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About SEN Support in schools and education

Most children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will have their needs met in mainstream education. Schools must identify pupils who have SEN quickly and respond to their needs without delay. This means that some extra help from their teacher or other school staff is provided. Some will also need help from services outside the school.

All  educational settings (nurseries, schools and colleges) are required to have a named Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for coordinating the support or children and young people who have SEN and disabilities.  When difficulties are first identified the child or young person’s teachers must put in place extra help, known as SEN Support. 

Educational settings must ensure that the graduated response is in place for all children and young people with SEN. This means that they must: 

  • assess the child or young person’s needs 
  • plan what the setting is going to do differently or in addition to what it is already doing
  • do what is planned 
  • review the child or young person’s progress and the effectiveness of the support plan. 

Teachers and SENCOs will make the initial assessments as part of their normal work with the child or young person. This might include reviewing their work, doing some testing, observing them at different times in the day, talking to the child or young person and should include talking to you. Schools and colleges will use the Threshold Guidance to inform their decision making.  If it is agreed that your child is experiencing special educational needs then the school will make a plan with you to try and support your child to make better progress in, for example, learning academic skills, speech and language skills, social skills or emotional development. Parents or carers must be invited to plan and review with the setting at least three times each year. 

Sometimes children and young people continue to have difficulties making progress, even with support that is different from or additional to that which the setting usually provides.  This is a good time for the setting to get advice from other professionals. This could include further more detailed assessment so that good advice can be given to the school and family. You will always be asked permission and given copies of any reports written about your child and be invited to discuss them.

Examples of support for children and young people with SEND:

  • making a task different, for instance a pupil with literacy difficulties might make a poster rather than write an essay.
  • Having extra time to complete tasks, assessments or homework
  • Using ICT solutions rather than writing by hand
  • flexible group work to support individual learning.
  • individual sessions or small groups for literacy or numeracy.
  • social skills groups*
  • Time with an emotional literacy support assistant
  • changes made to the classroom such as a quiet study area, reducing glare by putting up blinds or putting soft feet on chairs to reduce noise.
  • access to ICT solutions and specialist materials and equipment.
  • specialist support or advice from other professionals like an educational psychologist or speech and language therapist.
  • a programme to improve handwriting or other physical skills.

This support is provided by the school using its delegated budget. For pupils with greater needs which cannot be met within this budget, schools and parents or young people can request a top up through an Education, Health and Care needs assessment.

‚ÄčIf the nursery, school or college believes that your child’s needs are complex or severe they might suggest requesting an EHC needs assessment. 

Examples of SEND Support Plans used in schools (These examples are being reviewed)                                                                                      

Essential reading

SEN Threshold Guidance

The guidance is for use by schools and colleges, Achieving for Children, health professionals, social care teams and families. It is a guide to the difficulties and challenges that would lead to a pupil being identified as having special educational needs. The aim is to ensure transparency and consistency between schools when identifying needs. Also, to provide clear expectations about the support provided under SEN Support and an Education, Health and Care Plan. 

SEN Threshold Guidance for schools and colleges

Ordinarily Available

Guidance to support state-funded schools to continually develop their whole school approach to supporting all pupils, including those with additional needs at SEN Support stage of the graduated approach.

The Ordinarily Available guidance information is intended to be used by professionals and parents and carers.

Ordinarily Available Provision

Tell us your views about the support your child receives 

Achieving for Children would like to hear the views of parents/carers who have a child or young person receiving support from a setting/school/college for a special educational need ( SEN Support). We will use your feedback feed into continued improvements to best support children and young people. 

SEN Support feedback form


What to do if you have an issue with the support for your child

You can resolve many issues by talking to your child’s school or setting. Speak to the class or form teacher and the SENCo and involve senior school leaders if needed. When a child or young person is receiving SEN support, schools should talk to parents to set clear outcomes and review progress towards them. They should discuss activities and support that will help achieve outcomes. They should identify the responsibilities of the parent, the pupil and the school. 

The SEND Code of Practice states that schools should meet parents at least three times each year (paragraph 6.65). But parents can request more meetings than this if needed.

A copy of every school’s complaints procedure should be available and is often published on the school’s website. The school’s SEN Information Report should include arrangements for handling complaints. 

How to apply for an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment

Sometimes a child or young person needs a more intensive level of specialist help that would not be met from the resources normally available in a school or other setting. This is the time to consider an EHC needs assessment. Some children may need an EHCP assessment very early on. The school or setting should communicate with the appropriate professionals and start the process without delay. Anyone can contact the SEND Team to ask for advice on the best way to request an EHC needs assessment. This will most often be through a multi-agency meeting with those involved, at the educational setting (e.g. school). Following this meeting, either the educational setting or the parents may submit a request. If the young person is over 16, they can ask for an assessment themselves. An EHCP brings the child or young person’s Education, Health and Social Care needs into a single, legal document. 

Applying for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment