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Sheffield Support Grid

See our flowchart in the download section of this page. This explains what the Sheffield Support Grid is and how it is used. Information in alternative languages is provided in the download section of this page.

The Sheffield Support Grid (SSG) is a locally-developed guidance document for school staff and other professionals. It is intended to help schools allocate support to learners with additional needs in a fair, consistent and transparent way.

There are currently three versions of the SSG: one is for Early Years (0 to 4 years), one for primary and secondary schools up to Year 11, and one for post-16 providers.

Who has produced it, and why?

The SSG has been produced by Sheffield’s citywide SENCOs in collaboration with different teams of professionals across the city – including educational psychologists, physiotherapists, the Hearing Impaired Service and speech and language therapists.

The SSG is intended to provide a ‘baseline’ understanding of a learner’s needs and how best to support them. It emphasises the importance of high-quality teaching and signposts to appropriate supporting strategies to match a learner’s need.

The SSG should help to ensure that learners with similar needs get a similar level of provision, regardless of where they go to school in Sheffield.

Last reviewed: 12/02/2021

Information owner: Citywide SENCOs

How it works: The four categories of need

The SSG is split into four categories of need, which have been taken from the SEND Code of Practice (national guidance on SEND practice):

  1. Communication and Interaction (for example, language delay, speech sound difficulties, autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing difficulties)
  2. Cognition and Learning (for example, general learning disabilities, or specific learning difficulties like dyspraxia or dyslexia)
  3. Social, Emotional and Mental Health (for example, difficulties with emotional regulation, anxiety, ADHD, anorexia, psychosis)
  4. Hearing and Vision (sensory impairments) and Physical (for example, hearing difficulties, visual difficulties, motor coordination difficulties)

The SSG is about needs, not diagnosis. The conditions listed above are just a few examples; they are not meant to be a complete list. The SSG can be used for children who do not have a diagnosis, and the school should not delay putting support in place while waiting for an assessment.

Likewise, it is not always possible to match a specific diagnosis to a specific area of need. This is because children with the same diagnosis can be affected in very different ways. For example, one child with a diagnosis of autism may only have needs in the area of Communication and Interaction, while another child with the same diagnosis may also have needs in the areas of Social Emotional and Mental Health, and Cognition and Learning.

How it works: The five levels of need

Within each area of need, the grid describes five levels of need. The list below outlines what you can expect at each level:

Level 1

          Provision: Needs can be met through high quality inclusive teaching

          Put on SEN Register*?: No

          Reviews: Regular parents’ evenings

          Documents used: May have a Learner Profile

Level 2

          Provision: Some adaptations in the classroom, possibly with some small group or individual interventions

          Put on SEN Register*?: No, unless the learner has needs that are consistent and ongoing

          Reviews: Regular parents’ evenings or 3 SEN reviews per year

          Documents used: Learner Profile or SEND Support Plan

Level 3

          Provision: Some targeted and individual interventions over the week

          Put on SEN Register*?: Yes

          Reviews: 3 SEN reviews per year

          Documents used: SEND Support Plan or MyPlan

Level 4

          Provision: Frequent, specific specialised input

          Put on SEN Register*?: Yes

          Reviews: 3 SEN reviews per year

          Documents used: MyPlan or EHC Plan

Level 5

          Provision: Daily, specific specialised input at all times across all aspects of the curriculum

          Put on SEN Register*?: Yes

          Reviews: 3 SEN reviews per year

          Documents used: Will normally have an EHC Plan


SEN Register: A register, kept by a school, of all learners who receive special educational provision.

For each area and level of need, the grid lists a range of teaching and learning strategies and sources of additional advice and support. Schools are expected to use this as a guide for planning support. Provision should be tailored to the individual child; not all of the provision listed will be suitable for every child who has needs at that level.

Please note: Not all schools run three distinct SEN reviews per year; some incorporate them into parents’ evenings. If you are concerned about the frequency of SEN reviews, you should raise this with the school in the first instance. If you continue to have concerns, you may wish to contact SENDIAS for further advice and guidance.

How are the levels assigned?

If a learner has additional needs, the SENCO will decide which SSG level is the best fit for their needs and their provision. The SENCO will use assessments completed in school and by external professionals to make that decision. To help with this, scores on various standardised assessment scales (for example, speech and language assessments) have been matched to SSG levels. The process of deciding which SSG level(s) best describe a child is discussion-led; it should involve the child’s parents and outside professionals, where appropriate.

