Every child and young person has the right to an effective education. Every local authority has a legal duty to make sure that each child fulfils their educational potential.
Everyone learns in different ways and at different rates. Many children and young people will therefore need extra help at some time during their education. In most cases, schools and settings will help them overcome any difficulties by providing work that is suitable for their level of ability. This is called differentiation.
However, some children and young people will have a learning difficulty or disability that requires special educational provision. This provision is something that is additional to and different from that generally available to pupils of the same age. These children and young people may be identified as having special educational needs (SEN).
What does SEND mean?
The term special educational needs is described in law in the Children and Families Act 2014 as:
1. A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
2. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
(a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
(b) 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.
3. A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is likely to be within subsection (2) when of compulsory school age (or would be likely, if no special educational provision were made).
4. A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.
Many children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. A disability is described in law (the Equality Act 2010) as:
‘A physical or mental impairment which has a long-term (a year or more) and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.‛
This includes, for example, sensory impairments such as those that affect sight and hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.
The four broad areas of need
The Department for Education has identified four broad areas which cover a range of needs. These are defined in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice – 0-25 years, January 2015.
1. Communication and interaction
Where children and young people have speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others.
Children and young people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger’s Syndrome, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction.
2. Cognition and learning
Where children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, they may:
- have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum
- have difficulties with organisation and memory skills
- have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning such as in literacy or numeracy
The term ‘learning difficulties’ covers a wide range of needs, including moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD) and profound and multiple difficulties (PMLD). Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia come under this term.
3. Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which present themselves in many ways. They may:
- have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people
- be withdrawn
- behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing
This broad area includes attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attachment disorder. It also includes behaviours that may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders.
4. Sensory and/or physical needs
Where children and young people have visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment.
What is SEN support?
Every child with special educational needs should have SEN support. This means help that is additional to or different from the support generally given to other children of the same age. The purpose of SEN support is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives set for them by the school. Schools should involve parents in this process.
For more information please see our leaflet SEN support in mainstream schools or the Graduated Response
- Graduated Response Herefordshire (link opens in a new window)
- Graduated Response Worcestershire (link opens in a new window)
Education Health Care Plans (EHCP)
Many children and young people will need extra help at some time during their education. In most cases schools and settings will be able to meet individual needs through SEN support from their own resources and expertise.
However, some children and young people may need support that is over and above this and may benefit from an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Prior to an EHC plan being produced, an Education, Health and Care needs assessment must take place to determine whether an EHCP is needed.
The local authority must carry out a needs assessment if they:
- believe your child has or may have special educational needs, and
- they may need special educational provision to be made through an EHC plan
To request a needs assessment you can write to or email the local authority. You can download our Request for an EHC Needs Assessment Model Letter Template to help with this. In Worcestershire you can also complete this form for parents to make a parental request for EHC assessment.
The local authority will then have 6 weeks to decide whether to carry out a needs assessment or not.
To help with this, most local authorities follow the model of the Family Conversation. Please see our animation below for more information on the Family Conversation.
To find out more about the Education, Health and Care needs assessment and EHC plans please read our Education Health Care Needs Assessment Factsheet
At Herefordshire and Worcestershire SENDIASS we can help families navigate through the EHC needs assessment process.
What is an EHCP?
The Council for Disabled Children has produced this video about Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs):
EHCP Annual Review
Education, Health and Care Plans must be reviewed at least every 12 months. This process is known as the Annual Review. The Council for Disabled Children has released this animation:
Support for pupils with medical conditions
There is a duty on maintained schools and academies to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions. In doing so they should ensure that children can access and enjoy the same opportunities at school as any other child.
The aim is to ensure that all children with medical conditions, in terms of both physical and mental health, are properly supported in school so that they can play a full an active role in school life, remain healthy and achieve their academic potential.
- Pupils at school with medical conditions should be properly supported so that they have full access to education, including school trips and physical education
- Governing bodies must ensure that arrangements are in place in schools to support pupils at school with medical conditions
- Governing bodies should ensure that school leaders consult health and social care professionals, pupils and parents to ensure that the needs of children with medical conditions are properly understood and effectively supported
Individual healthcare plans will specify the type and level of support required to meet medical needs. Plans need to be reviewed at least annually or earlier if the child’s needs have changed. Plans should be developed with the child’s best interests in mind and ensure that the school assesses and manages risks to the child’s education, health and social well-being and minimizes disruption.
Schools must develop a policy for supporting pupils with medical conditions that is reviewed regularly and is accessible. The school should have a named person who has overall responsibility for policy implementation.