LASS 11-15 profiles and the SEN Code of Practice

The SEN Code of Practice

The current Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES, 2001), which came into force in January 2002, replaced the previous Code (published in 1994). Under the provisions of the Education Act 1996, Part IV, all state schools and Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in England and Wales must have regard to the SEN Code when dealing with pupils with special educational needs. It is assumed that most teachers in England and Wales will be familiar with the SEN Code of Practice, especially if they are Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo), and so only a brief outline will be given here.

The SEN Code proposes a staged model of identification, assessment and support for all students with special educational needs. The first two stages (‘School Action’ and ‘School Action Plus’) are under the responsibility of the school. The next stage corresponds to the point of statutory assessment, in which educational psychologists will formally assess the child and other evidence gathered concerning the child’s difficulties. At the final stage a student will have a Statement of Special Educational Needs, which means that additional resources will be provided to the school by the LEA in order to address the child’s difficulties. In Scotland a comparable SEN system operates, although the term ‘Record of Needs’ is used instead of Statement of Special Educational Needs. The assumption is that a child will proceed through these stages according to individual need, with regular reviews at which the views of the parents are taken into consideration. However, the Code avers that “…the special educational needs of the great majority of children should be met effectively with mainstream settings through …School Action and School Action Plus.” [SEN Code of Practice, 2001, 7:1] An LEA may refuse to provide a statutory assessment if there is inadequate evidence that the school has already made reasonable attempts to identify a child’s difficulties and deal with them using it own resources at School Action and School Action Plus stages. 

The Education Act 1996, Part IV, Chapter 1 places upon LEAs and Governing Bodies of all maintained schools in England and Wales, the responsibility for identifying and assessing all students with special educational needs “…as early as possible and as quickly as is consistent with thoroughness” Although many pupils will enter secondary education having had their special educational needs already identified at the primary stage, the SEN Code points out that “Secondary schools will need to be aware that any pupil admitted to year 7 may have unidentified special educational needs.” [SEN Code of Practice, 2001, 6:1] In this context, the SEN Code of Practice states:

“The continued importance at secondary level of early identification and assessment for any pupil who may have special educational needs cannot be over-emphasised. The earlier action is taken, the quicker appropriate help can be provided without unduly disrupting the organisation of the school, and the more responsive the pupil is likely to be. Schools frequently make use of appropriate screening and assessment tools to assist them in early identification. Whatever systems are in place, however, assessment should not be regarded as a single event but as a continuing process.” [SEN Code of Practice, 2001, 6:10]

It further says that to help to identify pupils who may have special educational needs, schools can measure student’s progress using a variety of type techniques, including “…standardised screening or assessment tools.” [SEN Code of Practice, 2001, 6:12]. The SEN Code instructs LEAs, when deciding whether or not to make a statutory assessment, to seek evidence not only about the student’s academic progress but also about other factors that could impact on learning, including “…clear, recorded evidence of clumsiness; significant difficulties of sequencing or visual perception; deficiencies in working memory; or significant delays in language functioning” [SEN Code of Practice, 2001, 7:43). It is clear, therefore, that the intentions of the Education Act, 1996 as reflected in the SEN Code of Practice, are that all secondary schools must have in place effective procedures for identifying all special educational needs as early as possible in a student’s education. The responsibility for this, in the first instance, lies with the school, its teachers and its governing body. It is also clear that LASS 11-15 can play a significant role in helping schools and teachers meet their obligations under the Act and the SEN Code.

