Support for children aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

What support should all children get

Universal, or ordinarily available provision, is the foundation for all provision in educational settings and is based on high quality teaching and is often called ‘Quality First TeachingQuality First TeachingQuality First Teaching and the use of personalised, differentiated approaches form the universal offer for all children and young people in educational settings. This will include the robust use of the ‘assess-plan-do-review’ cycle, rigorous teacher oversight, and close liaison between the setting and family.’ or ordinarily available provision.  This includes strategies, resources and adaptations to the curriculum and environment that teaching staff use to remove barriers to learning for children and young people.

Universal provision is based on inclusive approaches to teaching and learning which benefit all children but are essential for those with SEND. Reasonable adjustments for individual needs are made to ensure schools and settings are, for example, dyslexia-friendly, communication-supportive and are adaptive for any sensory and physical needs that pupils may have. 

Strategies for high quality universal provision in the classroom include:

  • a well-organised classroom with labelled resources including picture symbols
  • displays which support learning e.g. word lists, punctuation pyramids and multiplication grids
  • assessment of prior learning supports the planning of learning objectives for all pupils
  • instructions are given in small chunks with visual cues and understanding is checked
  • pupil’s understanding being demonstrated in a variety of ways (not just written)
  • activities chunked into manageable amounts
  • a strong focus on the importance of positive relationships
  • effective use of praise for the celebration of all achievement including effort
  • memory supported by explicit demonstration and modelling of memory techniques
  • teaching assistant support being planned for, and used to maximise learning
  • adopting a positive and proactive approach to behaviour, as described in the Education Endowment Foundation’s Improving Behaviour in Schools guidance report
  • adjustments being made to help all children and young people learn (as in the examples below)

The following expectations and examples of good practice have been developed with SENCOs in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. They should be read alongside the graduated response documents which outline expectations for the four areas of need at universal, SEND support and statutory levels.


The image above shows:

Universal support can help with various needs and situations for example:

Charlie has a tablet to help him write. Mark sits at the back, he doesn't like people sitting behind him. Petra has used her time out card to go to the quiet room. George has a fidget toy to help him concentrate. Jon is in a wheel chair and has an adapted desk. Rada has an uniform exemption. Emma has use of noise cancelling headphones at break times. Tom, Cai and Claire sometimes work in smaller groups with a teaching assistant.

Partnership and co-production with learners, parents and carers

Expectation: the setting works in partnership with family carers and learners

Examples of good practice are:

  • parents and carers know who to talk to in the setting about their child
  • settings have formal and informal ways of communicating with parents and carers e.g. learners and parent surveys, coffee mornings, use of a home school diary, text, or email to support communication directly with parents and carers in addition to communication given via learners
  • settings have a SEND information report which is coproduced with parents and carers and updated annually
  • formal and informal events take place to seek views in relation to SEND from parents, carers and learners (e.g. school council)
  • parents and carers are signposted to support available on the Local Offer
  • young people are taught decision making skills and given the tools to help them be involved in decisions about their future as part of preparing for adulthood. Additional Helpful Tools - NDTi provides examples of tools.

Expectation: an effective partnership with the learners, parents and carers is evident through their participation in assessment and review processes.

Examples of good practice are:

  • parents and carers are aware of the SEND status of their child, the support, and individually tailored interventions in place
  • targets are co-produced and reviewed with parents, carers and the learner
  • the learner’s strengths and aspirations inform the agreed interventions
  • learners are supported to understand the difficulties they are experiencing and the strategies they can use to overcome them
  • learners understand and can contribute to the targets they are working to achieve
  • learners are supported as needed to help them to contribute their views.
Pastoral care and well-being

Expectation: the setting promotes personal development and well-being and happiness and welfare are prioritised.

Examples of good practice are:

  • learners are treated with respect
  • there is a calm and purposeful climate for learning where learners feel they belong, and their contributions are valued
  • learners can identify an agreed safe space
  • language used in the classroom demonstrates unconditional positive regard for learners (e.g. restorative approaches)
  • there is a culture of self-help, cooperation, and interdependency, a range of strategies are used to promote peer support
  • PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) is used to develop wellbeing and resilience
  • peer awareness and sensitivity towards difference e.g. SEND and protected characteristics, are raised at a whole school level
  • work is done with classes and groups regarding specific needs or conditions as appropriate
  • person centred planning tools are used as part of preparing for adulthood (PFA).

Expectation: learners feel safe and valued. They know that they can approach staff and that their opinions and concerns are valued.

Examples of good practice are:

  • learners know who to talk to when they have a concern
  • learners have an agreed method of contacting an agreed adult when they need to talk
  • the setting promotes positive attitudes, beliefs and practices towards individuals and groups in the classroom, the wider school and society
  • the staff in the setting model positive attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Behaviour is understood as a means of communication
  • a trauma-informed approach is used in setting, an example of this is PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy)
  • the setting regularly asks the learners for their views and use feedback to improve.
The physical and sensory environment

Expectation: the physical environment is adapted to meet the needs of learners.

