Stages of the Code of Practice

Guidance that all schools must follow when making decisions about children who have SEN.

Stages of the Code of Practice

The 1998 SEN Code of Practice is an important guidance document that all schools must follow when making decisions about children who have Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Currently, all children with SEN are recorded on the school’s SEN register under one of five stages of the Code of Practice according to the level of support which they need to help them make progress in school. 

The Department of Education is currently finalising a new Code of Practice which will replace the 1998 Code. In the new Code, schools will record children on the SEN register under three stages. More information below.

As a parent, you have an important role to play at each of these stages because you have unique knowledge and experience of your child’s needs to share with their school. This helps everyone involved with your child decide on the best way to support them both in school and at home.

The school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) is a key person in the school throughout each of the stages. The SENCo will help to ensure that the necessary steps are in place to support your child’s ability to access the curriculum and will work in partnership with parents and other school staff to establish the support your child’s needs.

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator

The Code of Practice (Section 2.12) states that all mainstream schools should have a designated teacher known as the Special Educational Needs Coordinator, or SENCo, who is responsible for the day to day operation of the school’s Special Educational Needs policy. 

In school, the main duties of the SENCo include:

  • being responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy;
  • responding to requests for advice from other teachers;
  • co-ordinating SEN provision in school;
  • maintaining a SEN register with records on pupils with SEN;
  • communicating with parents or carers of children with SEN;
  • organising and contributing to training for staff on different areas of SEN; and
  • working with external agencies and other professionals as needed.

If you have any worries or concerns regarding your child’s progress, or you think your child may have SEN, it is important to talk to the school about your concerns.

What do the 5 stages look like?

Stage 1 – Action Plan

If the decision is made to place your child on the SEN Register at Stage One, the school will create an Action Plan which describes the child’s difficulties and lists the actions which will be taken to help your child make progress.  These actions will take place over a set period of time (possibly one or two terms) after which a review happens to check what progress the child has made and to decide what should happen next.  As a result of the review the following decisions may be made:

  • Remove the child from the SEN register
  • Continue to take action at Stage 1 
  • Move the child to Stage 2 

Stage 2 – School Based Intervention

If your child does not make adequate progress following the actions taken at Stage 1, the school may decide to move them to Stage Two. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is then drawn up by the school. The IEP describes what difficulties the child is having and sets targets for the child to achieve within a set timeframe.

It also describes the special educational provision, teaching strategies and resources that the school will use to help the child make the best progress possible. The school may offer more individualised support for the child, either within class or withdrawal from class. The school consults with parents about the IEP and agrees what targets should be set.

The IEP is reviewed after an agreed period of time and future actions to support the child are then decided. As a result of the review the following decisions may be made:

  • Remove the child from the SEN register
  • Move back to Stage 1 
  • Continue at Stage 2 
  • Move to Stage 3 

Stage 3 – School and External Help/Support

The school may make the decision to move to Stage 3 if they feel that your child would benefit from specialist support from an external service to support their learning or medical needs, e.g. EA Pupil Support Services or a Health Service.

The support from outside school adds to the provision that the school is already making for the child. An IEP will be drawn up, describing both the school delivered and external provision which will be made. The school will continue to consult with you about your child’s IEP and the provision being made for them. The child’s progress is monitored and the IEP is reviewed after an agreed period of time. As a result of the review the following decisions may be made:

  • Remove the child from the SEN register
  • Move back to Stage 1 or Stage 2 
  • Continue at Stage 3 
  • Move to Stage 4 

Stage 4 – Statutory Assessment

If your child is still not making progress despite receiving school delivered and external provision, the Education Authority, working with parents, school and other agencies, may consider carrying out a Statutory Assessment of their needs.  A Statutory Assessment is a formal and detailed process to find out what your child’s special needs are, and what additional help they may need in school.

A Statutory Assessment is only necessary in a very small minority of cases and a request for a statutory assessment does not always lead to a statement of special educational needs being issued. While the Education Authority is carrying out Statutory Assessment, your child should continue to receive help and support from the school through their IEP until the process is completed.

During Statutory Assessment, important decisions need to be made that may shape your child’s education in the future and this process takes time to complete. The decisions must be based on detailed information.

The Education Authority will consider all of the available information and decide whether or not an assessment is required. If the decision is made not to proceed with a Statutory Assessment you will be informed of the reasons for the decision in writing. If you do not agree with the decision you will be given details on how to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Stage 5 – Statement of Educational Need

Your child will be placed at Stage 5 of the Code of Practice if the Education Authority decide to make and maintain a Statement of Special Educational Needs for them. A statement describes your child’s special needs and the additional support and resources that are required to support them in school. Provision and/or support will be arranged to meet the child’s identified special educational needs.

A Stage 5 IEP will be drawn up by the school and implemented, monitored and reviewed regularly. The school will continue to consult with you about your child’s IEP and the provision being made for them. The law states that there must be an Annual Review of the statement to discuss your child’s educational progress and you will be invited to a meeting to discuss this every year.

Changes to Come

Moving from five to three stages of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

The Department of Education is currently finalising a new Code of Practice which will replace the 1998 Code. The new Code of Practice is one of the key elements of the new SEN Framework.  

In the new Code, schools will record children on the SEN register under three stages. 

Why are we moving from five stages to three?

The new three stages are easier for parents, schools and everyone involved in helping to support children with SEN to understand and use. They help to streamline the SEN process and they focus specifically on the different levels of provision that can be made to help children with SEN.

When will the change from five to three stages happen?

Over the next few months, schools will look at their SEN registers and move each child across from the five stage model to the three stage model. All children will be recorded under the new three stages by October 2021.

What will the new three stages look like?

The new three stages focus on levels of provision for pupils who have SEN:

  • Stage One: Pupils who are recorded as new Stage One will be receiving school delivered special educational provision.
  • Stage Two: Pupils who are recorded as new Stage Two will be receiving school delivered special educational provision plus external provision, e.g. from one of the Education Authority (EA) Pupil Support Services or from a service within the Health and Social Care Trust. Pupils who are going through the statutory assessment process will be recorded as Stage Two also.
  • Stage Three: Pupils who are recorded as new Stage Three will have a statement of Special Educational Needs and will be receiving school and EA delivered special educational provision as detailed in their statement.

Will my child be affected by the move from five to three stages?

Your child will NOT be affected by the change.  The move from five to three stages is simply a clearer and more user-friendly way of recording the level of provision that pupils with SEN need to help them make progress.

The provision currently being made for your child will NOT change as a result of SEN registers moving to the three stage model.

Last updated: 26/05/2021