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Training information and priorities

Up-to-date information about the expertise and training of staff to support children/young people with SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS, including how specialist expertise will be secured, must be published in the annual SEN Information Report by the governing bodies of maintained schools and maintained nursery schools and the proprietors of academy schools (0-25 SEND Code of Practice, 2015, section 6.79).


It is expected that SENCOs will work with their headteacher, through provision management (eg provision mapping), to identify special educational needs/disability training needs and priorities, and take a role in training educators of children/young people with special educational needs/disability to enable them to fulfil their obligations under the Children and Families Act 2014 (Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014, nos 50 (3: c,e)).

Levels of expertise

It is logical to train staff to different levels of expertise depending on their level of contact enabling them to respond appropriately to pupils with particular types of special educational need/disability. The 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (2015, section 4.32) suggests three levels:

  • Awareness: a basic awareness of the needs of someone who has a particular type of special educational need/disability for all staff likely to come into contact with them;
  • Enhanced: the knowledge, understanding and skills to adapt teaching and learning to meet the needs associated with a particular type of special educational need/disability on a regular basis;
  • Specialist: in-depth knowledge, understanding, skills and practice in working with people with a particular type of special educational need/disability, that enables them to train, advise and support other staff.

The support and intervention provided should be selected to meet the outcomes identified for the child, based on reliable evidence of effectiveness, and provided by practitioners with relevant skills and knowledge (CoP, section 5.40).

Making the most of expertise

Careful consideration needs to be given to how specialist staff can train the wider workforce. Training
a range of staff to different levels ensures a level of expertise is retained within the school even if a highly trained member of staff leaves.


It is important to remember the wide range 
of activities that is covered by 'continuing 

professional development' in addition to 

traditional training including:

  • Peer-to-peer support;
  • Professional observation opportunities;
  • Mentoring;
  • Coaching;
  • Shadowing;
  • Inquiry/research.

'The quality of teaching for pupils with SEN, and the progress made by pupils, should be a core part of the school's performance management arrangements and its approach to professional development for all teaching and support staff.'
(CoP, section 6.4)

Staff training

In the table on the right, the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust has further differentiated levels of knowledge, skills and under-standing in an alternative way.


*Teachers working at this level would be expected to be qualified to undertake full cognitive diagnostic assessments for dyslexia-SpLD.

Stages Type of Support Professional Roles
Stage 1 Universal

All staff teaching and supporting learners in all levels of
educational setting

Stage 2 Targeted

Practitioners confident with planning, preparing and teaching with a range of targeted specialist and differentiated resources

Practitioners in specialist settings

Stage 3 Targeted

Higher Level Teaching/Special Assistant in all settings

Specialist SEN Teacher


Teacher in main stream seeking to specialise in dyslexia/specific learning difficulties

CPD leader for teaching schools

Stage 4 Specialist

Dyslexia/Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) Specialist Teacher

Dyslexia/SpLD Advisory Teacher

Specialist Teacher Assessor

Stage 5* Specialist

Specialist Teacher Assessor

Dyslexia/SpLD Advisor

Dyslexia/SpLD Trainer

Shared expertise across education, health and care

Local authorities must work to integrate educational provision and training provision with health and social care provision where they think that this would promote the well-being of children/young people with special educational needs/disabilities or improve the quality of special educational provision (0-25 SEND Code of Practice, 2015, section 3.13).


As well as the Children and Families Act 2014, the Care Act 2014, Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the NHS Act 2006 also place an obligation on health bodies and the local authority to promote the integration of services.

In addition to statutory training, support for children/young people with special educational needs/disabilities is strengthened when specialist staff (eg educational psychologists, speech/language therapists, school nurse, etc) and parents train the educational workforce in identification and early support resulting in:

  • More timely identification of need;
  • Appropriate responses and actions;
  • Effective support offered earlier;
  • Managing health conditions and technologies.

(0-25 SEND Code of Practice, 2015,
section 3.41, 3.62, 3.63)

What training?

Early years providers, schools and colleges are responsible for deciding what external support to seek and for setting their own priorities for the continuous professional development of their teaching and support staff (0-25 SEND Code of Practice, 2015, section 41).


However, professional development recommendations from the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (2015) relating to pupils with special educational need/disabilities include:

  • Quality teaching (section 6.4);
  • Inclusive learning environments (section 5.5);
  • Identification, assessment and planning for the needs of children with special educational needs/disabilities (section 5.5, 9.26);
  • Assessing, monitoring and reviewing pupil progress (section 6.4);
  • Early support key working (5.17);
  • Special educational need/disability-specific training (eg positive behaviour support to support children with challenging behaviour) (section 9.92).

To read a more detailed explanation of the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust levels of expertise, click here; and here for associated online dyslexia-SpLD screening and assessment training materials.

For whole school approaches, recommended in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (2015, Appendix 2), click here.

The Education Endowment Fund (EEF)/Sutton Trust provide evidence-based, effectiveness-rated guidance on educational interventions for both primary/secondary and early years phases.

Mapping training priorities

One way of mapping specific workforce development needs (Preparing for Adulthood, 2014) is
shown below:


Priorities Elements of training
Policy context

Overview of legislation and Code of Practice (including role of SENCOs)

Operational elements - Local Offer and EHC Plans

Links between SEN and disability reforms and wider changes (e.g. funding reforms)

Person-centered planning

Principles of effective key working - covering four key working functions

Coordination and facilitation of multi-agency meetings

Potential for negotiation/conflict mediation training

Personal budgets

Overview of legislative background

Calculating resource requirements

Managing delivery of Personal Budgets (including providing support to parents if required)


Defining outcomes

Activity: Translation to practice

Cathy O'Connor (Wirral Education Psychology Team) created the slide, 'Developing an EHC approach' as part of her 'The Lonely SENCO: Planning for September 2014' presentation. It represents an ethos shift accompanying the new 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (2014) and the new Education, Health and Care Plans.


Click here to view the text of her slides.


Consider the areas she has highlighted below. What could this look like for your school or other education provider? 

Develop a training presentation for your school's staff to explain and support this person-centred approach to planning a young person's future?

Find out more

Legislation and guidance


Other publications