Whole School SEND Reviews – Provision, Policy & Practice

“The Review is a comprehensive blueprint for change and evolution.”

Review: a general survey or assessment of a subject or thing; a retrospect or survey of the past; display and formal inspection of troops

When we speak of the need for a review of systems and practice, there is an inference that we’re looking to the past and that any end outcome will necessarily be almost irrelevant to present needs.

So it is with whole schools reviews of SEND provision. They can be viewed suspiciously as unnecessary expenditure, a diversion from the true business of education or at worst, contexts for the stirring up of already fragile staff relationships.

Yet approached in the right manner, a whole school SEND review of provision, policy and practice can be highly illuminating, cathartic, transformative and a significant investment in the future of the school.

Having completed a number of whole school reviews of SEND PP&P in both the state and private sector, recurring themes have emerged that instigate the decision to embark on a review, with its subsequent investment of time, energy and money.

Catalysts for embarking on a SEND Review include -  

Whatever the catalyst, the process for a SEND Review must follow a rigorous structure that takes account of and is alert to the school’s historical legacy, but is not swayed by mitigating circumstances (difficulties with special needs staffing, particularly troublesome parents, defending tribunals or other).

Areas under Observation in the SEND Review

Five key areas of SEND practice are considered, set against a context of the school’s policies and provision.

  1. Identification
  2. Assessment
  3. Intervention
  4. Impact
  5. Review

Within each area under review, there are sub-categories that consider such matters as the ethos and values of the school, its mission statement and inclusive practices, its compliance with national policy, its resources and breadth of sporting, arts and social activities.  Some aspects of school life may display themselves through informal channels - incidental conversations in the classroom, staff-room notice boards, school corridor displays, the rewards and sanctions systems and other means, not subject to formal review.

Building up a picture of what is happening across the entire school demands a considerable allocation of time spent in meetings and observation. It also demands and requires an element of trust and openness, as access to SEND record-keeping, conversations with staff, pupils and parents and multiple observational contexts create a context whereby fears can emerge over the review outcomes.

Being advised, at the start of a whole school SEND review, not to speak to certain members of staff, as they will not tell the truth, does make for hyper-vigilance, not a blind eye!

Preparations for the Review

A whole school SEND review really does permeate into all areas of school life and it is only sensible and appropriate that an announcement is made that this will be undertaken. Most typically this is made via the school website followed up by more detailed information within the staffroom.

This ensures that key stakeholders are aware and can give or withdraw consent, as appropriate, for classroom observations, for meetings with pupils, for access to SEND files and pupil information, and for the completion of surveys.

Giving the dates of Review visits, the time-scale for the review from start to finish, and date of post-review feedback, helps alert people to any responsibilities they may have, and saves time later on when information is gathered through surveys.

SEND Review Features

There are multiple ways of information gathering, which may be adapted according to context. The following process list indicates the stages a review goes through from initial request to final report.

The use of surveys to gather information

Survey questionnaires are forwarded to the following groups, in the interval between agreement to go ahead with the review and the beginning of school based visits and observations.  

The analysis of these collective responses gives a great deal of information that may not necessarily come to light during the brief time-span of the review visits. Responding anonymously to a survey gives a remarkable freedom that one to one meetings do not always afford, especially if staff are anxious about their long term job security, or promotion prospects, or have children themselves with special needs attending the same school.

The final SEND Review Outcomes

After gathering a database of information, over either an intensive block allocation of time or a more slower paced process over the course of several weeks, a report is shaped and drafted, ready for distribution. Before that final distribution, there will have been additional meetings and verbal feedback with the Head Teacher with opportunities to further discuss matters where there is a lack of clarity or detailed information.


This article is written by Heather Stack and first appeared in SEN Leader, a subscription magazine for schools by Forum Business Media in June 2014

To contact Heather or enquire about booking a whole school SEND review of provision, policy and practice, please email info@thelocaloffer.co.uk or contact Heather directly on 01926 495695.