Special Educational Need and Disabilities

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are an important and complex issue that affect individuals, families, and communities. the phrase encompasses a wide range of abilities, needs, and conditions, from mild learning difficulties to severe physical and intellectual disabilities. This page will help you to understand a little bit more about what SEND is and the support you should be able to access.

What are special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?

A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or a disability that also calls for special educational provision to be made for them.

What is a learning difficulty? 

A child or young person could be described as having a learning difficulty where they have greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or a disability that prevents or hinders them from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.

What is a disability?

A person is determined to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This is a legal definition and many families rightfully do not feel that their children are ‘impaired’ but for the purposes of satisfying SEND laws, children with sensory impairments, such as those affecting sight or hearing, autism, ADHD and dyslexia (amongst others) would be classed as disabled.

If you want to find out more information about the equality act, there is an easy-read document here

What is special educational provision?

My child is over 2
Special educational provision means educational or training provision that is additional to, or different from, that made generally for others of the same age in mainstream schools, maintained nurseries, mainstream post-16 institutions ad other places in England at which relevant early years education is provided.

My child is under 2
Special educational provision, for a child aged under two, means educational provision of any kind.

The broad areas of SEND: Communication and interaction

Speech, language and communication difficulties make it difficult for a child or young person to understand how to communicate with others. Some children may have difficulty with talking whilst others may have difficulty with understanding instructions, reading between the lines, or taking things too literally.

The broad areas of SEND: Cognition and Learning

Children and young people with cognition and learning difficulties may learn at a slower pace than others their age or they may find it hard to understand parts of the curriculum.

Other children and young people may have difficulties in organising themselves or remembering things or they may have a specific difficulty with one particular part of their learning, such as literacy or numeracy.

Some people think that children have to be behind in their learning before they can receive support for cognition and learning, but this isn’t true. In 2014 SEND laws were changed and a SEND Code of Practice was written. This code sets out the expected approaches, schools and SEND services should follow.

It says that schools and the local authority must work with parents to give each child support to fulfil their potential, achieve their best, become confident and lead fulfilling lives and make a successful transition to adulthood. That means if your child could achieve a better academic standard with support, that support should be offered; even if they aren’t behind in their learning.

The broad areas of SEND: Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)

SEMH needs can look different for every child and young person. It can mean they find managing relationships difficult or that they are withdrawn. Some children may feel anxious and they might not be able to attend the education setting or they may self-harm. Some children may become easily frustrated and angry or become verbally or physically threatening or aggressive.

The broad areas of SEND: Sensory or physical needs

This includes visual or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they require extra ongoing support and equipment. Some autistic children may also have sensory needs such as stimming, aversion to loud noises and restricted diets.

Who to talk to if you think your child has special educational needs?

If you feel your child has a difficulty in one of the areas above then it is always best to speak to your child’s class teacher and the school SENDCo initially. You should ask to have a meeting with them both to discuss your concerns. You should ask to see your school’s SEND information report which is a requirement of the SEND code of practice. The information report details what SEN provision is available at your child’s school.

What support should the school put in place if your child has or might have SEND?

SEND needs should be met through a graduated response. This means schools must quickly identify your child’s needs and put support in place to meet those needs. You can view guide to the graduated response here.

Families should always be involved in the review meetings and if progress has not been made more support should be put in place. For some children or young people, professionals such as Educational Psychologists or Speech and Language Therapists may need to be consulted for expert advice when needed, which should then be implemented and reviewed.

For more information on support in school please see our SEND identification and support page.

What can I do if my child is not being supported in their educational setting? Or the school won’t put support in place?

Nurseries, schools and colleges have legal duties to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.  The settings have to use their ‘best endeavours’, by doing everything that could reasonably be expected of them. For more information about this, click here. This duty applies to mainstream settings and alternative provision settings.

Nurseries, schools and colleges must also “have regard” for the SEND Code of Practice (CoP). This means that they should do what it says, be able to explain why they have not done, or state what alternative measures have been put in place instead. You can read a parent-carer-friendly version of the CoP here.

If you feel that your child is not being supported in their educational setting, you should raise this as a formal complaint with the school by following the complaints policy on their website.  You can use this template letter to let the school know about your concerns. 

If you need any further advice or support, contact SEND and You or get in touch with us and we can signpost you to the best services to help with your query.

Understanding disruptive or anxious behaviour and its possible connection with special educational needs and disabilities – Social Emotional and Mental Health.

All behaviour is a form of communication. A baby may cry when they are hungry or wet, just like an adult may yawn when they are bored at work. Adults and children are communicating something through their behaviour during every moment, every day, even if they are not aware of it and sometimes they are not able to control or convey it. 

If your child is finding it difficult to attend school or is experiencing disruptive or anxious behaviour at school, if you have been contacted to collect them early or if they are frequently suspended from school, or if they are currently attending alternative learning provision and you have not been told they may have special educational needs, it’s worth highlighting to the schools the duty they have to identify and support pupils that may have SEND.

There is a great template letter here. If you need any further advice securing support for your child please contact SEND and You or come along to our next SOS!SEN coffee morning.

What can families do to help understand if the children they care for have special educational needs and disabilities?

Families often tell us that they weren’t aware that their child was behind in their learning or that they needed extra support in class. If you have any concerns or worries it is worth asking your class teacher directly. 

You can ask about your child’s levels of attainment and you can ask if they are meeting age-related expectations. This can be done at any time, just ask to speak with your class teacher.

If you feel your child needs extra support in school you may have to ask for the school to put it in place, you can do this by using the parent’s guide to the ordinarily available provisions document or writing to the schools raising your concerns more formally using this template letter.

You can also refer your child to certain health services by asking your school SENDCo or your local GP to refer you. For information on all help available see our leaflet here.