Amy Baxter describes how SEND registers are used as an analytical tool to inform and harmonise provision.

SEND Registers have become widespread practice, despite the fact that the SEND Code of Practice does not demand their use, so there is no expected format or list of key information, and setup differs from setting to setting. While this may not be a problem per se, some level of consistency would be an advantage for working together across the sector. The Code of Practice is clear that where support is needed, it is determined by whether something ‘different’ or ‘additional’ is required for the child to make expected progress from their starting points. This rather vague description, that should be the criteria for placement on the register is the first problem.

It seems that in some settings these registers have become lists of simple data and I think we have lost sight of their extremely helpful function; that of being an analytical tool to inform provision. It has been argued that the use of generic data management systems is not nearly as useful as context specific registers designed on simple spreadsheets. Addressing this challenge is something we’ve been exploring, looking at the implications for SENDCos with paperwork and excessive bureaucracy and reminding ourselves of what SEND provision really means.

After discussions with SENDCos, reviews of SEND registers, comparisons to national trends and exploring themes with senior and executive leaders, it became apparent that we needed to improve our use of registers so that they were an effective tool to inform decisions rather than merely a list of information, that differed between settings. Registers may not be the best term, but we are sticking with it as it is now accepted terminology, and all are agreed on the purpose of the tool. We all accept that to inform provision proactively, the register should act as a layer of quality assurance in our SEND practice, supporting us to ask questions, starting with the statistics. Below are some pointers which I hope will support others exploring their own set up.

Don’t duplicate
Pull data from the platforms where you store the information, do not duplicate. Do not retype what you can download from existing maintained platforms. Not only does this mean your time can be spent supporting and coaching teachers in classrooms but it reduces error and means information is always up to date. Take information in SIMs, for example (other data management systems are utilised widely). The information held here needs to be kept up to date for census reporting, and so if this is being kept up to date, it does not serve us well to create an alternate list elsewhere. Within SIMs we have access to our most recent attendance data, along with lots of other useful information such as group allocations like EAL (English as an Additional Language) and PP (Pupil Premium). Such platforms make it easy to create a standard report for SEN including all this powerful data and download it in a usable format—the spreadsheet. I have found that pulling down this information regularly and doing a simple analysis means we are really thinking about what our pupils’ needs are, and whether our provision matches, in a responsive, agile way.

Use technology to support your analysis
Once all your data is in a spreadsheet—and let’s be honest this is a quick task, especially if your report is pre-set to run—you can begin to use the analysis tools. A simple formula can be added to calculate percentages, for example. I have found it useful to look at the overall cohort figures of attendance, pupil premium links and EAL numbers as well as what the information tells us about individuals. Additionally, the areas of need represented in the cohort and how these impact the provision required, is critical to understand so that overall training and support to staff continues to be well matched over time.

Accessible to all
Once there is clarity about the important information about pupils, their needs, and their provision, it is important to ensure it is understood, meaningful and accessible to everyone involved with that child. This may include considerations around the presentation, use of acronyms, where it is stored and who you regularly share updated versions, or summaries, with.

Ask a million questions
Following on from the collation of lots of key data, it is important then to start interrogating it. The ones I promote as key questions are; are the numbers on the register in line with national and regional averages; do our provisions and interventions match the needs identified on the register; does our professional development offer for staff match those needs identified as majority or growing; and for those pupils whose attendance is low or dropping, are there key plans in their individual learning plans? These key questions are designed to only be the beginning. The answers and follow up questions should take you down to the ‘devil of the detail’, checking on individual progress. However, this can only lead onto identification of actions and promote a more proactive response to changing cohort needs if done openly and honestly. The time spent ‘thinking deeply and critically’ about provision and how it’s matched to SEND needs is the most important process—you don’t have an essay to demonstrate it. Your evidence will be clear in the provision over time.

Add detail where you want it
In some settings, or to suit some individual preferences, the register includes qualitative progress measures for children. This can be useful, particularly in relation to making sure detail is clear if the SENDCo is not available. If used, I would suggest it should be an additional column on your spreadsheet, comprising one sentence and I advise that this is not needed for every pupil, but only for your complex cases.

Make changes
Don’t be afraid to make changes, in fact the more responsive the better! Update your action plan, move pupils from one intervention to another, request further meetings to agree provision, make referrals to involve specialists and book new and different training for your staff. On top of that—c. The most dangerous mindset is ‘we have always done it that way’ whether that is conscious or not. Share the data, ask them the questions, make them part of the planning process. And, most importantly, follow up on agreed actions regularly.

Be regular and consistent
Repeat this process at least prior to each new term. Informing your provision for the term ahead is the real game changer. But most importantly, be regular and consistent in your sharing of this information, and following up on actions with all staff. After all, SEND is everybody’s responsibility.

Amy Baxter
Author: Amy Baxter

Amy Baxter
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Education Adviser for SEND at Greenwood Academies Trust.

X: @GreenwoodAcad
Facebook: @GreenwoodAcademiesTrust
LinkedIn: greenwoodacademiestrust


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