What is the Graduated Approach?

12 Oct 2018

by Tracy Edwards

Teaching School Associate Director Tracy Edwards outlines the ‘graduated approach’, reflecting on how it can improve outcomes for pupils on ‘SEND Support’

Effective assessment is core to inclusive teaching and learning.  It gives the educator new insights on how learners are processing something, what (mis)understanding they have and how teaching therefore needs to be adapted for greater impact.  Through effective assessment, teaching becomes relational: a genuine dialogue between educators and learners rather than something which is “done to” children and young people.

Under the code of practice, the term ‘Graduated Approach’ is used to refer to how that cycle of assess/plan/do/review can enable teachers to more effectively personalise learning for pupils on ‘SEND Support’.  In the above video, my colleague Margaret Mulholland and I reflect on the purpose of this approach as we understand it.  For us, it is significant that the cycle starts with “assess”. This situates the teacher as a learner (of their own pupils!). By “knowing more” about those individuals on ‘SEND Support’, the teacher can refine the strategies they use in the classroom for meeting their needs.  As the cycle is repeated time-and-time again, these strategies are further enhanced, and new ones developed.  This makes the provision that is wrapped around the child tighter.  The diagram below outlines how this might work in Maths, for a Year 7 learner on SEND Support with prior attainment significantly below age expectations.

Graduated Approach in Maths

The ‘graduated approach’ can therefore be used to support the delivery of inclusive pedagogy within which classroom teachers are playing an active role in improving outcomes for SEND pupils.  Through the ‘graduated approach’ pupils with SEND are not seen to be the solely the responsibility of the SENDCO or ‘Expert Practitioner’.  There is an emphasis on the principle that ALL teachers are teachers of SEND.  With this we need to be careful that the ‘graduated approach’ is not enacted as a bureaucratic process for merely demonstrating that a learner needs additional resources or funding.  Rather than see it solely as a way to evidence that a school has “done everything it possibly can” for an individual, it can be used as a tool for evaluation.


Swiss Cottage Teaching School Alliance is offering professional learning opportunities to support practitioners to develop their use of the ‘graduated approach’:

  • The Graduated Approach in Mathematics: In partnership with North West and Central London Maths Hub, up to 4 participating schools can work with a Specialist Leader in Education and engage in reciprocal school visits: smartsurvey.co.uk/s/graduatedapproachmaths
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