Reviewing the SEN register

Written by: Jane Friswell | Published:
Photo: iStock

With the SEN reforms well underway, Jane Friswell looks at the on-going process of moving pupils into the new SEN Support category.

SEN professionals are now responding to the guidance issued on duties and timescales for local authorities and their partners to implement the special needs system and its implications for schools, with the anticipation that most children will be moved into the new SEN Support category by Spring 2015, and all pupils moving to SEN Support by September 2015.

Reviewing the SEN register is an on-going process but one which is particularly under the spotlight right now. Schools are working to decide how to move forward with their pupils who may be currently recorded as School Action or School Action Plus, trying to define how this translates to the new category of SEN Support. So what constitutes best practice for this decision-making?

What does the 'ideal' school look like?

In the ideal school, this process of review would sit neatly inside a well-established cycle demonstrating the graduated approach at a whole-school level, as well as for the individual pupil. Within this graduated approach, the school would be reviewing its provision in light of all the evidence it is constantly gathering related to pupil progress and so the fluidity of the register would be accepted.

High-quality teaching, recognised as the universal offer of the school, would be the foundation in every classroom. This means that staff are confidently identifying and meeting the needs of all learners and the evidence for this can be seen from observations of classroom practice, progress and attainment data, the scrutiny of work produced, discussion with teachers, the views of parents/carers, and of the pupil, too.

Everyone's perspective informs the cycle at each stage and decisions about the need to change provision are agreed by all.

The ideal school invests in achieving this strong foundation of universal, high-quality teaching through sound use of the SEN notional budget, as well as the Pupil Premium grant. They do this because they know that it will then lead to a reduction in the number of pupils who may need to access targeted provision, and that what is good practice for meeting SEN is effectively good practice for all. This whole-school provision offer directs cycles of staff CPD, encourages enquiry-based practice, and contributes to the sense of being a learning community for all (staff as well as pupils).

Best practice provision

Auditing an existing register must start with considering individual pupil needs. Planning for the real involvement of parents/carers and the pupil themselves is also key. Where schools are using a criteria-based approach to determine identification of SEN, this may work as general guidance but it has to lead to thinking about the individual pupil:

  • What needs do they have and how do we know? What evidence is there from initial assessment, previous cycles of the graduated approach, from parents, or from the pupil themselves?
  • Have we considered any social, emotional or mental health needs? What is their behaviour telling us?
  • What is their pattern of attainment and progress? From this, can we tell what works for them?

The next step for the school after having self-evaluated using these questions is to find out more about the pupil's needs (i.e. further assessment) and decide whether there is sufficient evidence to show that they fit the definition of having an SEN.

They must then make an informed decision about whether they require SEN support to make good progress (this might be to accelerate or sustain current progress, depending upon their starting point). If they are currently receiving SEN support (i.e. additional to/different from), assess whether this is addressing their needs and whether it needs to continue, or if high-quality universal classroom provision which is personalised would meet their needs now.

It is then important to involve parents in the decision-making process and ensure they understand the implications of continuing or leaving SEN Support. Use the School's SEN Information Report to assist their understanding of the provision offered and consider sharing the local authority Local Offer website – which local authorities are required to publish setting out in one place information about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEND – with them for a wider picture of local provision. Explain how this might relate to their child's needs.

A review of the SEN Register should take place at least once a year. Ideally, a school should be reviewing their SEN Register following learner progress meetings and gathering of whole-school assessment data (approximately three times per year). Continual progress and improved attainment, for example where a learner is now working within age-related expectations, should trigger re-assessment and discussion regarding the removal, or change of status, of learners placed on the SEN register.

By applying more creative thinking, where pupils are receiving targeted provision which is all about closing the gaps and where this is common for many pupils in the school, this should lead to a reduction in the number of pupils registered as having SEN, finally addressing the view SENCOs often have that really what is required is the best provision at the classroom level.

In the past, provision for SEN has tended to be expressed in terms of "hours of support" for a learner, with less emphasis on who was to deliver the support, the form the support would take, and what it was expected to achieve. This narrow view of support is something Nasen is working hard to counter, by helping to inform SEN professionals into what wider, inclusive and high-quality provision really entails through expert information and CPD at events such as Nasen Live 2015 (see below).

High-quality inclusive teaching supported by effective whole-school policies and frameworks, clearly targeted at all pupils' needs and prior learning, is key. It can mean setting a new trajectory for the learning programme to take pupils to where they need to be in terms of age-related expectations. Effective teaching anticipates the needs of pupils based on good use of yearly transition data and information.

Nasen Live 2015

Nasen Live takes place on May 20 and 21 at the Macron Stadium in Bolton, with a focus on "nine months into reform – early indicators of impact and planning for the year ahead". The event is free to attend and offers SEN resources, experts and CPD.


At this year's event, there will be 32 Nasen seminars to help keep your CPD up-to-date, including:

  • Supporting ADHD in Educational Settings, Sandra Scott, service manager at the ADHD Foundation and former SENCO.
  • Finished at School: The transition to education and training after school for young people with autism, Yola Jacobsen, head of training and development at Ambitious about Autism
  • Curriculum Access and Participation for Pupils with SEND, Christopher Robertson, lecturer in inclusive education at the University of Birmingham.

CPD, free resources and more

There will also be a variety of free resources, training opportunities, advice and support. This will include the Nasen Theatre CPD sessions, the popular SENCO surgeries, and the much-anticipated Code of Practice update from the Department for Education. There will also be free copies of the following publications at the show:

  • SENCO guidance for supporting teachers in implementing the graduated approach of SEN Support (only available at this show),
  • Mini-guides (covering a range of current SEND topics).
  • SEND update
  • Finished at School Guide
  • Teaching Assistant Guidance


Exhibitors will be on hand with a range of products, services and resources. Some of this year's exhibitors include B Squared, Crick Software, Edge Hill University, Leading Education, MyCognition, Rising Stars, and YoungMinds.

  • Jane Friswell is the chief executive of Nasen, a UK professional association embracing all SEN. Visit


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