Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
Some children and young people may have special educational needs at some stage during their education.
The SEND Code of Practice defines Special Educational Needs (SEN) as:
A child or young person who has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her:
A child of compulsory school age or young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she has significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
Has a disability, which prevents or hinders him/her making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream educational settings.
Children under compulsory school age have special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall with the above definition when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them.
For children aged two or more special educational provision is educational or training provision if it 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.
For children under two years of age, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind.
(p15-16, SEND Code of Practice)
What is not special educational need but could impact on the child/young person ability to learn?
Early years settings, schools and colleges have a duty to monitor progress of all children and young people. Sometimes lack or slow progress becomes a cause for concern. A delay in learning may not indicate that a child or young person has special educational need that calls for special educational provision. Quality of teaching and learning should always be considered as a possible reason for unexpected slow progress and widening gaps in attainment.
Educational settings should also carefully consider if issues other than special educational need impact on progress and/or attainment. They may include:
Disability (the code of practice outlines the reasonable adjustment duty for all settings schools and colleges provided under the Disability Equality legislation; these alone do not constitute SEN).
Attendance and punctuality.
Health and welfare.
English as additional language.
What action should be taken when a Special Educational Need has been identified?
Once the special educational need is identified it is very important that special educational provision is made. The provision should be evidence based, focused on the identified need and its impact should be monitored over time. The assessment process and information gathering should include early discussion with the child/ young person and their family.
The SEN Support is known as the graduated approach and it adopts 4 stages:
Assess Needs – Plan – Do – Review CYCLE
Early years practitioners, class or subject teachers, tutors should work with the SENCO (or SEN lead in colleges) to carry out a clear analysis of the child/young person’s needs.
This process should draw on a range of assessments and experiences of the child/young person. For example it should take into account previous and current rate of progress, attainment levels, subject teacher assessments, observations carried out by teachers and support staff, progress in comparison to peers and national data, the views and experience of parents, the child/young person’s own views and, if relevant, advice from external support services.
In some cases, external professionals from educational support services, health or social care may already be involved with the child or young person. These professionals should liaise with the early years/school/college to help inform the assessments so that the type and severity of special educational need can be established.
If a special educational need is identified the early years setting/school/ college should provide appropriate SEN support.
In consultation with the child/young person and their parent/carers the early years practitioner, teacher or tutor and the SENCO should agree the type and level of adjustments, interventions and support as well as the expected outcomes. The type of support should be based on reliable evidence of effectiveness, and should be provided by staff with sufficient skills and knowledge.
All members of staff who work with the child/young person should be made aware of the support plan.
The early years practitioner, teacher or tutor should remain responsible for working with the child/young person on a daily basis. They should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved, to plan and assess the impact of support and interventions and how they can be linked to classroom teaching.
The SENCO should support the early years practitioner, teacher or tutor in any further assessments of the child’s particular strengths and weaknesses, in problem solving and advising on the effective implementation of support. The SENCO will also arrange additional support, professional guidance or training for members of staff working with the child/young person.
The effectiveness of the support and the impact on the child/young person's progress should be reviewed by the agreed date.
The impact and quality of the support and interventions should be evaluated, along with the views of the child/young person and their family. This should feed back into the analysis of the pupil’s needs.
The early years practitioner, teacher or tutor, working with the SENCO, and in consultation with child/young person and their family should revise the support in light of the pupil’s progress and development, deciding on any changes to the support and outcomes.
The review process helps to ensure that support and interventions are matched to need, barriers to learning are identified and overcome, and that a clear picture of the interventions put in place and their effect is monitored. The way in which a pupil responds to an intervention can be the most reliable method of developing a more accurate picture of need.
It is essential that the views of children, young people and their families are evidenced through the graduated approach (cycles of assess-plan- do review).
What is a statutory EHC Needs Assessment?
The vast majority of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities have their needs met within local mainstream early years settings, schools or colleges. They should provide high quality teaching that is differentiated, personalised and age appropriate for all children/young people, including those who have special educational needs. SEN support, through the graduated approach allows for special educational needs to be identified early so that help and support can be delivered without delay.
Nationally, it is expected that only children and young people with the most persistent and significant level of special educational needs require an EHC needs assessment (approximately 2.8% of the total population have EHC plans).
Where despite the early year settings, schools or colleges, having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, deliver and review the SEN support (graduated approach) and the child or young person is not making expected progress, a request for an Education Health and Care needs assessment may be considered. Early years settings, schools and colleges will be required to provide the evidence of actions already taken and reviewed over time (at least six months). (9.1-9.7, SEND Code of Practice)
An EHC needs assessment may result in an Education Health and Care plan (EHC plan). When it does not, the information gathered can be used to inform SEN support provided by the early years setting/school/college.
(9.6 SEND code of Practice)
Who can request an EHC needs assessment?
Educational setting (early years, school, college with the knowledge of the parents or young person).
The child’s parent.
The young person over the age of 16 but under the age of 25.
Anyone else who knows the child or young person for example foster parent, health or social care professional.
Do all children with additional needs have to go through an education, health and care assessment to get support?
No. Most children and young people with special educational needs get the support they need at their school, early years setting or college. Schools have expertise, knowledge and additional funding so that those needs can be identified and met as early as possible.
If necessary, schools can ask for help and support from specialist services such as educational psychologists or speech and language therapists. They can provide advice and help without a need to go through a statutory assessment process.
If you want to know about how your school supports children with SEN or Disability:
- Go to their website and find their SEN information report/School Local Offer (you can look for schools on our searchable site, Rainbow Resource - which provides direct links to school Local Offers and SEN information reports).
- Speak to your child's teacher or school's SENCO and find out what can be done and how you can work together to help your child.