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The three waves of intervention

Information from 'Including all children in the literacy hour and daily mathematics lesson – management guide'  Ref: DfES 0465/2002 - obtainable electronically from: and

Summary of provision for children with special educational needs

The NLS and NNS assume three 'waves' of support for children, as described below.

The SEN Code of Practice (2001) describes a 'graduated response' to identifying and meeting special educational needs which may be mapped onto the NLS/NNS three waves as follows:

Wave One:

The effective inclusion of all children in a high-quality literacy hour and daily mathematics lesson (quality first teaching).  Children may be at any point on the graduated response - that is, the usual differentiated curriculum, School Action or School Action Plus. 

Wave Two:

Small-group intervention (NNS Springboard, NLS Early Literacy Support, Additional Literacy Support and Further Literacy Support programmes, Booster classes) for children who can be expected to 'catch up' with their peers as a result of the intervention - that is, who do not have special educational needs related specifically to learning difficulties in literacy or mathematics.  Wave 2 interventions are not primarily SEN interventions.  Where intervention programmes are delivered without modification within the designated year group, there is no requirement that the children be placed on School Action, although children may on occasion already be at School Action or School Action Plus.  This will be where they have special educational needs such as emotional and behavioural difficulties, difficulties in communication and interaction, or sensory or physical impairment, for which they are receiving other forms of support.

Wave Three:

Specific targeted intervention for individual children identified as requiring SEN support.  Children at Wave Three may have particular needs related specifically to mathematics or literacy, or needs associated with other barriers to learning.  Provision at Wave Three is likely to draw on specialist advice.  It may involve the adjustment of learning objectives and teaching styles and/or individual support.  It aims to reduce gaps in attainment and facilitate greater access to Waves One or Two.  Children receiving Wave Three support will always be placed on School Action, and on School Action Plus if an external agency is involved in assessment, planning and review.

Ealing LA recommends that schools use the following Wave Three intervention programme:

Useful links: