SEN Support

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The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (6.1) says:
….all children and young people are entitled to an appropriate education, one that is appropriate to their needs, promotes high standards and the fulfilment of potential. This should enable them to:
• achieve their best;
• become confident individuals living fulfilling lives; and
• make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training

This applies to ALL children and young people, including those with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Click on the following headings to find out more information:

  • What does the law say about SEN?
  • A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision (“SEP”) to be made for him or her. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

    • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
    • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
    For children aged two or more, special educational provision is educational or training provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, mainstream post-16 institutions or by relevant early years providers. For a child under two years of age, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind.

    A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition above when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them (Section 20 Children and Families Act 2014).

  • What does this mean?
  • If a child or young person is struggling with their learning, significantly more than those in their year group or is struggling to access the facilities used by others and therefore needs special support to help them (which the majority of their peers in a mainstream school do not need), then they are identified as having special educational needs (SEN).

    SEN is not based on diagnosis but on a child or young person’s needs. Each child is different and their needs can vary even within the same diagnosis. Some children may need minimal support, whilst others may need very specialist full time support. However, having a diagnosis may be helpful due to the information the assessment provided in reaching their diagnosis.

  • Disability
  • Some medical and learning needs will be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010  and will therefore meet the definition of SEN. In the Act, a person is classed as disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. 

    • Normal day-to-day means things that people do on a regular basis, for example mobility, dressing or cleaning (physical co-ordination), and having a conversation. 
    • Long-term usually means the impairment should have lasted or be expected to last at least a year. 
    • Substantial means not minor or trivial. 
    • Physical impairment includes but is not limited to: sensory difficulties such as visual or hearing impairments 
    • Mental impairment includes but not limited to: learning difficulties, autism, dyslexia, speech and language difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • Do schools have a duty to help?
  • High quality teaching that is differentiated and personalised will meet the individual needs of the majority of children and young people. Some children and young people need educational provision that is additional to or different from this. This is special educational provision (under Section 21 of the Children and Families Act 2014). For most children, this provision can be made through SEN Support. For others with more complex needs this provision will be made through an EHC Plan.

    The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (6.44) states: Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place

    Every school is required to have systems in place to identify children who are in need of support and to assess, monitor and secure appropriate support for any SEN they may have. Each school (covered by the SEN Code of Practice) must:

    • use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN;
    • ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN;
    • designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision – the SEN co-ordinator, or ‘SENCO’ (not applicable to 16 to 19 academies);
    • inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child;
    • prepare a SEN information report, setting out:

      • their arrangements for the admission of disabled children;
      • the steps being taken to prevent disabled children from being treated less favourably than others;
      • the facilities provided to enable access to the school for disabled children; and
      • their accessibility plan showing how they plan to improve access progressively over time.

  • How can education settings help my child or young person if they have SEN?
  • As mentioned above, where a child is known to have SEN, and needs help with their learning, then generally the first step is to provide ‘SEN Support’.
    This can take many forms, including (but not limited to):

    • a special learning programme
    • extra help from a teacher or a learning support assistant
    • making or changing materials and equipment
    • working with your child in a small group
    • observing your child in class or at break and keeping records
    • helping your child to take part in the class activities
    • making sure your child has understood things by encouraging them to ask questions and to try something they find difficult
    • helping other children work with your child, or play with them at break time
    • supporting your child with physical or personal care, such as eating, getting around school safely, toileting or dressing.

  • What if my child or young person is struggling but I don’t know why?
  • Where a child or young person is thought to be struggling, steps should be taken by the school, to discover the reasons why. They may notice themselves or be informed by the child or young person themselves, or by you as their parent carer.

    The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (6.45) says: schools should take seriously any concerns raised by a parent.

    It is often the case that a parent carer will become aware of their child’s difficulties during a parent’s evening, however, if nothing is said by the school, make a note of your concerns and speak to the teacher first. Ask the teacher to monitor them in light of what you have shared and arrange a catch up conversation after a reasonable time has elapsed.

    Schools should use a process called the graduated approach which is a 4- part cycle of 4 steps : Assess, Plan, Do, Review. As soon as the school have become or are made aware of a child or young person who is struggling, this cycle should be implemented. Sometimes it may be easy to identify what the barriers are and support can be easily given. Other times, a child’s needs may be more complex and can be harder to identify what their needs are and what provision is required to meet those.

    You can find more information about this on our Graduated Approach page.

  • What can I do if I think my child or young person is struggling?
  • If you are concerned that your child or young person may be struggling and/or you think that they may benefit from further support then talk to the class or subject teacher first. You may want to involve the SENCo at further meetings as they may be able to coordinate any assessments that are required.

    It will be helpful to record the way in which your child/ young person is struggling. For example – is there a change of behaviour, are they saying anything specific, do they seem less engaged, are their levels showing less progress being made etc. By sharing this way, school staff may gain insight and a better understanding into what may be happening.

  • Your child’s / young person’s voice
  • Presenting your child / young person’s views in their own words can provide a powerful piece of evidence, so we would encourage you to include something brief in your records if you can – but this is entirely optional. It could be a written piece, a drawing or perhaps a couple of minutes sound recording / video done on a phone – and it doesn’t have to be anything formal. Please do make sure your child / young person is happy for others to see, hear or read it though.

    Children and young people can find it challenging to articulate their thoughts, so some focussed questions can be helpful. Such as: “if you had a magic wand what would life look like for you” – “what would change and what would stay the same” or “if you could change one/two thing(s) about school /college, what would it/they be?”

    Other questions you could use to capture their imagination and get them thinking or talking might be:

  • Things that I am good at: / Things that I find difficult:
  • Things that are important to me:
  • I am able to / I need help with:
  • Things that I would like to do:
  • How you can help me:
  • Life would be better If…
  • How you can communicate important information with me

  • If your child or young person is slightly older then you may want to include some different / further questions:

  • What’s going well in your life?
  • What would you like to achieve?
  • What things would you like to get better at? & What type of things will help you?
  • What would you like to be able to do yourself? & How do you think you could achieve this?
  • When do you feel you need support?
  • What type of support works best for you?
  • What type of work would you like to do?
  • What courses/skills do you think you need to achieve this?
  • How could things be made better for you? e.g. at school/college, at home – now & in the future.
  • Other Information

    Ordinarily Available Inclusive Practice (OAIP) – via Tools For Schools. Explains how a child or young person’s SEND should be met by the resources, staff and specialists already available to their mainstream school.


    This webinar explores how pupils with special educational needs and/disabilities (SEND) are supported in schools. It is just over 27 minutes long and was recorded by some of the SENDIAS team in Feb 2020.

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