Chapter 6 – Areas of Need: Cognition and Learning

6.1 Definition

Cognition refers to the thinking skills and thought processes that a child/young person has acquired through their prior experience. Learning needs are on a continuum and can vary across subjects and situations. Children with learning needs may learn at a slower pace than their peers despite appropriate differentiation. Learning difficulties can be general or specific and related to one or more areas of the curriculum. Difficulties may be short-term in one or more areas or severe and long term.

Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) affect one or more specific aspects of learning. This encompasses a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Wigan’s graduated approach to supporting children and young people with additional needs provides for the varying needs of all learners. For a child or young person with specific learning difficulties to meet criteria for an EHC plan their needs will be severe and complex. There is likely to be a combination of difficulties.

6.2 Graduated Approach 

For learners identified as having SEND, settings will take action to remove barriers to learning and put into place effective special educational provision. A graduated approach will be undertaken which draws upon the four part cycle Assess, Plan, Do, Review, with actions revisited, refined and revised building on a growing understanding of learners’ needs and the support needed in helping them to make good progress and secure good outcomes.  Each stage of support builds on the good practice of the previous stages. This will lead to an approach in which increasing levels of support are provided where necessary and appropriate:

  • Quality First Teaching for All children and young people
  • Some support
  • Lots of support
  • Exceptional support

The Assess, Plan Do, Review approach will be applied at each of these levels. The guidance below describes the actions that could be taken at each level.

6.3 Effective Inclusive Setting: Quality First Teaching

High quality teaching, differentiated for individual learners, is the first step in responding to children and young people who have or may have SEND. High expectations should be set by teachers for every learner whatever their prior attainment.

Quality First Teaching

Is it underachievement or SEN?

Review and analyse attainment and progress data.

Look at history of progress over time - is lack of progress a recent event? For example:

Death of a family member or friend

Serious illness of a member of the family or friend

Birth of a sibling

Moving house

Death of a pet

Consider other factors e.g. communication skills, hearing/vision screening, general health considerations, basic needs are being met

Analyse scores from standardised tests e.g. reading, spelling, numeracy and pin-point whether difficulties are general or specific

Discuss strengths and difficulties with child/young person, all teaching staff and parents/carers

Analyse the learner’s work in all areas of the curriculum

Check attendance and health records – does anything there contribute towards identifying possible barriers to learning?

Review quality first teaching: is differentiation appropriate for learning needs?

Have learning styles been taken into account?

Audit staff training needs

Observe class/setting– is access to resources, nature of groupings etc. having an effect?


Use assessments to ensure appropriately differentiated work and ensure any gaps in learning are addressed

Involve child/young person and their parents/carers in establishing where the learner is up to and what specific, small steps, need to happen to ensure progress. Targets should be dynamic and modified to match progress.

Use analysis of child's/young person's learning styles to create increased learning opportunities

Maximise learning by use of multi-sensory teaching and alternative recording methods etc.

Ensure that learner knows what they need to do to achieve targets.

Consider deployment of staff to support learners to overcome barriers to learning

Co-ordinate staff training if appropriate.


Ensure there is close liaison between all staff teaching the learner 

Ensure there are opportunities for consolidation and application of new skills

Ensure questioning focuses on moving learning forward

Provide feedback to learners highlighting successes and reinforcing next steps

Establish effective communication with home to celebrate successes and reinforces learning 

Teaching staff take the learners receptive language into account, ensuring that they understand instructions etc.


Ensure marking and feedback is regular and focused on learner’s individual learning objectives

Review and analyse attainment and progress data

Review progress with learners, parents/carers and all teaching staff

Given the learner’s baseline, if progress hasn’t been made or isn’t matched to ability, consider further support.

6.4 Graduated Approach - Some Support

If, despite quality first teaching that takes the above into account, there are still concerns, teaching staff will consider putting some additional support in place. 

Some support

Monitor through diagnostic (formative and summative) testing e.g. reading, spelling, phonics, number etc. along with standardised tests

Consider Executive skills

Audit staff skills 

Consider other factors, e.g. Communication and Interaction, Physical/Sensory, Social Emotional and Mental Health.


Involve learner and their parents/carers in process of understanding what their difficulties are and what needs to happen for the learner to make progress

Teacher, in consultation with SENCo, learner and parents/carers plans a time-limited intervention carefully matched to identified needs and chosen from those that have been found to be effective by monitoring and results

Intervention(s) are timetabled, ensuring that resources (including time and trained staff) are in place

Deployment of staff is paramount to ensure learners are given the set time specified for the programmes of support

Intervention(s) will be timed, where possible, so that the learner does not miss whole class activities

Teachers, supported by the SENCo, ensure that there are opportunities for skills to be applied and revised in whole class activities 

Plan activities- different from/additional to the class

Plan regular time for communication between teacher and person delivering intervention to monitor progress and adapt targets/focus as necessary

SMART targets and outcomes are set and shared with learner/parents

Targets are dynamic and are modified to match progress

A record keeping system is in place to monitor progress.


