide sufficient time for staff to undertake these responsibilities and implement procedures and processes that avoid excessive and unnecessary workload.

The DfE-endorsed report of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels established principles of effective assessment practice that apply to all pupils, including those with SEND.

These principles include ensuring assessment systems are developed and implemented in ways that avoid excessive and unnecessary workload burdens on teachers, particularly in relation to the collection and recording of assessment information and data.

Schools should test their systems for assessing pupils with SEND against the principles set out in the Commission’s report.

Building on the report of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels, the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group produced reports on Data Management and Making Data Work which also make recommendations that are relevant to the planning and assessment of pupils who have SEND.

Schools should test their systems for assessing pupils with SEND against the recommendations of these reports. The DfE and Ofsted accepted the recommendations of both reports.

In consultation with parents and pupils, teachers and SENCOs should agree the adjustments, interventions and support to be put in place of pupils with SEND, as well as expected impact on progress, development or behaviour, along with a clear date for review (6.48).

NASUWT comment

Ofsted inspectors will evaluate the extent to which provision meets the needs of pupils with SEND. The Ofsted inspection handbook is clear that Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the level of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.

Education health and care assessments

If a school has taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess and meet the special educational needs of a pupil and that pupil is still not making expected progress, then it may be appropriate to undertake an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment (9.14).

The local authority is legally responsible for conducting an EHC assessment (9.3). This responsibility cannot be delegated to a school, college or any other body.

Schools and other education providers must co-operate with their local authority in providing the advice and information the local authority requires to complete the assessment (9.52 and diagram on page 154).

NASUWT comment

As the undertaking of EHC assessment is a statutory responsibility on local authorities, charges should not be levied on schools for undertaking any activities associated with these assessments.

Schools and other education providers have a duty to respond to any request made by local authority for information as part of its EHC needs assessment (9.41). However, information should be limited to that required to allow the local authority to fulfil its statutory responsibility to complete the assessment (9.47).

When undertaking EHC needs assessments, local authorities should pay particular attention to school data on:

  • academic attainment and progress;

  • evidence of action already taken by the school;

  • evidence that where progress has been made, it has only been as the result of additional intervention and support over and above that usually provided; and

  • evidence of pupil’s physical, emotional and social development and health needs, drawing on evidence from clinicians and other health professionals and what has been done by these agencies (9.14).

NASUWT comment

This means that schools should not normally need to submit information to support the EHC assessment process beyond that it would hold as part of its established assessment and record keeping systems for pupils with SEN.

Teachers and school or college leaders should only be asked to provide information and advice about those areas in which they have professional expertise (9.51). It would not, for example, be appropriate for teachers and school leaders to be asked to submit evidence that relates to the specific knowledge and understanding required of health or social care professionals.

Schools should not be asked to submit information or advice in respect of an EHC assessment if such advice or information has already been provided for any purpose (9.47).

EHC plans

Local authorities must determine whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary and, following a needs assessment, whether it is necessary to issue an EHC plan. Local authorities are also responsible for ensuring that there is effective co-ordination of assessment and development process for the plan (9.11 and 9.30).

If the local authority decides to issues an EHC plan, schools and other education providers are required to contribute towards the development of an EHC plan (9.61). The format of the EHC plan is agreed locally but must cover specific information set out in the Code of Practice (9.62).

NASUWT comment

The Code of Practice does not clarify the boundaries for how other education providers contribute to the development of the EHC plan.

The NASUWT is extremely concerned that some local authorities are using this lack of clarity to require school staff to write the EHC plan. This is completely inappropriate and a significant workload burden for schools. SENCOs and school leaders should resist pressure to write the EHC plan and contact the NASUWT for support if necessary.

EHC reviews

Annual reviews of EHC plans for looked-after children and young people should coincide with a scheduled statutory Care Plan review (9.169).

The local authority may require the following settings to convene and hold an annual review meeting on its behalf (9.173):

  • maintained schools;

  • maintained nursery schools;

  • academies and free schools;

  • alternative provision academies;

  • pupil referral units;

  • non-maintained special schools; and

  • independent educational institutions approved under Section 41 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

NASUWT comment

However, the statutory responsibility for ensuring that a meeting is convened and that all relevant parties contribute to the review continues to rest with the local authority.

