This is a brand new service — your feedback helps us improve it.

What is Tools for Schools? How can the Inclusion Framework and OAIP support my setting?

Find out more on our info page

St Andrew’s C of E Primary School, Crawley

Developing emotional and sensory regulation for learning


St Andrew’s C of E Primary School is a single form entry school for children aged 4-11. The school is a Church of England “Voluntary Aided” school sharing a site with St Andrew’s Church. The school is situated in Tilgate in the North East area of Crawley. The focus of this celebration is on the school’s understanding of the individual needs of their pupils and their evolving focus on supporting their pupils to develop their emotional and sensory regulation skills. The school have developed the Zones of Regulation approach, combined with sensory circuits to produce whole-class toolkits. The most recent development has been the development of personalised tabletop toolkits.

 Good practice explained

Acting SENCo and Assistant Head, Rachel Mullis explains how the school team have developed their approach including the regular seeking of staff, parental and pupil feedback. Over the last 4-5 years we have been developing our understanding of neurodiversity. As a school, we are fortunate to have a hugely diverse pupil profile including pupils with diagnosed social communication difficulties or ASC, pupils with ADHD or attention dysregulation as well as pupils with additional needs causing them to struggle to regulate their emotions.

As a Christian school, our principles of ‘wisdom, grace and hope’ underpin everything we do. We have aimed to develop pupils’ ‘wisdom’ in making good choices about getting ready to learn. As part of demonstrating ‘grace’, we promote inclusion and respect for all pupils’ needs, as well as encourage our pupils to celebrate differences in the way they learn and engage with the curriculum. Finally, we are aspirational in our aims for all pupils, as part of our principle of ‘hope’.

Our school team had seen the impact of using the Zones of Regulation programme and sensory circuits activities. From monitoring this impact and listening to the voices of our staff and pupils we identified the need for further development in formalising the use of tools and strategies to improve readiness to learn. It was important to our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and SENCo that more structured support was available for pupils with significant sensory needs in accessing their sensory tools and strategies. This develop would allow pupils to build their independence, enabling them to have ownership over their own strategies and toolkits. With more formalised brain breaks and sensory activities, pupils have clear structure to their day which reduces anxiety levels and reduces the need for spontaneous, unscheduled sensory/brain breaks.

What did you do, who was involved, when and where did it take place?

Our school started using Zones of Regulation approach in 2018. This consisted of teaching the lessons, each child having a Zones folder and staff training so there would be a shared language relating to emotions and dysregulation. Further staff training on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and sensory needs was also delivered. Our ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) pastoral lead worked used key strategies such as ‘Figure 8 Breathing’ and ‘Size of the Problem’ with pupils who needed additional support.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-2.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3.png

Did you adapt any of your emotional and sensory regulation programme in response to the COVID-19 lockdowns and returns to school?

Throughout lockdown, our school produced weekly Zones of Regulation videos for home learning. Not only did this support our pupils, but also extended parents’ understanding of how they could support their children.

On returning to school in September 2020, we introduced a whole-class sensory toolbox which contained calming activities as well as sensory tools. It also had visual prompts for breathing strategies and proprioceptive or vestibular strategies such as using chair push ups.

Following a staff review of the ‘Getting to Green Boxes’ and our Senior Leadership Team evaluating practice using the West Sussex Inclusion Framework in January, new visual plastic wallet toolkits were used for KS1 to support pupils in choosing tools. Personalised ‘Table Top Toolkits’ were created for children with significant sensory or attention difficulties so that they could access sensory tools more readily at their desks. Further resources were purchased including a trampette for outside every class.

We also formalised the ‘sensory, learning, brain, break’ cycle which was being facilitated by staff. We created visuals on desks and personalised timetables, including now and next boards, that support children in more independence with their self-regulation strategies. Staff also use timers to support children in understanding when activities will come to an end and encourage children to understand the purpose of using the sensory tools so they are ready to learn.

Further training has been given to all staff and children on sensory tools. This include why people need different supports to help them to be ready to learn and how everyone’s ‘green zone’ can be different.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-7.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-6.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-8.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-9.png

What difference has the practice made? How do you know? What data or indicators were used to support this?