Guidelines on using LASS 11-15 in conjunction with the SEN Code of Practice

LASS 11-15 is designed to be incorporated within the staged SEN model proposed by the SEN Code of Practice. Table 7 illustrates how this can be accomplished. It should be noted that the SEN Stages recommended in the table are the minimum that should normally apply: at this age it is imperative that schools are not over-cautious in allocating SEN provision because students do not have many years remaining in formal education in which to make good any deficiencies in their literacy skills. At the School Action stage, the student should have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) setting out the strategies for supporting the student, learning goals and projected review dates. The IEP should only record that which is additional to or different from the provision given to all pupils (which should in any case, be differentiated according to individual learning needs). Support will normally be provided by staff from within the school. At the School Action Plus stage, the student will also have an IEP and support from school staff but, additionally, help will usually be sought from specialist outside agencies, such as LEA learning support services, which may provide advice and/or specialist tuition.

LASS results should not be considered in a ‘vacuum’. Hence, when applying the guidelines shown in Table 7, other relevant factors should be taken fully into account, including academic progress across the curriculum, the length of time that a student has been experiencing difficulties, then extent to which the student has developed strategies which enable him or her to compensate for difficulties, the emotional impact of any difficulties, and the duration that the student has remained at a given SEN stage. Writing skills are not assessed by LASS but when considering results and deciding appropriate courses of action it is important that writing skills are factored in. Consistent with the SEN Code, it should also be remembered that assessment is not a one-off but rather a continuing process in which educational history should be considered and regular reviews undertaken. 

The rationale for the recommendations given in Table 7 are that when a student is below the 20th centile in literacy skills s/he is clearly underperforming in relation to age-group norms and hence there is a clearly identified need for SEN support at the School Action stage. When memory and phonological skills are below the 5th centile this is likely to impact on the student’s ability to learn and retain information and to tackle work involving new terminology, which also calls for SEN support at the School Action stage. If there is a significant discrepancy between the student’s intelligence and their literacy attainment the student is clearly underperforming in relation to ability-group norms and so there is equally a need for SEN support at the School Action stage. However, if both literacy and memory/phonological skills are significantly affected (or where literacy attainment is very poor – below 5th centile), there is a correspondingly greater SEN need, and hence the recommendation for School Action Plus. (Teachers may wonder why the corresponding recommendation is not made for memory and phonological skills below 5th centile, in the absence of any other indicator. The reason for this is that if, despite very poor memory and phonological skills, literacy measures are above the 20th centile this suggests that the student has developed some strategies that enable them to compensate for the cognitive weaknesses.) Similarly, when there a highly significant discrepancy between intelligence and literacy attainment there is a need for greater support as indicated by School Action Plus. When a student has already been on School Action for two years or more (whether in the current or previous school), and the LASS results suggest that School Action would be appropriate, the apparent lack of progress indicated by the LASS scores calls for a shift to the somewhat higher levels of support offered at the School Action Plus stage. But if a student has already been on School Action Plus for two years or more (whether in the current or previous school), and the LASS results suggest that School Action Plus would still be appropriate, the apparent lack of progress indicated by the LASS scores implies that even greater support is required and for that it may be necessary to request a statutory assessment.

Table 7. Relating LASS 11-15 results to the stages of the SEN Code of Practice (2001).

If the student has LASS 11-15 results that: SEN action stage recommended
Are below 20th centile on key literacy measures OR below 5th centile on key diagnostic measures. School Action
Show a significant discrepancy (z score difference between 0.66 and 1.66) between the student’s scores on key literacy measures and his/her reasoning score. School Action
Are below 20th centile on key literacy measures AND below 5th centile on key diagnostic measures. School Action Plus
Are below 5th centile on key literacy measures. School Action Plus
Show a significant discrepancy (z score difference greater than 1.66) between the student’s scores on key literacy measures and his/her reasoning score. School Action Plus
Meet the above criteria for School Action but the student has already been on School Action for two years or more. School Action Plus
Meet the above criteria for School Action Plus but the student has already been on School Action Plus for two years or more. Consider application for Statutory Assessment

‘Key literacy measures’ = Sentence Reading, Spelling and Nonwords (phonic skills).

‘Key diagnostic measures’ = Cave (visual memory), Mobile (auditory memory), Segments (phonological processing).