If a school is required to convene a meeting, it must invite the parents or carers of the child or young person to whom the EHC plan refers, as well as a local authority SEN officer, a health service representative and a local authority social care representative. The school is also required to seek advice and information from all invited parties.

Information on these requirements, including notice periods for review meetings, is set out in further detail in the Code of Practice (9.176).

However, there is no requirement for providers to send reminders for the submission of advice or confirmation of attendance to those invited to attend the review meeting. The Code of Practice is clear that professionals across education, health and care must co-operate with local authorities during reviews.

As the body with responsibility for ensuring that a review meeting is held, it is the local authority’s responsibility to address any issues that arise through the non-attendance of an invitee or the non-submission of evidence on their part.

Engagement with parents, children and young people

Schools should engage with parents or carers of learners with SEN regularly to set clear outcomes and to review progress towards them (6.64-6.71).

NASUWT comment

The Code of Practice sets out an expectation that providers should meet the parents or carers of pupils with SEND at least three times per year. (6.65). However, there is no requirement to interpret this expectation as meaning that providers must hold three individual meetings with a parent or carer. For example, it may also be appropriate to organise information sharing or support meetings for groups of parents.

Where possible, meetings with parents and carers of pupils with SEND should align with the normal cycle of meetings with parents (6.69). For pupils with EHC plans, the annual review meeting can also count towards the expected total number of meetings described in the Code of Practice.

Meetings with parents or carers of pupils with SEND should be built into the school calendar and undertaken in a way that does not create unnecessary and excessive workload burdens for staff and, where contractually provided for, take place during directed time.

SEN information report

The governing bodies of maintained schools, maintained nursery schools and the proprietors of academies must publish information on their websites about their policy and approach to supporting pupils with SEND (3.66). Details about what must be included in the school information report are set out in paragraph 6.79.

The information report should also be set out in clear and accessible language and be easily accessible by children, young people and their parents or carers (6.81).

Schools have a statutory duty to work with the local authority to develop the local offer (3.66).

NASUWT comment

However, there is no expectation that schools should replicate the range and depth of information required in the local offer in their information reports.

Special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs)

Governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools and the proprietors of mainstream academy schools must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as the SENCO for their school. The SENCO must be a qualified teacher working at the school (6.84-6.85).

The Code of Practice recommends that the SENCO should be part of the senior leadership team within the school (6.87).

NASUWT comment

SENCOs should be remunerated appropriately for their strategic leadership responsibilities.

Schools should ensure that the SENCO has sufficient time and resources to carry out their responsibilities effectively (6.90).

Schools should provide the SENCO ‘with sufficient administrative support and time away from teaching to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities in a similar way to other important strategic roles within a school’ (6.91).

NASUWT comment

Where the SENCO is in receipt of leadership and management time for other purposes, time to discharge SENCO responsibilities should be additional to this time in order to ensure that these responsibilities can be undertaken effectively.

Planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time is provided for the purpose of allowing teachers time to plan and prepare for their lessons and to assess pupils work. It should therefore not be encroached upon to provide time for the SENCO role.

The Code of Practice recognises that it may be appropriate for a number of smaller primary schools to share a SENCO employed to work across the individual schools.

Where implemented, such arrangements should:

  • ensure that all the requirements in respect of the deployment of SENCOs set out above are met;

  • make sure that a SENCO shared across several schools does not have a significant class teaching commitment and that such a role is not carried out by headteacher; and

  • not continue if there is evidence of a negative impact on the quality of provision on the progress of pupil with SEN (6.92-6.93).

Training and support

NASUWT comment

Schools and other settings are responsible for ensuring that staff receive the training that they need so that they can undertake their responsibilities effectively.

Annex 2 of the Code of Practice provides information about some sources of training and support.

Training and support should be planned in advance and organised so that they take place during the working day and not in the evening or at the weekend.


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