Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support

All children learn in different ways and make differing rates of progress. Some children find learning harder than others, perhaps in reading, writing, maths or developing social skills and may need more help and support to make progress. If it is the case that a child has greater difficulty in learning than most of the children of the same age or needs support that is additional or different to the others in their class, then they are said to have special educational needs (SEN).

Most children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are educated in their local mainstream school and should be given support with their learning to help them make progress. The support they are given is called SEN Support and is defined as ‘help that is additional to or different from the support generally given to most of the other children of the same age.’

If the early years setting, school or college your child or young person attends thinks your child may have special educational needs (SEN), they must talk to you about it.

The school or setting should always let you know and involve you in decisions before they start giving the extra or different help to your child. They should also discuss with you any plans to reduce or remove support from your child.

For more information on SEN Support and what to do if you feel the right support is not in place, please download our resources below. You can also get in contact with us or read on.

SEN Support Summary

For a quick one page sum up of SEN support in schools and what you can expect, download our factsheet here.

Local Offer - Education

Here you can find out what SEN Provision is available at particular schools via search. The results provide school contact details and SEN information Report.

What is an EHCP and does my child need one?

Download this resource to learn more about SEN Support and the steps before applying for an EHCP.

What are Special Educational Needs? (SEN)

Special Educational Needs (SEN) is defined in law as a learning difficulty/disability which requires Special Educational Provision (SEP). This is when a child has significantly greater difficulty learning than others the same age or their disability is a physical/mental impairment that has a substantial long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, and so prevents them making use of general facilities provided in mainstream schools. They may experience delays in achieving developmental milestones and/or academic attainment.

Broad areas of need

There are 4 categories of need etc…

1. Communication and Interaction
2. Cognition and Learning
3. Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH)
4. Sensory and Physical

Identifying SEN

All teachers should regularly check whether their pupils are making progress.
If they think your child is finding it harder than others to make progress, they should consider whether they might have SEN or need additional or different support from the others in the class. The school must talk to you and your child about this, and involve you in decisions before they start giving/reducing/removing extra or different support to your child. If a young person is 16 or older, the school should involve them directly.

A child with challenging/disruptive behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs.
Their school should try to identify these and intervene early to avoid escalation leading to exclusions and missing out on education. This early intervention should include consideration of assessment from multi-agency professionals to determine whether the appropriate provision is in place for that child.

Sometimes you may be the first to be aware that your child has SEN.
If you think your child may need SEN Support, you should talk to your child’s teacher or to the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Every school must have a qualified SENCO. They have day to day responsibility for how children with SEN are supported within a school and to co-ordinate the specific provision for individual pupils.

What is SEN support?

Children with SEN should be given support with their learning to help them make progress. The support they are given is called SEN Support and is defined as ‘help that is additional to or different from the support generally given to most of the other children of the same age.’ This is a type of SEP that schools arrange from their own resources. Schools are legally required to publish details of their SEN provision. This is in the form of a SEN information report. Health care and Social care provision that educates or trains a child is also considered to be SEP. (e.g. Speech and Language Therapy) If a school cannot meet the child’s needs from their own resources, the other way that SEP can be obtained is through an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) which is secured by the Local Authority (LA).

Your local SENDIASS service will be able to provide relevant information, advice and support for your district. If you are unsure who your LA is, you can find out by typing in your home postcode in “find your local council” on the gov.uk website.

School’s Legal Duty to Provide Support

Schools have a legal duty to identify and address the SEN of all pupils and use their “best endeavours” to make sure that any child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet the pupil’s SEN. Therefore, they must make reasonable adjustments to support a child in accessing education. 

Schools use a guidance document on SEN Support from their LA to help them decide whether and what type of support your child needs. This helps to make sure that all schools and settings in a LA’s area have a clear and consistent approach to identifying when a child or young person has SEN, and how to support them to achieve good outcomes, including what schools are expected to put in place from the funding that they receive. This guidance aims to be helpful in looking at the individual needs of each child and suggesting a range of approaches to meet their particular needs. Checklists may be included which are intended to help identify a child’s level of need. There is no legal requirement to meet a specific number of criterion to access SEN Support.

The SEND Code of Practice (The Code) is statutory guidance that informs schools and organisations on how to put SEND law from the Children and Families Act 2014 into practice. This highlights what they ‘must’ do and what they ‘should’ do. The ‘musts’ are compulsory and ‘should’ means that they have to consider following the guidance and if they don’t, they have a good reason for not doing so.