Staff report that the toolkits have improved their pupils’ readiness to learn and built a deeper understanding of our pupils’ individual differences. Learning walks, both from the Senior Leadership Team and several external visitors, indicate that our sensory provision is a strength of the school.  A recent learning walk with a SEND focus led to a governor reporting that children with SEND were engaging well with the learning within their classroom.

We regularly seek the views of our staff and pupils as well as parents:

“We look after pupils’ mental health and wellbeing needs and use the Zones of Regulation to support all learners. We aim to help children know that they are ok to have feelings and emotions, it’s about learning what to do when you are feeling that way. We use a shared language about feelings.”


“Children know that emotions are not bad, and it is ok to be upset/tired/fizzy or cross and they are starting to have strategies to support themselves to be ready to learn.”


“The zones of regulation and G2G box/toolkits have really helped. The children are clear about the expectations for behaviour and their rules and routines are in place. This has led to better learning as children are less anxious and more settled. Children are getting better at talking about their feelings and the tools they use to get back to being ready to learn or in their Green Zone.”


“My son’s independence and self-care are actively encouraged. He has made amazing progress “


“My son has progressed from only attending school for half of a school day, to full time. The school are always thinking outside the box in ways to support him.”


“My child’s emotional needs have been supported for every part of the journey which has made my child understand his emotions and how to manage them as he grows up”


“My child’s teacher has proven time and time again that she knows my son and what is needed to help him learn and flourish. When things do go wrong (which is inevitable at times) she quickly responds to get him back on track or looks into new approaches to support him.”


What impact has the practice had on ‘every-day’ / operational practice within your school?

Our staff tell us that their understanding of pupils’ sensory needs has increased and they feel more confident to support pupils’ individual sensory differences. Parents are also reporting that they feel their children are well supported and given the tools they need to learn.

What impact has the practice had on your school’s strategic development?

The evolution of our emotional and sensory regulation programme has tied in with our whole school priority to develop our SEND provision and improve access to the curriculum for all our pupils. It supports our existing strategy for inclusion and for mental health and emotional wellbeing. We have seen a significant reduction in staff time focusing on behaviour management as our pupils independently learn to self-regulate. Staff are also seeing workload reductions as we have invested time in mapping the zones of regulation programme with the Education for Safeguarding and PSHCE curriculums. The objectives from these three strands are now combined into one long term plan which ensures effective use of curriculum time.

What are your next steps for further development?

Our ongoing monitoring has highlighted that there is some work to be done in key stage one to increase understanding of the approach. The pandemic has prevented us from meeting together regularly to share progress, so we plan to relaunch our whole school self-regulation programme when we return in September 2021.

What are your ‘top-tips’ for another school / setting wanting to follow a similar approach?

  • Ensure that your actions are based upon an understanding of your pupil profile
  • Budget carefully for resources and use laminated photos of ‘full’ boxes or toolkits to help children keep resources organised and well-looked-after
  • Use sensory audits or questionnaires to identify areas of need
  • Develop a ‘shared language’ through regular whole school training
  • Gather regular pupil/staff/parent voice to support with refining practice further.

How have you been using the Inclusion Framework to support you in identifying / improving practice? What benefits have you found?

  • Senior Leadership Team used the ‘points for discussion’ within the framework to RAG rate (red, amber and green) as an evaluative tool. This was very supportive and led to actions being set as part of our School Improvement Plan.
  • The framework suggests several actions and the OAIP (Ordinarily Available Inclusive Practice guide) provides ways to support learners.

Links to the West Sussex Inclusion Framework

The inclusive support at St Andrew’s C of E School links to a number of Aspects and Dimensions within the West Sussex Inclusion Framework.

Within Aspect 1: The Environment, Culture and Ethos

1.1 Inclusive vision aims and values

  • Clear inclusive aims and values are evident in the behaviour of staff and children and young people (CYP).
  • Inclusion is understood as an on-going process of increasing participation, achievement and nurture for all.
  • Aims and values reflect that leaders are ambitions for providing high-quality education to all CYP.


