Part of
Somerset’s Graduated Response Tool

The purpose of this pathway is to ensure every child and young person in a Somerset school receives the support they are entitled to

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Part of
Somerset’s Graduated Response Tool

The purpose of this pathway is to ensure every child and young person in a Somerset school receives the support they are entitled to


Statutory Special Educational Needs (SEN) information

Statutory Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) information

Expectations for Whole School Inclusion

Expectations for Whole School Inclusion

Inclusion for each Broad Area of Need

Information about the four areas of need set out in the Code of Practice

Inclusion for each Broad Area of Need

Graduated Response Tool – Complex Medical Needs

Graduated Response Tool – Complex Medical Needs

Supporting tools, documents and signposting

Supporting tools, documents and signposting

SEND Code of Practice

‘Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder. Schools and colleges should have clear processes to support children and young people, including how they will manage the effect of any disruptive behaviour so it does not adversely affect other pupils. The Department for Education publishes guidance on managing pupils’ mental health and behaviour difficulties in schools.’ Code of Practice, 6.32 and 6.33.


It is important to recognise that SEMH difficulties may reflect other underlying special educational needs or difficulties from other categories of need. It is essential that barriers, identification tools, and strategies/interventions from other areas of need outlined in this document are considered when supporting children and young people who present with SEMH needs.

Children and young people say:

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

It’s important to have the right level of support.

It helps me when I can go out of the room to calm down

It makes a world of difference to use when people understand and care.

Mental health and behaviour in schools - Department for Education, 2018

A school’s approach to mental health and behaviour should be part of a consistent whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. (Department for Education, page 4)

Schools have an important role to play in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children by developing whole-school approaches tailored to their particular needs, as well as considering the needs of individual pupils – page 4.

There are things that schools can do for all pupils, as well as those at risk of developing mental health problems, to intervene early to create a safe and calm educational environment and strengthen resilience before serious mental health problems occur – page 5.

The culture, ethos and environment of the school can have a profound influence on both pupil and staff mental wellbeing. Schools are in a unique position, as they are able to help prevent mental health problems by promoting resilience as part of an integrated, whole-school approach that is tailored to the needs of their pupils. A whole school approach is one that goes beyond the teaching in the classroom to pervade all aspects of school life – page 8.

Somerset Wellbeing Framework

The Somerset Wellbeing Framework provides a range of tools and guidance to support the development of an effective whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing. This includes a Wellbeing Audit, which is a series of criteria covering a wide range of wellbeing indicators that are linked to the 8 principles of a ‘whole school approach’. Each of the criteria represents the essential elements that make up a mentally healthy school and will provide settings with a valuable starting point for further health development.

The Wellbeing Audit acts as a self-assessment checklist which will help you to identify and celebrate all the positive health-related developments you have made. It will also identify any areas where you may need to take action or develop further work.

Whole school policy and practice

Barriers for children and young people within the Social Emotional and Mental Health area of need

It is likely that a lot of children and young people will experience some difficulties with their social and emotional health at some point during their school career. They may display some of the behaviours listed below, but it does not always mean they have a SEN.

Ability to plan, attend, organise, regulate themselves and manage change

Examples of behaviour can include:

  • forgetting materials or instructions
  • not paying attention
  • disliking change in routine
  • impulsive behaviours
  • difficulty remaining on task
  • difficulty with task transition
  • rushing work
Attendance at school

Examples of behaviour can include:

  • reduction in attendance and/or being late
  • patterns of non-attendance
  • parent carers report challenges getting their children and young people into school
  • missing lessons
  • difficulties with transition
  • frequent illnesses such as a tummy ache or headache

See Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) guidance for more information.

Maintaining healthy peer relationships and friendships

Examples of behaviour can include:

  • falling out with peers
  • not forming positive relationships
  • needs to feel in control of peer relationships
  • difficulties maintaining appropriate boundaries and relationships
  • physical aggression with others
  • isolated from peers
  • sensitive to  disagreements
  • lacks resilience to repair the relationship
  • rejecting others
Managing and/or regulating their emotions – quick emotional reactions to seemingly small stimuli

Examples of behaviour can include:

  • disruptive behaviour – throwing chairs, destroying work, verbal and/ or physical aggression
  • emotional outbursts
  • tears
  • screaming and shouting
  • self-injurious behaviours
Behaviour at home that may not be seen at school

A change in behaviour at home, for example:

  • emotional at the end of the day which may present as challenging behaviours
  • withdrawal
  • difficulties with sleep, eating, self-care and independence
 Engagement with the curriculum

Avoiding work, for example:

  • asking to leave the classroom
  • looking for resource
  • disruption and distraction
  • refusal to comply with adult requests
  • withdrawal
  • shouting out
  • getting up and wandering around
  • running away
Change in demeanour and/or appearance
  • change in appearance
  • attitude to learning
  • motivation to engage with peers
  • quieter or louder in class

Changes may have occurred quickly or over time.

