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About SEN Support in schools and education

What SEN Support your child is entitled to by age

The majority of children and young people with SEN or disabilities will have their needs met within local mainstream early years settings, schools or colleges through the budget delegated to them. This is called the notional SEN budget.

The views of parents with children and young people receiving SEN Support

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 - this is the level of support for a child or young person who does not have an EHC Plan). This feedback will feed into continued improvements to best support children and young people. Please provide your feedback via this feedback link (opens a new window)


SEN support for children under 5 includes:

Nurseries, playgroups and childminders registered with Ofsted follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. The framework makes sure that there’s support in place for children with SEND.

Find out more about how children are supported in nurseries and childcare settings (opens a new window)

Find more about support and services for children under 5 years (opens a new window)

Talk to a doctor or health adviser if you think your child has SEND but they do not go to a nursery, playgroup or childminder. They’ll tell you what support options are available.

Most children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will have their needs met in mainstream education. Most will need some extra help from their teacher or other school staff, but some will also need help from people working alongside the staff.

All schools are required to have a named Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for coordinating the school’s support programme for SEN and disabilities.  When difficulties are first identified, they put in place extra help, known as SEN Support.

SEN Support: where a child or young person has been identified as having special educational needs, schools should put in place a four part cycle of Assess, Plan, Do, Review. This is a graduated approach to understanding the child or young person’s needs and adjusting provision.

Schools think about the progress they'd expect for your child’s age to decide when the child isn’t making enough progress. This helps to decide if your child has a special educational need. Schools will use the Threshold Guidance to inform this thinking. 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.

Sometimes children continue to have difficulties making progress in school, even with extra support.  In these cases schools might get advice from other professionals. This might include further more detailed assessment so that good advice can be given to the school and family. You will always be given copies of any reports written about your child and be invited to discuss them.

Examples of additional and extra help for pupils with SEND:

  • Individualised targets set for the pupil following discussion between school, pupil, parents and other professionals.
  • the SENCO involved in assessing, planning and reviewing progress.
  • making a task different, for instance a pupils with literacy difficulties might make a poster rather than write an essay.
  • flexible group work to support individual learning targets.
  • individual sessions or small groups for literacy and numeracy.
  • social skills groups*
  • 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 or
  • a programme to improve handwriting or other physical skills.

This support is usually 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.

What if SEN support is not enough? (opens a new window)


Local authorities can provide funding as an alternative to an EHC needs assessment, with parents’ agreement.  This does not affect parents’ statutory right to request an EHC needs assessment.

​If the school or nursery believes that your child’s needs are complex or severe they might suggest requesting an EHC needs assessment. 

Further guidance about SEN Support in schools is contained in Chapter 3 of the Golden Binder (pdf)

Examples of SEND Support Plans used in schools                                                                                         

These documents are based on the ‘Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years, statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities.’ January 2015.

The guidance is for use by schools, 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. Specific interventions or assessments are examples rather than endorsements or requirements. Needs and strategies in the guidance are not intended as checklists, but guidance used in a flexible way according to the needs of the pupil.​

SEN Threshold Guidance - Pupils of school age Year 1 to Year 11 2nd edition (pdf)

SEN Threshold Guidance 2nd edition - summary of changes (pdf)

SEN Threshold guidance for young people aged 16-19+ (pdf)

They should be read alongside the code and other local guidance such as:

Support for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (often known as the "Golden Binder) (opens a new window)

Guidance on reasonable adjustments (opens a new window)

Guidance on making school trips accessible (opens a new window)

SEND: a guide for parents and carers, contains information about rights of appeal and the support services available (opens a new window)  The information starts on page 42 under the "Challenging or disagreeing with decisions" section in the guide.  There is also guidance on "SEN Support in Schools" and "Decision Making and what to do if you disagree with a decision" in the Golden Binder on this website.​

The Golden Binder (opens a new window)

You can resolve many issues by talking to your child’s school. 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. If the school complaints route doesn’t resolve things, parents can ask the local authority to use their disagreement resolution service to help.