SEND support - the graduated approach

What if a child or young person can’t reach the levels they should? What's a SENDCO?  What if a child or young person is ill? What's an EHC plan?

If a child or young person isn’t doing as well as they should at school or college, they should get extra help. Many will need this at some time.  

For most children and young people, they won’t need extra help for long. Their teachers and staff in their school or college will know exactly what to do to support them. They can also get advice from specialists. 

Some children and young people have long-term needs. A few will have a learning difficulty, a disability or an illness that means they will need an Education Health and Care plan. 

What is a SENDCO? 

SENDCO stands for special educational needs and/or disabilities coordinator. They are also called SENCOs in some schools. 

All schools must have a SENDCO to make sure that children and young people's needs are being identified, assessed and planned for. They are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEND policy.  

A SENDCO is a qualified teacher who has had extra training about SEND. They: 

  • arrange all the extra support for children and young people with SEND.  
  • arrange additional assessments if 
  • work with class teachers to make sure support plans are in place, and checks that progress is being made.  
  • work with parents to help their child 
  • work with local council support services 
  • work with other professionals, for example, in health services 

In colleges, the person responsible for SEND may have a different job title, like Additional Learning Support manager, or Student Support manager. 

School SEND Information Reports

All schools must publish on their website a School SEND Information Report. This report should give parents and carers more information about how the school meets the needs of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities. There are links to each school’s SEND information report below.

The school SEND information report should answer many questions about how the school will meet your child or young person’s special educational needs, including what support will be in place when they transition to or from a new setting, roles and responsibilities of staff in school and what training school staff have had to help them meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs.

The first level of support - quality first teaching 

The people who teach children and young people should always be checking that students are making progress that suits their age. If they aren’t, they should be: 

  • working out what might be wrong 
  • doing something different, or putting in extra help 
  • keep checking this support is helping. 

This is called 'quality first teaching' in schools. It should happen in colleges as well.

There is strong evidence that the first step for children and young people with special educational needs is to be included in their class(es) with teachers delivering high quality lessons (e.g. Ofsted Research and Analysis – Supporting SEND). Teachers will adapt their teaching and use additional resources to match the needs of different children and young people as part of their everyday teaching. All teachers receive training in SEND and are supported by a SENCo in each school (see below for more information) and by a range of specialist Lambeth outreach services.

The second level - SEND support  

If the child or young person’s learning doesn’t improve quickly and they seem to need even more help, they have a special educational need and/or a disability (SEND). In schools, this is called SEND support.  Parental consent must be gained by the school before a child or young person is placed on the school’s SEN Register. 

Schools should talk with parents/carers about how much support is needed and how it will be provided. All mainstream schools get additional funding to provide special educational needs support. Schools must have a SEND Information Report on their website saying how they do this. It’s sometimes called their SEND Offer. 

SEND support in schools 

Lambeth schools have access to Graduated Response Tables to help them support children and young people in school. This support is called Ordinarily Available Provision. These Graduated Response Tables detail the different types of strategies and support that schools can put in place to meet children and young people’s needs. There are different tables for each type of need (e.g. speech and language difficulties; autism; visual impairment; social, emotional & mental health; cognition & learning) and each table shows what schools can put in place for children and young people depending on their level of need. Some strategies will be put in place by a child or young person’s teacher(s) in the classroom to support them to access their learning; others will involve the child or young person working with an additional adult or specialist agency (e.g. speech and language therapy) inside or outside the classroom. Some strategies might be used with a whole class, others with a small group of pupils and others with a child or young person one-to-one. Teachers liaise with the school SENCo to determine which strategies to put in place and how best to support a child or young person.

Families can ask schools about what strategies are in place for their child or young person and how schools have used the Graduated Response Tables to inform their decision-making about Ordinarily Available Provision.

Schools are expected to use a ‘graduated approach’ where they assess a child or young person’s needs, plan for how they will meet those needs, put strategies or interventions in place and then review the impact. This approach should continue in ‘cycles’ so that the strategies in place to meet a child or young person’s needs can be adapted or changed if needed to help the child or young person makes the best possible progress. Each cycle of the graduated approach would usually last for up to one school term (approximately three months). Families should be involved in this process and schools should seek families’ views about their child or young person’s progress.