Unpredictability of behaviour with lack of obvious triggers

Examples of behaviour can include:

  • behaviour does not seem to follow particular patterns
  • triggers may seem unrelated
  • behaviours seem to vary or change on a regular basis
Low confidence and/or self-esteem

Examples of behaviour can include:

  • fear of failure
  • risk avoidance
  • negative self-talk/appraisal of self
  • difficulty accepting praise
  • fixed mindset
  • unable to experience joy in success
Failure to make anticipated progress across many areas of the curriculum

This might include reduced progress in core subjects – such as maths, English, and science and/or progress in other subject areas.

Universal Social, Emotional and Mental Health identification tools

SEMH Needs can arise due to needs in other areas not being identified and met. It is essential that the assessment tools outlined in other aeras of need are considered when supporting children and young people who present with SEMH needs.

What can help within the Social, Emotional and Mental Health area of need

The view of the children and young people around how they feel has been sought in a child-friendly way.

  • Close home/setting/parent carer links/relationship (not just ICT based) so that staff are aware of any changes in home circumstances and environmental factors that might impact on progress. Also to ensure that information is shared appropriately.

Due to the complex nature of SEMH needs, the strategies below apply to many of the barriers mentioned above. These strategies create a school and classroom environment which supports the social and emotional well-being of all children and young people.

Whole Class Strategies
  • Use solution-focused approaches – focus on pupil strengths, skills, and interests rather than on the ‘problem’
  • Create a safe and predictable classroom environment with clear expectations by:
    • using a whole class visual timetable
    • having consistent rules within the classroom that are appropriately differentiated where necessary
    • creating zones in the classroom which include a safe space or calm zone
    • putting children and young people into pairings rather than asking them to choose
  • A class emotions board that asks ‘How are you feeling today?’ and gives pupils a range of emotions to place their name sticker underneath. If pupils highlight emotions you are worried about, you can follow up with additional conversation – here is an example of an emotion board
  • Include Circle time/PSHE Lessons which focus on teaching various emotional literacy skills such as self-regulation. Sessions should happen at least weekly in primary school and fortnightly in secondary school
  • Teach calming/relaxation activities as part of the timetable. This might include mindfulness, breathing, yoga, colouring, drawing, storytime – adult reading to children and young people. This could happen as part of tutor time in secondary school
  • Use a growth mindset approach in the classroom – ideas can be found on Twinkl’s How to develop a growth mindset in the classroom
  • Make kindness a priority in your classroom. Notice children and young people being kind and keep records or celebrate this. This might be with a Kindness Tree or other special recognition
Individual Pupil Strategies
  • Regular communication between home and school using a home/school book or emails
  • Provide appropriate play-based activities and/or creative activities – for example, messy play, using playdough, drumming, music, drama, and art. This should be at least once a week with a trusted adult
  • Schedule a daily check-in or daily meet and greet with a trusted adult. This may happen at the start of the day to discuss the day ahead, at the end of the day to review the day, or during the day to check in about how the day is going. This should be at least 15 minutes daily
  • Plan targeted opportunities to build positive relationships with the children and young people – for example, a specific time in the day/week to share an activity that is of interest to you both
  • Give the child and young person a responsibility or special role in the classroom to increase their self-esteem, and provide opportunities for movement
  • Give controlled choices within the timetable – for example, ‘Would you like to do task A or task B first?’
  • Set personalised learning targets. Tasks should have clear goals, outputs, and timescales for completion to reduce the ‘unknown’ and limit anxiety
  • Chunk tasks. Make tasks short, with frequent breaks, and opportunities to move around
  • Use visual support to provide structure to tasks such as a now and next board
  • Use short, clear instructions – recap and reinforce these during lessons
  • Provide ‘scaffolding’ in the form of writing frames, word mats, relevant classroom displays, access to technology
  • Say what you want them to do, rather than what you don’t. For example, ‘walk slowly’ rather than ‘don’t run’
  • Consider seating and positioning in the classroom. A seat at the side or back of the classroom might be preferable for some children and young people so they do not worry about what is happening behind them. Some children and  young people might prefer to be closer to the door to allow for time out if needed

Last reviewed: April 10, 2024 by Sophie

Next review due: October 10, 2024

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