What is SEN Provision?

Pupils learn in different ways and can have different kinds or levels of SEN. Therefore, the SEN Support system uses a “Graduated Approach”. This means that increasingly, step-by-step, specialist expertise can be brought in to help the school with the difficulties that a child may have.

The Graduated Approach may include:

  • an individually-designed learning programme
  • extra help from a teacher/tutor or teaching assistant (TA)
  • being taught individually or in a small group for regular short periods
  • making or changing materials and equipment
  • drawing up a personal plan, including setting targets for improvement, and regular review of progress before setting new targets
  • advice and/or extra help from specialists such as specialist teachers, educational psychologists, and therapists

The Four-Part Cycle

School’s SEN support should take the form of a “Four-Part Cycle”:
Assess, Plan, Do, Review
• ASSESS the child’s needs
• PLAN how to address those needs
• DO put the plan into practice
• REVIEW how it’s going and if
anything needs to change

The SENCO will work with teaching staff to assess your child’s individual needs, so that they receive the right support. If the school decides that your child needs SEN Support, they should agree with you what help will be provided, the outcomes that will be set, and a date when you can check what progress there has been. School should keep a record of this plan and share it with all those who work with your child so that they are aware, and can implement any teaching strategies that are needed. Your child’s teacher is responsible for the work that is done with your child, and should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved. School should then review your child’s progress, and the difference that the support has made, on the date agreed in the plan. If your child has not made progress in spite of having received extra support, the review should decide what could be done next. This may include more or different help.

Involving Specialists

The school should keep you informed and include you in all discussions and decisions, taking your and your child’s feelings and wishes into consideration. If your child does not make enough progress, the teacher or the SENCO should then talk to you about asking for advice from outside professionals. The Code says that a school can ask for this advice at any point but should always involve a specialist where a pupil continues to work at levels substantially below others in their class or make little or no progress despite receiving appropriate support delivered by appropriately trained staff. It also says that when your child is identified has having SEN, the school should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective SEP in place. Outside professionals may include but are not limited to the following;

An Educational Psychologist (EP)
They work within LAs, in partnership with families, and other professionals, to help children and young people achieve their full potential. EPs support schools and the LA to improve all children’s experiences of learning. They use their training in psychology and knowledge of child development to assess difficulties children may be having with their learning. They provide advice and training on how schools might help children to learn and develop. They recommend methods, or develop strategies in partnership with schools, to help a child learn more effectively. Strategies may include teaching approaches, improvements to learning environments, advice on curriculum materials and behaviour support.

A Specialist Teacher (Outreach)
They are teachers from special schools who provide an outreach service to mainstream primary/secondary schools to support areas of inclusion for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Specialist teachers will provide an understanding of SEND, demonstrate effective strategies for staff to observe and learn, provide support and challenge in relation to improvement and outcomes for children with SEND, with a view to ensure early intervention, making an impact on pupil progress, and increase the school’s capacity for; inclusive practice for pupils with SEND, securing and demonstrating the progress of pupils with SEND through rigorous assessment, target setting and tracking.

A Speech and Language Therapist (SALT)
In this context, their role is to provide assessment, support and care for children who, for physical or psychological reasons, have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking and swallowing. The SALT will make recommendations to help your child to communicate with others. Your child’s difficulties in this area may include: mild, moderate or severe learning difficulties, physical disabilities, language delay, specific difficulties in producing sounds, hearing impairment, cleft lip and palate, stammering, autism/social interaction difficulties, dyslexia, voice disorders, selective mutism, mental health, developmental language disorder.

An Occupational Therapist (OT)
In this context, their role is to use assessment and intervention to develop, recover, or maintain a child’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities who, due to a disability, illness, trauma, or a long term condition, has difficulty with completing these. The OT will help you/school find ways to best support your child to continue with activities that are important to them, and to improve their care and quality of life. The OT may advise on: how to support your child to learn new ways to do things and approaches to take towards this, possibly the use of equipment or assistive technology, adapting the living or school environment, other strategies to meet your child’s needs.