Please note:

The SSG is a relatively new tool that was introduced in 2016. It was updated in 2019 with further details. Schools will ensure that all children and young people who are on their school’s SEN register have been allocated a level for need and provision.

A child should normally be on the same level for need and for provision*. However, in some cases these levels may not match. For example, if provision is effective, then the child’s level of need may go down.

* The level of need is given in the first column headed “Bespoke descriptor” in the SSG for schools and in the third column headed “Description of needs” in the SSG for Early Years. The provision of need is given in the third column headed “Teaching and Learning Strategies, Resources and Physical Environment” in the SSG for schools and in the fourth column headed “Teaching and Learning Strategies” in the SSG for Early Years.

You will be able to discuss your child’s SSG level as part of their regular SEN review meetings. The school should explain to you why your child has been placed at a certain level and how they have put provision in place to meet this need.

A learner can be at more than one level if they have needs in more than one area. A child’s highest level of need is normally the area that has the most impact on their learning. Often this may relate to a specific diagnosis; however, that is not always the case. For example, a child with Asperger’s may be placed at a level 2 for Communication and Interaction, but may have such high anxiety that they are placed at a level 4 for Social, Emotional and Mental Health.

The levels are looked at on their own. They are not added together – for example, a level 2 in one area and a level 3 in another do not add up to a level 5.

Who checks the levels?

The use of the SSG is moderated by the citywide SENCOs to ensure that it is used consistently by all schools in the city. The citywide SENCOs look at a sample of cases for each school in the city. During moderation, the levels for these cases are either agreed or amended. In 2018/19, 50% of all schools were moderated, with the remaining 50% due to be moderated in 2019/20.

Are the SSG levels used as a threshold for services?

Some services expect learners to be on a minimum level on the grid to accept a referral; for example, the 0 to 5 SEND Service supports children at level 3 or above on the Early Years SSG, and the Autism Education Team will look at SSG levels to prioritise their work. However, there is usually an alternative way of accessing support and advice from a service; for example, parents and professionals can ring the helpline run by the Autism Education Team. In addition, schools still have the oversight of their pupils and can prioritise which pupils need to be seen by services like Educational Psychology or Speech and Language Therapy.

There is also a link between SSG levels and Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. It is expected that a learner placed at level 3 or below on the SSG, as well as some at level 4, would not need provision over and above what is normally provided and available in a mainstream school. This means they would not normally require an EHC plan. However, requests for an EHC needs assessment will be considered based on all the evidence provided, not on grid level alone. It is important to be aware that parents have the right to request an EHC needs assessment at any point, regardless of the grid level their child has been assigned. The decision to conduct an EHC needs assessment is based on evidence as to whether a child may have SEN that may require provision to be made in line with an EHC plan. This would mean that they require more than is normally provided and available in a mainstream school.

What can parents do if they disagree with their child’s SSG level?

Any disagreements should be discussed with the SENCO in the first instance. Parents may wish to contact SENDIAS or use the disagreement resolution service. If the disagreement cannot be resolved, parents may want to use the school’s formal complaints procedure. Details of this must be published on the school’s website.

How is the SSG linked to school funding?

Mainstream schools receive funding as part of their overall budget to support children with SEND. This is known as a school’s “notional SEN budget”. The amount of SEN funding for each school is calculated using a national formula; it is not based on individual assessments of the needs of the pupils on roll. Schools are expected to use this funding to make special educational provision for their pupils, up to a nationally prescribed threshold (currently £6,000 per pupil per year). This is the maximum amount – it does not mean that every learner with SEN will receive support costing £6,000.

The local authority also delegates “high needs” or “top-up” funding to Sheffield’s seven localities (A to G). Each locality comprises several secondary schools and their primary feeder schools. The amount of top-up funding that each locality receives is based on the percentage of learners in that locality who are placed at levels 4 and 5 of the SSG.

Different localities use this funding in different ways, in line with their strategic priorities. For example, they may use it to buy in training, fund nurture provision, or allocate funding to individual learners who have been placed at level 4 or 5 for need or provision. (If a learner is on different levels for needs and provision, then the level for needs is the one most closely looked at. However, the provision level is also taken into account.) Localities must also ensure that provision detailed in EHC plans is funded from a combination of notional SEN funding and top-up funding. Schools should ensure that the special educational provision outlined in an EHCP is in place.

Special schools currently do not specifically utilise the SSG, but discussions are taking place as to how this will be done in the future.

Last Updated: 17/09/2021
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