Graduated Approach to supporting children with Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND).


The purpose of this guidance is to support practitioners in the process of building on current good practice and to help schools to develop systems, skills and structures for responding to pupils’ needs across the four areas of need as identified in the SEND Code of Practice (2015).

The graduated approach aligns the assess, plan, do and review process with the expectations from the SEND Code of Practice for children and young people identified as having SEND.

The Graduated Approach:

  • Provides a clear and structured approach for helping children and young people access their learning environment
  • Provides step by step guidance for the systematic gathering of evidence
  • Is used to gather information from a range of individuals involved in supporting children and young people, including parent and child
  • Creates an expectation that all schools adopt a comprehensive and consistent approach to meeting the needs of children and young people
  • Ensures that ‘high quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils is the first step in responding to pupils who have or may have SEND’ (SEND Code Jan 15 para 6.37)
  • Ensures that access to support is equitable and based upon a cycle of assess, plan, do, review, as set out in the Code of Practice.
  • Is incorporated within the process of academic progress reviews for individual children and young people
  • Takes into account the young person’s voice throughout
  • Forms part of the ‘Local Offer’ with support determined by the graduated intervention levels


High Quality First Teaching (QFT) needs be the essential element in the education of all children and young people.

In 2018 OFTSED made the following statement about QFT:

“What consistently worked well was rigorous monitoring of the progress of individual children and young people with quick intervention and thorough evaluation of impact. High aspirations and a determination to enable young people to be as independent as possible led most reliably to the best educational achievement.”

Furthermore, the SEND Code of Practice (2015) defines high quality teaching as teaching that is “differentiated and personalised and will meet the individual needs of the majority of children and young people” and the SEND Code of Practice makes it clear that “additional intervention and support cannot compensate for a lack of good quality teaching”.

High quality teaching looks like:

  • High expectations and aspirations for all learners
  • Secure subject knowledge
  • Clear presentation of subject matter, promoting discussion
  • Systematic checking of learners understanding, identifying and addressing misconceptions through clear, direct feedback
  • Adaptation of teaching as necessary
  • Building upon previous learning to enable learners to remember long term content.
  • Designing learning environments to support learning
Effective Learning Environments
Download (535KB - PDF)
Differentiation and Adaptation - One minute guide
Download (313KB - PDF)

Graduated Response

Levels of Support

  • UNIVERSAL SUPPORT: Quality first teaching for all learners with recognition that some learners may require very time-limited support in addition to inclusive Quality First Teaching in order to secure effective learning and increase their rate of progress. 
  • UNIVERSAL PLUS SUPPORT: Quality first teaching for all learners with recognition that some learners may require time-limited intervention programmes in addition to Inclusive Quality First Teaching in order to secure effective learning and increase their rate of progress. 
  • TARGETED SUPPORT: Quality first teaching for all learners with recognition that some learners may require increasingly individualised intervention programmes, in addition to Inclusive Quality First Teaching to accelerate and maximise progress and close performance gaps.
  • SPECIALIST SUPPORT: Quality first teaching for all learners with recognition that a few learners may require significant amounts of additional to and different from provision in order to secure effective learning and increase the rate of progress.

Key Areas of Support and Intervention

There are 4 key areas that provision and support should be offered in, in order to best meet the needs of children and young people:

  • Child/young person’s voice
    Giving children a voice promotes self-esteem and self-worth. By giving children and young people a voice through choice, opinion, feelings and emotions, children can develop and learn that they are important and valued. Feeling valued plays a large role in how a child learns. In order for them to actively learn and critically think they need to feel confident in their environment and have the knowledge that their voice and way of explorations will be noted.
  • School Provision, including curriculum provision and whole school culture & ethos
    A broad and balanced curriculum and a positive school ethos support and promote children’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • Families
    Children and young people with SEND, and their parents/carers, must be involved in discussions and decisions about their individual support. Co-production of support with families as equal partners recognises that they have important contributions to make to the design, planning, delivery and review of strategies.
  • Communities
    Professionals across multiple agencies and sectors working together to support co-production

Graduated Approach Toolkit

Examples of ways the Graduated Approach Toolkit can be used:

  • A self-help guide for practitioners when considering provision
  • A point of reference when deciding intervention levels
  • An audit tool for students and practice, for education settings and the LA
  • Partnership, clarity and transparency for parents and carers

The Local Offer

The Graduated Approach website should be used in conjunction with the Local Offer. You can access the Local Offer on the link below. 

Local Offer

Last updated: 07 November 2023 10:35:09