Graduated Approach

The Graduated Approach 4 part cycle

The SEND Code of Practice (2015) states-

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 through which earlier decisions and actions are revisited, refined and revised with a growing understanding of the pupil’s needs and of what supports the pupil in making good progress and securing good outcomes. This is known as the graduated approach. It draws on more detailed approaches, more frequent review and more specialist expertise in successive cycles in order to match interventions to the SEN of children and young people. (6.44)

In other words, where a child or young person has been identified as having special educational needs (this does NOT need to be an official diagnoses), school should be looking at what those barriers to learning are and then putting support in place to remove them. This should be an ongoing cycle of reviewing and adjusting the support until the outcomes have been achieved.

You can find more about SEN Support via our other page.

There are 4 parts within the Graduated Approach cycle which are as follows:


Where a school, college or parents have concerns that despite good quality teaching, a child or young person is not making expected progress along with their peers, then teaching staff should work with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (“SENCO”) to assess your child’s needs. This is in any area not just academically (and can include SEMH – Social, Emotional and Mental Health) and neither is it about getting a diagnosis, but identifying any learning needs and barriers to learning.

School or college are responsible for organising these assessments and can do many of them themselves, but sometimes schools will need to seek advice from a specialist teacher or a health professional. They should talk to you about this first, involve you in these assessments and, where possible, seek your child’s views.


Once assessed, if the results show that special educational provision is needed then school should place your child or young person on ‘SEN Support’ and they must tell you. The school should talk with you about setting outcomes and the support they will need to meet these. This may be group work, some 1:1 support, maybe some special equipment or maybe just a different position in the classroom, a time out card or space. You should be told when these interventions and strategies will happen, how often, who by and then a date for progress to be reviewed should be agreed.

If your child is in year 9 or upwards then there are additional considerations that need to be planned for and discussed such as higher education or employment, independent living, participating in society and how to be as healthy as possible.


Your child’s class or subject teacher is usually responsible for the work that is done with your child or young person, and should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved. The school should tell you who is responsible for all the different support your child receives (as part of the planning discussions). All those who work with your child should be made aware of their needs, the outcomes sought, the support provided and any teaching strategies or approaches that are required.


The school should review your child’s progress, and discuss this with you. They should be reviewing the impact and quality of the support and interventions on your child or young person’s progress – how effective has the support been? These should be evaluated along with your views and those of your child / young person in discussion with the school’s view. This may lead to support being tweaked, increased, decreased or even back to assessment if sufficient progress has not been made (and the cycle continues).

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (6.65) says: schools should meet parents at least three times each year. There should be sufficient time set aside to have a full discussion about progress and decisions made about the next steps to be taken.

The review should be documented and you should receive a copy. This is often known as an Individual Learning Plan (ILP), Individual Education Plan (IEP), provision map or perhaps something different. It doesn’t really matter what its called as long as it sets out the required information (the desired outcomes, what provision is being given to meet these, (by whom and when and how,) how you will you all know if the outcomes have been achieved and when the next review will be)

Detail of the 4 sections of the Graduated Approach cycle

What should I do if I have concerns?

As we have seen, parent carers and children/young people should be fully involved when it comes to knowing what assessments have been done, what the results were, what provision is being planned (as well as when, who by, how often, where etc), and when it will all be reviewed. If you are not sure about any part of this, or if you have particular concerns then do speak to the class or subject teacher or the SENCO. Ideally you should have received a copy of the Learning /Support Plan when you met to discuss the support being given, but if not, they will be able to print one out for you, so do ask for it.

More information can be found about the graduated approach and how schools should follow this 4 part cycle within the Tools for Schools’ pages via the West Sussex Local Offer.

If you feel that you need some guidance on how to speak with the school about your concerns then please take a look at our leaflet below: Communicating with Professionals. (Alternatively please get in contact with us directly).