The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Liz Murray

Developing an effective SEND register

A comprehensive SEND register supports every aspect of the SENCO role and prevents children from slipping through the net. Liz Murray explains how to put together a SEND register tailored to suit your school.

Every year it seems to be more challenging to be prepared for our students with SEND.

My team and I work hard to finish the previous year’s tasks and prepare for those all-important transitions, but it isn’t always within our control. Students with EHC plans are being placed in schools later each summer term and even during the summer holidays.

The one tool that I need in place for the start of every academic year is a comprehensive SEND register. It supports the strategic and proactive leadership and management of every aspect of the SENCO role.

No child is missed

There isn’t much written about the SEND register in many of the texts on SEND leadership; it seems to be assumed that there will be a register, but little detail about how to put it together. Perhaps this is because it isn’t a particularly exciting topic to write about! 

Some SENCOs even criticise a focus on data and suggest that it is at odds with the person-centred approach that is required to be an effective SENCO, but I would argue that without one, an organised and strategic overview is not possible. Once you have clear structures and systems in place the creative and personalised work can happen around this, safe in the knowledge that no child has slipped through the net.

Developing a context specific SEND register

In some schools the SEND register seems to have disappeared and been replaced by data management systems such as SIMS, but these are nowhere near as useful, or user-friendly, as a context specific SEND register designed on a simple Excel spreadsheet.

There are software packages that can create one, drawing the information from whichever data management system a school uses, but these can be expensive.

I’ve now developed SEND registers for four different schools and although they all contained the same basic information, they were all tailored to the different contexts of the setting. All that is needed is a person, ideally an administrator, who is proficient in Excel and a consistent approach.

What should the SEND register contain?

  • Names of the students
  • Gender
  • Support stage: SEN support or EHCP
  • Needs

'Needs' is probably the most challenging bit to get right. 

It should include the SEND Code of Practice categories of need, but also the presentation of need. For example, the acronym MLD (moderate learning difficulties) isn’t particularly useful to enable effective teaching, so it is essential to think about your audiences and how the information will be used.

  • Will you use different language for an actual diagnosis rather than an assumed one? 
  • How will you describe the presentation of need?
  • How will you differentiate between a primary and secondary need?
  • How will you clearly include all relevant needs?

Whatever you choose it needs to be consistent. See the table below for an example.

Category Primary need Presentation
Cognition and learning Dyslexia Slow verbal processing
Cognition and learning Dyslexia-type tendencies Poor word reading

What else should the register contain?

  • Any other useful categories such as pupil premium, looked after child, young carer etc. These are just some suggestions as this will be specific to each school context. 
  • Year group, house group, tutor group etc.
  • Links within the spreadsheet to other documents, for example a pupil passport or profile, EHCP or SALT report – teachers love this because it’s quick and easy!
  • Other useful data such as baseline assessment scores from CATs or MIDYIS.
  • According to the Code of Practice, every teacher should be aware of intervention that students with SEND are receiving – could you include key members of staff for individual students or the interventions that individuals are receiving?

Click the image below to see an expanded SEND register example.

Who is the audience?

I usually find that I need to consider at least two audiences. You might need two spreadsheet tabs to communicate the relevant information to each.

1. Teachers

This is your primary tool for communicating student needs to teachers. It can be a one-stop shop for everything they need to know about the children they will teach.

Users should to be able to filter to find their class groups easily and see at a glance the children with needs and then click links to more detailed information such as pupil passports which would include personalised teaching strategies. 

2. Leadership

 The register can be filtered for data. For example, it can help to quickly answer questions such as:

  • What is the breakdown of categories of need in your school? 
  • What is the most prevalent primary need? 

This data is useful when thinking strategically about the focus for student provision, training for TAs or CPD programmes for teachers.

One headteacher I worked with loved our SEND register and used it all the time. He said he found it practical from a broad overview when speaking to governors, to a focused approach when talking to the parents of a child with SEND.

Systems around the register

It’s important to keep the register up to date and to ensure that it syncs with the main data management system. 

  • What will be your process for reviewing the register? A collaborative approach is best, through team meetings planned at strategic points of the year, following feedback from teaching staff.
  • How often will you review the register? For example, you’ll probably need to get feedback on your incoming Year 7 SEN support students by the end of the first term. Some of them may not need to remain on the SEND register but the progress of all students will need to be regularly reviewed and their provision updated accordingly.

What are the benefits? There are many, but here are my top 4 (I couldn’t leave it at 3)!

1. Communication with staff

Put your SEND register on every staff desktop and everyone can access information about students. 

Middle and senior leaders can access an overview of departments or year groups and can look in detail at any student’s specific need, whilst class teachers can see the needs of every child quickly and easily all in one place.

2. Highly relevant provision planning

Filter students into groups of need to plan provision. You can also choose to add the provision to the register, so it becomes an instant provision map.

3. CPD for staff

Filter the most common needs at any school and work out a comprehensive CPD programme for teachers and TAs.

At a previous school I worked at, no one had realised that 80% of the children on the register had dyslexia. Once we could see this in black and white, we could plan a structured programme for staff and become experts in this area.

4. Instant data

If you need data for a governors meeting, the census report or to persuade a budget holder that you need to send staff on targeted training, the SEND register can provide it instantly.

SEND Inclusion Award

Want to review, improve and celebrate SEND provision in your school? The SEND Inclusion Award gives you the opportunity to demonstrate outstanding provision in six areas.

  • Identifying SEND
  • Compliance
  • Leadership
  • Professional development
  • Pupil and parental engagement
  • Pupil outcomes 

Find out more at 

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