What is a MAT SEND review?

A SEND review across your trust is a valuable opportunity for self-evaluation. Natalie Packer outlines the purpose and process

Author details

Natalie Packer is an independent education consultant, specialising in school improvement, SEN and outstanding teaching. She delivers a wide range of professional development packages for primary and secondary schools and supports initial teacher...

Leadership of SEND starts at the very top of any organisation. Without clear direction and accountability for the outcomes of learners with SEND being rooted in the leadership structure of an organisation, there is a risk that these learners’ requirements will not be considered thoroughly enough when evaluating the organisation’s effectiveness and when setting strategic priorities. (WSS MAT SEND Review Guide)

Improvement through self-evaluation

In the MAT development programme guide, the DfE suggests a series of questions for multi-academy trust leaders to reflect on when considering how to further develop and improve their trust. In relation to school improvement, the guidance asks the following.

  • How well does the MAT know its schools and have a sufficiently honest self-evaluation that reflects performance, progress and need?
  • Does the MAT have a thorough understanding of the full spectrum of the needs and progress of pupils in its schools (including those with SEND) and how well is this linked to the MAT’s priorities?

Authentic self-evaluation of the quality of provision for pupils with SEND, and a good understanding of the needs and progress of those with SEND, is essential to developing an effective trust. Self-evaluation of SEND will enable leaders to reflect on their practice, identify areas for development across the trust and make strategic decisions about how to plan for improvements in provision. 

Supporting self-evaluation through a MAT SEND review

Although trust leaders can undertake self-evaluation of their SEND provision internally, it can be helpful to involve an external partner in the process, for example by commissioning a MAT SEND review from an experienced practitioner, consultant or system leader.

The process should be a collaborative one where the reviewer works alongside the trust leaders to consider the evidence and agree findings together. It should be a two-way process where the trust benefits from working with an experienced practitioner who has knowledge and expertise in SEND and the reviewer gains further experience of trusts in different contexts. The process supports professional development and should result in the sharing of new ideas and practices.

A MAT SEND review aims to:

  • provide a developmental opportunity that promotes on-going discussion and reflection about the quality of SEND practice across the trust
  • support accountability at all levels and ensure statutory requirements are being fulfilled
  • given an opportunity to reflect upon national changes in SEND policy and practice
  • compliment the individual school SEND review process.

The MAT SEND review focuses on three key questions.

  • What are the strengths of SEND provision and outcomes for pupils with SEND across our trust and how can we build on these to further develop our practice?
  • What are the areas for development and key priorities for SEND?
  • What are our next steps to address the identified key priorities and how can we build these into our trust strategic development planning?  

The process of a MAT SEND review

Once a MAT has commissioned a review of SEND with an external partner, the process is likely to include five stages.

  1. Initial discussion between the MAT leaders and reviewer to agree aims and key areas of focus.
  2. MAT leaders carry out a brief SEND self-evaluation using a recommended framework (see below for example).
  3. MAT leaders provide a range of documentation to give background and context (including the self-evaluation, MAT SEND policy, outline of schools etc.).
  4. Review visit takes place with the reviewer and MAT leaders. The recommended framework is used to guide the review focus. Verbal feedback is given at the end of the day and key strengths and areas for development are agreed.
  5. The reviewer provides a written report summarising the outcomes of the review and any recommendations for next steps.

Using a framework for self-evaluation

To support this process, Whole School SEND (WSS) have developed a MAT SEND Review Guide (which can be downloaded for free). Their framework outlines five key areas of effective SEND provision and practice for leaders to reflect upon. For each area there are a series of statements or questions to be considered throughout the review, such as the following.

1. Leadership

  • Do trust leaders have a clear vision and ambition for SEND? 
  • Does the MAT strategic plan include identified SEND strategic objectives?
  • Is there a lead trustee with responsibility for SEND who challenges leaders about provision and outcomes?

2. Identification

  • Do trust leaders have a clear picture of the pattern of SEND identification across the trust?
  • How accurate and effective are SEN identification processes across the trust?
  • How is SEN identification data used by trust leaders to strategically plan provision?

3. Tracking and monitoring progress and outcomes

  • Do trust leaders have a clear understanding of the progress and attainment of pupils with SEND?
  • How effectively do leaders use SEND achievement data to inform teaching and learning and interventions?
  • What are wider outcomes like for pupils with SEND and what progress do they make towards their personalised targets?

4. High Quality Teaching and intervention

  • How do MAT leaders ensure schools promote High Quality Teaching as the first step in responding to learners’ needs?
  • Do all schools within the trust implement the graduated approach effectively?
  • Do those responsible for the strategic leadership of SEND ensure interventions are evidence-informed and evaluated for impact?

5. Developing provision

  • To what extent have MAT leaders created a culture and ethos that actively engages parents?
  • Does the MAT commission outside agency support and what impact does this have?
  • Are there opportunities for school leaders to share good SEND practice across the trust and make links with other relevant organisations?

Gathering evidence

In order to make judgements about the statements or questions within the MAT SEND review framework, the process will involve the reviewer and MAT leaders considering a range of both quantitative and qualitative evidence. For example:

  • documentation scrutiny e.g. MAT SEND policy, MAT strategic plan, examples of school provision plans, individual school review summaries
  • data analysis e.g. analysis of patterns of SEN need across the trust, progress and attainment data, pupil case studies
  • review of monitoring carried out by school or trust leaders e.g. summary of key points arising from learning walks
  • discussions with a range of stakeholders e.g. CEO, director of education or SEND, other MAT executive team members, SEND trustee, headteachers, SENCOs, sample of pupils and parents.

Making use of the review information

Following discussion around the evidence, the review should result in MAT leaders and the reviewer jointly agreeing strengths, areas for development and key priorities.

However, the review itself is just the start; the process will only be truly beneficial if the findings from the review are used to support strategic development planning at trust level. The review should help to ensure that all pupils with SEND, in all schools within the trust, receive the highest quality provision and achieve the very best outcomes. 

Find out more

Natalie Packer will be presenting a session on evaluating the quality of SEND provision across your trust at the MATs Summit 2021. Book your place


Last Updated: 
29 Sep 2021