Examples of good practice are:

  • the SEND information report contains an accessibility plan
  • reasonable adjustments are made according to individual needs
  • the furniture is the appropriate size and height for the learners
  • all learners experience a ‘full educational offer’. Extra-curricular activities, visitors and educational visits are planned to fully include learners with SEND (in line with the Equality Act 2010), including those with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and physical disabilities.
  • learners’ views are routinely sought and are used to inform planning for physical or sensory adaptations that they may require.

Expectation: practitioners are aware of and adjust for learners’ sensory needs which may include physical impairment (eg hearing and vision) or sensory differences

Examples of good practice are:

Adjustments that may be needed include:

  • seating arrangements
  • movement breaks
  • equipment
  • environmental modifications e.g. reduced sensory overload, lighting, displays
  • presentation of materials e.g. text size, colour, background
  • noise levels
  • access to alternative spaces e.g. due to smell or noise (where space allows)
  • flexible uniform policy
Teaching and learning strategies

Expectation: practitioners understand the strengths, motivations and needs of their learners, and the nature and impact of their needs, and how to respond to them.

Examples of good practice are:

  • practitioners use a range of assessments so that they understand the learner’s strengths, motivations, areas of need and gaps in learning
  • practitioners use this information to co-produce targets and interventions with the learner and their family
  • in schools and colleges teachers are responsible for all learners in their classes with SEND. They plan, monitor and review any discrete learning that occurs with an additional adult and ensure that there are opportunities for this to be reinforced, practised and generalised in the class.

Expectations: practitioners differentiate to meet the needs of all learners e.g. summer born, those with English as an additional language, those with no nursery experience, children who have missed education through illness.

There are individualised, or small group planning and programmes in more than one curriculum area.

Practitioners use approaches to promote independence, scaffold learning, and support learners.

Examples of good practice are:

Strategies that support differentiation include:

  • visual timetables, now or next boards, clear concise instructions with written or visual prompts, lists, writing frames and memory aids
  • additional time to process information before being asked to respond
  • breaking down tasks into small manageable steps which are explicitly taught (chunking)
  • varied pace, content, and order of activities to support access and engagement
  • multi-sensory approaches and the use of physical materials where appropriate
  • modelling to aid understanding, such as worked examples, demonstrations, and thinking allowed
  • repeated learning and recapping to promote fluency and planning for the generalisation of newly learnt skills
  • key vocabulary displayed with visuals
  • alternatives to written recording used routinely
  • study skills are explicitly taught
  • encouraging learners to ask themselves questions that help them to get better at managing their learning (for example, ‘What else do I know about this?’, ‘What is my first step?’)
  • access to homework clubs, or additional support with homework
  • homework is differentiated appropriately.

Expectation: the curriculum is delivered in a way that allows for individualised, group and independent learning based on an assessment of the pupil’s strengths and needs.

Examples of good practice are:

Strategies are used to actively promote independent learning, for example through:

  • pre-teaching, overlearning, and appropriately differentiated resources
  • seating plans and groupings that take account of individual needs and routinely provide opportunities for access to role-models, and mixed-ability groups.
  • effective questioning with enough time for thoughtful response
  • structured opportunities for conversation and sharing of ideas and access to additional adults where they are needed
  • the use of additional adult support, which is clearly linked to pupil outcomes. The impact of which is closely monitored
  • planned opportunities for children to generalise newly learnt skills including those that may have been introduced by outside agencies and specialists, or those taught outside the class.

Expectation: Practitioners ensure that collaborative learning and peer support is a feature of lessons.

Examples of good practice are:

  • strategies are used to build and maintain positive relationships across the whole school community (e.g. restorative approaches)
  • there are opportunities to develop peer awareness, sensitivity and support for different needs and disabilities both in and out of the classroom
  • learners have opportunities to work in different ways e.g. independently, in a variety of small groups and/or in pairs. This enables collaborative learning and access to role-models, mixed-ability groups, structured opportunities for conversation, and sharing of ideas.
Equipment and resources

Expectation: equipment and resources are allocated appropriately to ensure additional needs are met.

Examples of good practice are:

  • there is access to a range of equipment and sensory impairment, and physical disabilities
  • where possible resources (such as physical apparatus, memory prompts, adapted resources, help cards) are within easy reach of all children and young people to promote independence and reduce stigma
  • the impact of resources is monitored and reviewed
  • you can find more information Children's Occupational Therapy (
  • physical apparatus and adapted resources are available for those learners who require it.

Expectation: increased use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources to remove barriers to learning.

Examples of good practice are:

ICT is used to support alternatives to written recording and to promote independent learning.

Staff skills and training

Expectation: every setting should have a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) plan for all staff including teaching assistants so that they can meet the needs of all learners.

Examples of good practice are:

  • there is a planned programme of ongoing CPD in relation to SEND for the whole setting and individual teams and departments, this includes subject specialists
  • professional development is planned for individual staff, or groups to update skills and knowledge in an area, as required
  • best practice is shared within the school.

