A Guide for Schools
Our process for identifying and supporting children with specific learning difficulties has been developed by specialist teachers and educational psychologists. It is based on good practice guidance and follows the statutory SEND Code of Practice.
It aims to help schools to develop a consistent response to the identification and supporting of learners with specific learning difficulties and involves both the child/young person and parents/carers in decision-making.
The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice (2015) defines learning difficulties as follows:
A child or young person has a learning difficulty if they have significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age (p.16)
Some pupils struggle with many aspects of learning and have general difficulties, while others have just a few areas of difficulty which are impacting their progress. If there are just a few specific areas where a pupil needs support, we say that they have specific needs or a specific learning difficulty (SpLD). For example, a pupil may have difficulties with the speed that they process information, or struggle specifically with spelling, or experience visual memory difficulties. Some specific learning difficulties are easier to identify than others, but all should be determined through an individual assessment process.
If a pupil has a particular combination of specific difficulties the combination may be known by another term.
Our process for identifying and supporting children with specific learning difficulties has been developed by specialist teachers and educational psychologists, is based on good practice guidance, (e.g. the 2009 Rose Review) and follows the statutory SEND Code of Practice.
It aims to help schools to develop a consistent response to the identification and supporting of learners with specific learning difficulties.
Provision for all children, including those with identified learning needs, starts with Quality First Teaching (Rose, 2009, p.48). This view is stressed throughout the SEND Code of Practice:
'High quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils, is the first step in responding to pupils who have or may have Special Educational Needs (SEN). Additional intervention and support cannot compensate for a lack of good quality teaching. Schools should regularly and carefully review the quality of teaching for all pupils, including those at risk of underachievement. This includes reviewing and, where necessary, improving, teachers’ understanding of strategies to identify and support vulnerable pupils and their knowledge of the SEN most frequently encountered.’ (p. 99)
As an authority, it is our expectation that good pedagogy is present and that evidence-based, consistent intervention has been provided (at waves 2 & 3), in line with a graduated response to identified difficulties. The process below outlines the approach that we will take working with children and young people and education settings to identify and support children with specific learning difficulties.
 Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia Difficulties: An independent report from Sir Jim Rose to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (2009)
We have developed a process to consider a child’s strengths and needs, for use particularly in cases where parents/carers and school suspect that a child may experience specific learning difficulties. In line with the SEND-COP we follow a robust ‘Assess-Plan-Do-Review’ cycle, to:
- Be assured that Quality First Teaching and intervention has occurred and will continue
- Allow the ‘voice’ of the child, and their parents/carers, to be ‘heard’
- Be consistent with our approach
- Ensure that appropriate support can be provided throughout the process
- Consider when/if a pupil experiences persistent difficulties
The Individual Pupil Pathway sets out the route of assessment and intervention for children and young people who may have a specific learning difficulty.
The cycle of:
Assess, Plan, Do, Review
is significant in achieving an accurate representation of the child or young person.
Schools should initially use their own systems to identify if a pupil is not making expected progress. The class teacher, usually working with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo), uses the checklists (featured in the downloads section of this page) to gather more information to discuss and plan intervention or support with parents/carers.
Schools are often able meet the needs of their pupils through quality first teaching, along with differentiation and/or reasonable adjustments. To support this, the local authority provides staff training, enabling teachers and teaching assistants to give the appropriate support to children with special educational needs. School may decide to put a programme of intervention into place.
After a period of support the pupil’s progress is reviewed and next steps decided.
If school feels that they need more advice in relation to an individual pupil, they may make a referral to the Inclusion and Empowerment Service; an Educational Psychologist or Specialist Teacher will then work alongside school staff.
Further assessment, planning and review:
After a consultation or more detailed assessment school follows the advice to give a period of individualised intervention. Schools remain responsible for their pupils’ progress and at any time during the plan, do, review process if they feel that they are able to address a child/young person’s needs themselves they may continue the cycle independently.
The pupil’s response to the individual intervention is reviewed and the professionals involved will advise on next steps and make a judgment about the type of learning difficulties a child/young person has and whether they could be described as specific.
Here you will find out more information on the process when identifying Learning Difficulties SpLDs.
Where parents/carers have concerns about their child’s progress, their first point of contact will be the child’s class teacher or the school special needs coordinator (SENCo).