Planned interventions delivered by trained teaching staff 

Interventions are monitored to ensure accelerated progress

Intervention can be delivered within a whole class as part of guided work or in another part of school, however the class teacher is still responsible for ensuring and monitoring that learning progress occurs

Class teacher continues to work closely with staff involved in delivering interventions to assess impact

Record progress towards intervention targets on a regular basis.


On-going monitoring of intervention to ensure quality of delivery and progress towards targets e.g. observations

Repeat tests following intervention to check progress

Obtain learner and parent/carer’s views about impact of the intervention

Where little or no progress is being made, class teacher and SENCo review suitability of intervention and re-plan

Where progress has been limited, return to assessments and consider further involvement of Support Service.

6.5 Graduated Approach - Lots of Support 

It is envisaged that few children/young people will require support at this level.  Settings will have continued to monitor progress and implemented the previous advice and strategies using the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle.

Lots of support

Consider all previous assessments and progress over time and consider consultation with support services as appropriate e.g. Targeted Education Support Service, Educational Psychology Service, Specialist Sensory Educational Team, Occupational Therapy, Gateway etc.

Consider all factors which may be creating barriers to learning

Are staff skills sufficient to meet learner needs or are there training implications?


Continue to involve learner and their parents/carers in the process of understanding what needs to happen for them to make progress. Share targets with learner, parents/carers and all teaching staff

Deployment of staff is paramount to ensure learners are given the set time specified for the programmes of support.  This should be monitored by the class teacher and SENCo

Consider deployment of support staff. Training may be needed for the delivery of recommended interventions or understanding of learner’s specific needs

Set SMART targets based on specific needs with clear links to the interventions

Plan intervention sessions ensuring opportunities for whole class integration is not minimized

Ensure that all required resources, including space to work etc., are in place before the intervention begins

Plan differentiated activities, additional to and different from those of the class/ group.


Deliver small group or 1:1 interventions by trained staff

Ensure that class teachers are involved in planning, monitoring and sometimes delivering (as appropriate) interventions

Class teacher continues to work closely with staff involved in delivering interventions to assess impact

Ensure time made available for feedback/planning between staff

Monitor teaching in intervention sessions to ensure quality assurance

Check that skills developed in small group or 1:1 sessions are used ‘back in class’ to reinforce and embed.


On-going review meetings between class/subject teacher and teaching assistant delivering intervention to discuss any difficulties etc.

Gather annotated evidence of “additional to and different from”

Observe interventions to monitor quality assurance

Planned review meetings midway and then at the end of interventions to assess impact. Adapt/change intervention and/or targets if necessary.

Regular contact with parents/carers to report on progress and to update on ‘at home’ strategies that will help

Review progress in all areas and evaluate impact of particular interventions

Ensure costed provision map highlights additional support being provided

Has there been the necessary outside agency involvement?

Consider referral for an EHC Assessment and Plan.

6.6 Graduated Approach - Exceptional Support

In following the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle and implementing the advice from specialist services, it is envisaged that very few children/young people will require an Education Health and Care Assessment and Plan. The referral for an EHC Assessment needs to demonstrate evidence of advice sought, acted on and evaluation that demonstrates the need for further intervention and provision.  

6.7 Severity Criteria - Cognition and Learning

With the removal of National Curriculum Levels, schools are able to use a range of assessments to measure the progress and attainment of pupils. The following table is presented as a guide to the Local Authority’s decision making process within the EHC Pathway. Schools may also wish to use this guidance when considering a referral for EHC assessment. Pupils will be working at or below the levels indicated in Mathematics and/or English.

Maths and English attainment levels

 Year 1


 Year 2


 Year 3


 Year 4


 Year 5

 <50% Year 1  Curriculum KPIs

 Year 6

 <100% Year 1  Curriculum KPIs

 Year 7

 <50% Year 2  Curriculum KPIs

 Year 8 and above

 <100% Year 2  Curriculum KPIs

Please note that this table is a guide and all referrals will be considered individually taking into account personal circumstances and progress over time, as well as attainment.

Evidence of the following will also be needed in support of a referral:

  • Implementation of the “Graduated Approach”, incorporating the assess, plan, do, review cycle at each stage:
    • Quality first teaching
    • Differentiation
    • Specific evidence-based interventions
    • External Agency involvement with implementation of recommendations
  • Monitoring and tracking of progress over time
  • Diagnostic and standardised assessment scores may also be helpful.

The Rochford Review is currently considering changes to P Levels and further updates may become necessary in the light of this.

6.8 Specific Learning Difficulties

In line with The SEN Code of Practice Wigan applies a graduated approach to specific learning difficulties. 

For policy, definition and frequently asked questions go to Specific Learning Difficulties – Dyslexia. Please also see the Dyslexia Style Guide, for information on how to ensure that written material takes into account the visual stress experienced by some dyslexic people.

Similar documents for Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia will be available soon.


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