Schools SEN Funding

The Core Budget
General provision for all pupils including SEN
• SEN Notional Budget
Based on estimated no. SEN children in school. GOV recommends up to £6,000 per SEN pupil for SEP
• Top-Up Funding (Element 3)
If individual SEN pupil needs more than £6,000 funding

What if a school tells me they can’t fund what my child needs?
If a school feels that the local formula has not given them enough funding to
meet the needs of children in their school, they will need to talk to the LA. They can provide additional funding from their high needs block for schools where the formula doesn’t reflect the levels of SEN.
Ask the school whether it has approached the local authority for additional SEN funding. Still a no? You may wish to consider an EHC needs assessment

Communicating with School

If you have already consulted with school and are not happy about the support that your child receives
You can arrange a meeting with the SENCO or Head Teacher. The Code says that schools should meet parents at least three times per year. These meetings should allow sufficient time for you to express your views, and to discuss and plan effectively, meaning they would be longer than most parent-teacher meetings. We have an Advice Sheet called “Top Tips for Meetings” which provides advice around preparation and asking non-confrontational questions. You can find this on our website or simply contact us to request a copy. If you feel that you may need further help, advice or support for communication with school, please feel free to get in touch with us.

If you disagree with the school on what progress has been made, you could ask the class teacher or SENCO to go through the SEN Support guidance with you and discuss any points where there is disagreement about what your child is finding difficult. If other professionals have not already been involved, you might suggest that it might be helpful to approach them to help get a clearer picture of your child’s difficulties or to plan the next steps. Sometimes the next step may be to ask the LA for an Education Health Care needs assessment. If the school decides to do this, they must tell you. If you think it is needed, you can ask for it yourself.

Example Questions to ask School

Raise YOUR concerns…
• How are you measuring my child’s progress against Age Related Expectations?
• You’ve told me that my child is not yet working at Age Related
Expectations, what additional support is available to help him/her?
• Have you asked for outside or specialist advice in order to know
how best to support them?
• Do you have a leaflet or example that I can take away that explains
the new assessment framework you are using?
• Where have you assessed my child as being at the moment?
• In which areas or skills has my child made progress this year?
• Can I see examples of work that shows progress?
• What are my child’s next steps in learning?
• How are you supporting my child to make progress in…?
• What can I do to help my child’s learning at home?

Key Points & Useful Tips

Ensure you have formal arranged meetings at a
mutually convenient time and not a quick chat in
the playground
• Ask for/send confirmations via email/in writing
• Keep written, dated records
• Always think about this; what are you asking for?
• When discussing provision, think what does your
child need? Be imaginative with ideas, think about
what will work for them

A learning difficulty and/or disability which requires Special Educational Provision:

  • Significantly greater difficulty learning than others the same age or
  • Impairment has a substantial long-term adverse effect on carrying out day-to-day activities
  • Key Points
    • SEN Support is help additional to/different from support generally given to other children the same age.
    • Schools will arrange this from their own resources. Details for each school
    is in their SEN Information Report.
    • If school cannot meet the child’s needs from their own resources, SEP can be
    obtained through an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which is secured by the Local Authority (LA)
    • The LA responsible for securing this is dependant on the child’s home address, regardless of where their school is.
  • Schools must use their “best endeavours” to ensure any child with SEN gets the support they need, making “reasonable adjustments” to support a child in accessing education
    • Schools use a guidance document on SEN support
    from their LA to help them decide whether/what
    type of support your child needs
    • There is no legal requirement to meet a specific number of criterion to access SEN support
    • The SEND Code of Practice (The Code) is statutory guidance that informs schools/organisations on how to put SEND law into practice
  • The SEN Support system uses a
    “Graduated Approach”. This might include some of
    the following provisions:
    • An individual learning programme
    • Extra help from a teaching assistant
    • Being taught in a small group for short periods
    • Making/changing materials and equipment
    • Advice/extra help from specialists
  • Educational Psychologist (EP)
    Helps children achieve their full potential
    and improve their experiences of learning.
    They assess difficulties children may be having
    with their learning.
    • Specialist Teacher (Outreach)
    Teachers from special schools who provide an outreach
    service to mainstream schools to support areas of inclusion
    for pupils with SEND.
    • Speech and Language Therapist (SALT)
    Helps children who, for physical or psychological reasons, have
    difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking and swallowing.
    • Occupational Therapist (OT)
    Helps children develop their ability to carry out day-to-day activities who,
    due to a disability, illness, trauma, or long term condition, has difficulty with completing these.
  • • Need to speak to someone?
    Arrange a meeting with the SENCO and class
    teacher
    • Resolving disagreements?
    Ask the SENCO to go through the SEN Support
    guidance with you and discuss points of
    disagreement on what your child is finding
    difficult
    • Have specialists been involved?
    If not, it may be helpful to approach them now
    • Still no progress?
    It may be time to ask the LA for an Education,
    Health and Care needs assessment

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