All schools receive funding to support children with additional needs (known as the ‘notional budget’). It is up to schools to decide how to allocate this budget. Schools may decide to hire additional staff to support children or young people in their class(es), commission training for staff, purchase specialist services such as Speech and Language Therapy, Educational Psychology, Occupational Therapy or Counselling and Therapeutic Services. Children and young people may need to access one or more of these types of support during their time in school, either for a short period or over a longer period of time. The Graduated Response Tables help schools to use their notional budget effectively by describing the best practice for supporting children and young people with different types of needs.

What is the Exceptional Needs Grant Pilot (ENG)

In January 2024, we launched the Exceptional Needs Grant Pilot where we provide Lambeth mainstream Primary and Secondary Schools with additional funding for individual children and young people with exceptional needs. These will be children with an ‘exceptional level of need’, who will require support over and above the school’s Ordinarily Available Provision. Schools can request additional funding through an ENG (Exceptional Needs Grant).

An ENG is only available for children who live in Lambeth, who attend a Lambeth school. This is a faster alternative to the EHC plans to ensure that those children and young people receive funding to help support them in their setting as quickly as possible.

Exceptional Needs Grant funding is streamlined to the lower levels of ‘banding’ within an EHC Plan. It can be used by schools to support  children and young people presenting with the same level of need as may have previously warranted an application for EHC needs assessment. Both an ENG and EHCP can stay in place for as long as the evidence shows the additional interventions are needed. Both are for children with exceptional needs.

The ENG arrangements do not in any way impact the right of schools and parents / carers to request an EHC Needs Assessment. 

What if a child or young person needs an EHC Plan? 

An Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan is for children and young people who have higher level special educational needs that will need significant support over a longer period of time. 

Most needs can be supported using the money schools and colleges already have, or through the Exceptional Needs Grant. 

If the schools puts in place SEND support and progress remains below age expected or significant barriers to learning remain then an  education, health and care (EHC) assessment should be requested.

Find out more about applying for an Education Health Care Plan


Children and young people with SEND are statistically at higher risk of exclusion than their peers. Schools are required to take SEND into account when considering exclusion. Also, the SEND Code of Practice states that: 

 "Schools have a duty to arrange suitable, full-time education from the sixth day of a fixed period exclusion. Suitable education means efficient education suitable to a child’s age, ability and aptitude and to any SEN the child may have." 

For further information about exclusions, visit the schools and education pages. You can also get free, confidential and impartial support from Lambeth Information, Advice and Support Service (LIAS)

Schools can also access support via the Lambeth Gateway portal and our outreach teams will be able to provide professional support and Exceptional Needs Grant funding to support children and young people at risk of exclusion.

Post-16 SEND support 

All mainstream sixth forms, sixth form colleges and FE (further education) colleges also get extra funding to support SEND.  

Colleges should work with schools to help young people with SEND prepare to make the move into post-16 education. The young person should get the same type of support as in school and the college should continue  supporting and monitoring progress.  

What if a child or young person is ill? 

All children and young people under 16 should be getting full-time education. Between 16 and 18, they should be in education, apprenticeship or training at least part-time. 

If a child can’t go to school because they’re ill, schools should make sure they still get education the first few weeks. 

If they're ill for more than 15 days, or aren’t getting help from a school, we can help. 

Education out of school might be:

  • teaching at home
  • a hospital school 
  • a ‘virtual’ school 

or, a mix of these depending on their needs. 

FE Colleges have different rules. Parents, carers or professionals should check with the college to see how they will support a young person who is ill. 

How to get support for an ill child or young person 

If a child or young person is too ill to go to school or college for more than 15 days, a parents, carer or professional should talk to their teacher, the SENDCO, or Student Support at college. 

Going back to school or college 

Children who’ve been away from school or college for a while might need help go back. Ask the school or college about how they will help. 

We can work with parents and carers, the child, and the school or college to plan the return and agree what help might be needed.