  • The Leadership Team regularly monitors and evaluates the impact of its inclusive vision, aims and values. The School Council, or equivalent, and the views of other CYP and parents form part of this evaluation process. Governors identify how the school’s vision, aims and values support their inclusive strategic direction.
  • Leaders recognise how adverse childhood experiences (ACE) can manifest in many ways, including behaviour. Leaders are skilled at balancing the needs of the child and other stakeholders.
  • Effective training opportunities ensure that inclusive aims and values are planned throughout the year. Stakeholders can describe how this training has helped to shape and implement school ethos, vision and aims.
  • Governors /trustees have ensured that inclusion is at the heart of the school’s vision, ethos and strategic direction.

Within Aspect 2: Leadership

2.1 School improvement

  • The school has a clear and aspirational improvement /development plan which has been created with all stakeholders.
  • The development plan clearly prioritises inclusion of all children and young people (CYP), reflecting the needs of the whole school community.
  • High expectations for CYP and staff are modelled by senior leaders and, in turn, by all other stakeholders.


  • Individual and collective CYP and parent voice is evident in the school plan, e.g. through surveys and audits, school council or parent groups. CYP and parents are aware of how they have contributed to plans and decisions and understand why their views have or have not been acted upon, for example ‘you said / we did’. This includes gathering and responding to the views of parents who may not typically respond.
  • The Leadership Team and governing body/trust not only receive reviews of how effectively the school meets the needs of its CYP but also responds, e.g. by appropriately adapting strategic plans based on feedback. The head teacher’s termly report to governors includes inclusion development.
  • The school makes good use of peer to peer review in developing its next steps

2.3 Management of provision

  • The school has a system in place to ensure that there is joint planning and provision for those who manage pastoral / inclusion / behaviour and Special Educational Need and/ or Disability (SEND) provision.
  • There is a clear provision map which identifies children and young people (CYP) with additional needs along with the provision that has been put into place, the cost of the provision and how the support is monitored and reviewed for impact.
  • There is effective use of resources and key staff to ensure early identification of needs and that appropriate support is put in place for individual CYP.


  • The special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) is a member of the school’s senior leadership team (SLT). The SLT ‘champions’ inclusion within the school and ensures there is a system in place for whole school provision planning to meet the CYP’s pastoral, social and emotional needs that impact on learning, well-being and behaviour.
  • Leaders, at all levels, champion inclusion.

Within Aspect 3: Personal development, well-being and welfare

3.1 Social and emotional wellbeing and self-awareness

  • There is an open and supportive atmosphere that promotes self-awareness and allows children and young people (CYP) and staff to reflect on their own emotional needs and triggers.
  • Staff and CYP well-being are promoted and supported allowing them to flourish.
  • CYP are given opportunities to share their feelings and emotions and these are acted upon by the adults within school.
  • The school curriculum is reflective of CYP needs and provides a universal curriculum for all CYP to develop all areas of social and emotional well-being and self-awareness.


  • Staff at all levels understand CYP’s behaviour in context, in terms of communicating or attempting to address unmet needs. Staff understand their role in co-regulating and developing CYP’s capacity to become independent, regulate their emotions and manage their behaviours effectively.
  • Staff audit the learning environment on a regular basis, ideally with parents and CYP, to explore how it meets the needs. The planning of the environment takes account of the triggers for CYP. Adjustments are made to the interior and exterior environment to make it accessible e.g. sensory garden/ low arousal spaces. Staff try to see the world through the CYP’s eyes and really listen to their experience, even though they may not truly understand exactly how this feels.
  • Staff do not assume CYP understand the language of emotions so use scaffolds to support their understanding and use language that supports co-regulation.
  • Staff understand the link between emotional regulation and readiness to learn and refer to the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) when concerns arise.
  • Staff are aware of the risk factors for CYP in response to life events and at times of crisis that might contribute to social, emotional and mental health difficulties, e.g. trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences, sensory dysregulation and attachment issues.
  • A whole school approach to Education for Safeguarding (such as WSCC E4S) is clearly evident and facilitation of learning is effective in meeting the needs of the school community.
  • The school works with parents to support the child’s emotional well-being, this is reflected within the school’s Relationship and Health or Relationship, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) and wider Education for Safeguarding curriculum (please refer to WSCC E4S) in line with statutory guidance.