Expectation: staff collaborate and have effective links with other relevant outside agencies and specialists.

Examples of good practice are:

  • practitioners know when to refer for extra support or advice
  • the setting is aware of and regularly communicates with any other professionals who are involved with each learner
  • advice received from other professionals is used to inform teaching and learning.

Expectation: every setting should have an induction programme for new staff which includes a robust focus on additional and special educational needs.

Examples of good practice are:

An induction programme for all new staff which includes:

  • working with parents
  • gaining pupil views
  • assessment
  • teaching and learning strategies
  • adapting the environment
  • key school policies eg, safeguarding, SEND and inclusion.
Transition and change

Expectations: settings plan for all children or young people joining and leaving their settings. Enhanced arrangements are made for learners with additional and special needs.

Learners are supported to understand and manage transitions and predictable changes in their lives.

Staff are aware of those who will need additional support for all or most transitions and plan for these transitions.

This includes learners who:

  • have insecure attachment
  • have social communication difficulty including autism
  • suffered trauma, loss, or bereavement
  • are anxious.

Transitions include:

  • moving around the setting
  • preparing for weekends, the start of holidays and beginning of term
  • moving from lesson to lesson
  • changing from structured to unstructured times
  • moving from break to lesson times and one activity to another
  • changes of staff
  • special events
  • changing class
  • changing setting
  • moving on from education.

Examples of good practice are:

  • settings find out about new children in advance through discussion with parents, early years passports, transition reports across school phases, SEND support arrangement documents, and specialist reports
  • parents and carers know what to expect and who to speak to if they have any questions
  • learners know what to expect and who to speak to if they have any questions
  • learners and their parents and carers participate in decisions around transition and transfer
  • enhanced induction offers for some learners, this might include photos of the school, photos of staff, a communication passport, examples of a typical day, having a buddy, the use of social stories
  • preparation is made for those leaving school or education including enhanced offers for some learners (see above)
  • safe space available within the classroom or an identified area of the school for time out (where space is available)
  • visual timetables are used, events are removed or ticked of when finished
  • timers are used to show learners how long they have to work for, and how long they have to finish
  • learners are warned of unexpected change
  • opportunities for periods of respite using withdrawal to smaller groups. This might include self-directed or individual time-out
  • plans are made for unstructured times: safe spaces are available; there are structured alternatives such as clubs, or the use of the library for vulnerable learners
  • robust preparation for adulthood is put in place which focuses on the four pathways: employment, independent living, good health, and friends, family and community.
Assessment, planning, implementation, and review

Expectation: a regular cycle of Assess, Plan, Do, Review is used to ensure that learners are making progress.

Examples of good practice are:

  • learners’ strengths and difficulties in learning and behaviour are observed and monitored in different settings and contexts for a short period of time to inform planning
  • staff are aware of learners’ starting points so that expected progress can be measured across each key stage
  • assessment is used to inform planning and interventions
  • consideration is given for individual learners’ developmental levels
  • assessment is used to reflect on pupil progress, and to identify, and act upon, possible barriers to learning
  • all settings have a clear approach to identifying any SEND as early as possible
  • planning draws on previous experience of what is helpful or unhelpful for the pupil and rewards and motivation are considered
  • planning takes into account how discrete learning (individual or group) is transferred, supported and generalised in class
  • targets are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART) and where possible, written with the learner
  • access is given to appropriate and differentiated IT equipment and software
  • reviews and links to previous learning occurs at the start of lessons
  • online mapping software is considered
  • parents, carers, and learners’ views contribute to assessment, planning and review.

Expectation: practitioners ensure that formative assessment and feedback is a feature of lessons and evident in marking and assessment policy.

Examples of good practice are:

  • settings use a holistic approach to assessment looking at all sorts of factors including, the learner’s strengths and motivators, how they like to learn, what works best, what’s tricky and how barriers to learning can be removed. They do this in discussion with parents, carers, and the learner
  • assessments may include, formative assessment, observation, checklists, diagnostic tools and listening to the child or young person and their parent or carer’s views
  • a regular cycle of Assess, Plan, Do, Review is used to check progress and adjust provision
  • learners have regular opportunities to evaluate their own performance in a way that is meaningful and helpful to them
  • self-assessment is routinely used to set individual targets, where appropriate
  • the impact of interventions is critically evaluated. Alternative approaches are explored to establish whether they may result in better outcomes for the learners
  • assessments recommended by BCP SENCOs can be found in Appendix A of the Graduated Response Toolkit. See related publications section.

Expectation: expertise is in place to manage reasonable examination arrangements (access arrangements) for tests and national tests and public examinations.

Examples of good practice are:

Settings make adaptions to assessment arrangements as part of everyday practice. This is used to establish the learners normal way of working.

Please refer to the relevant exam board guidelines. Arrangements could include:

  • rest breaks
  • use of a reader, scribe, or laptop
  • extra time
  • adapted resources are used in class and assessments