Children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) all have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help to others.

Many children and young people may have SEN of some kind during their education. Child care providers – like nurseries or child minders – mainstream schools, colleges and other organisations can help most children and young people succeed with some changes to their practice or additional support. But some will need extra help for some or all of their time in education and training.

Children and young people with SEN may need extra help because of a range of needs.

The SEND Code of Practice sets out 4 areas of SEN:

• Communicating and interacting 

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.

• Cognition and learning 

Children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as in literacy or numeracy.

• Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

Children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning or have an impact on their health and wellbeing.

• Sensory and/or physical needs

Children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment. Some children and young people may have SEN that covers more than one of these areas.


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 Equality Act requires that early years providers, schools, colleges, other educational settings and local authorities:

• must not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children and young people

• must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of extra aid services (for example, tactile signage or induction loops), so that disabled children and young people are not disadvantaged. This duty is known as ‘anticipatory’. People also need to think in advance about what disabled children and young people might need.

Education, Health and Care plans

Sometimes a child or young person needs a higher level of specialist support than is available in school, or other places they’re cared for. What is a EHC plan?

An EHC plan helps young people aged 0-25 who have special educational needs (SEN). It looks at their educational, health and social requirements – and then identifies any extra support needed to insure they get most out of further education and training. For the first time, it puts education, health and social information together into one plan. And during the EHC assessment process, the child and family are kept central to the process.

How to make an EHC request

If you’re a parent:

Put your EHC request into writing, making sure you include:

• The child or young person\’s full name, date of birth and address.

• A short description of their needs.

• Any evidence that may be available eg. a medical letter to confirm a diagnosis or professional reports

When request is received, the SEN team will then contact the child or young person\’s school or college for further information. You will then be contacted by a SEN Officer who will explain the process and the timescales to you. There will be a small number of children whose special educational needs are not met by the support that schools can provide and for whom a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) personal budget may be an option. A larger number maybe entitled to a pb for provided by social care such as personal assistants. 

Schools and colleges are funded to meet the special educational needs of children and young people with SEN up to an set amount per year. If the school or college requires additional funding, they are able to apply to the Local Authority.

What is an EHC plan personal budget?

An EHC plan personal budget is an amount of money available to help children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Families choose the sort of support and services they think will help children reach their agreed goals (\’outcomes\’) as set out in an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan.

Why would I want a personal budget?

It may help you pay for additional services or activities to help reach your personal goals. Being approved for a personal budget does not mean that you will receive any more or less support than if you choose not to have a personal budget but it will give you more choice and control on how you want to be supported.

Principles of special educational needs

The principles of the system are set out in Chapter 1 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice.

The basic principles

All children have a right to an education that enables them to make progress so that they:

• achieve their best

• become confident individuals and live fulfilling lives

• make a successful transition into becoming an adult, whether that’s into further and higher education, training or work

All children with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities should have their needs met, whether they are in early years settings (like a nursery or a child minder), in school or in college.

Schools and colleges should consider:

• consider the views, wishes and feelings of children and/or young people, and their parents

• make sure that families are fully involved in decisions that affect them

• provide support so that children and young people do well in education and can prepare properly for adulthood

Parents will have a say in decisions that affect their children, have access to impartial information, advice and support, and know how to challenge decisions they disagree with.

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Making sure that every child makes good progress in lessons is a goal shared by all effective teachers. It’s the reason for being in the profession and why we devote so much time to the creation of lessons that will support and advance learning. Yet support for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) remains patchy, and too often teachers feel inadequately equipped to deal effectively with the needs that children have in their classrooms. This inevitably leads to frustration for teachers, children, and their parents alike.


Nancy Gedge is a consultant teacher with Driver Youth Trust (DYT), a national charity dedicated to improving the life chances of children and young people.

DYT is focused on those with literacy difficulties and who may have SEND, in particular dyslexia. She gets to the heart of the current issues facing teachers with regard to SEND, explaining: “I don’t know about you, but I think that the thing I am hearing most about the current situation regarding SEND is funding, funding, funding. Local Authorities are squeezed, and this is knocking on to schools. Everything is getting harder to access.” There is no doubt that the cash shortage in education is having an impact. Anecdotal evidence from around the country tells of lengthy delays in having needs identified and supported. In the meantime, schools do the best they can, but some children evidently struggle to access the education available to them. As Nancy explains, “Teachers needs to be aware that support from local authorities is harder and harder to get, and that they are saying ‘no’, not necessarily because the children don’t meet criteria, but to try to put them off having to pay for as long as possible. In my view, schools and parents need to stand together on this. Parents can certainly action appeals and so on – but it’s hard. It has a negative effect on family mental health. Everything we can do to support families will support the achievement of our students.”

SEND Consultant Barney Angliss echoes Nancy’s views. He says: “Much has been made of the changes to SEN and Disability contained in the Children and Families Act 2014. But the key to providing effective support for learners is not simply to comply with the law, nor to do things just for the sake of doing something.

Intervention is not a substitute for good teaching so focus on support which embeds the classroom learning and enables the learner to engage more consistently, even with those things they find most difficult. Use data rather than hunches to identify where the learner – or the school – isn’t progressing; and select interventions based on their evidence, available at the Evidence 4 Impact website.”


While it is essential for teachers to be as clued up on SEND as practically possible, it’s no secret that this can be incredibly challenging. Training needs arise depending on the children in a teacher’s class and schools have a diminished capability to respond quickly.

But there are some sources of support that may help:

  • Get to know the SEND Code of Practice– Nancy Gedge’s book, Inclusion for Primary School Teachers, contains a breakdown of the SEND Code of Practice, what it means, and what class teachers’ responsibilities are. It also covers a brief introduction to the most common learning needs that teachers are likely to come across, as well as advice on how to set up and run an inclusive classroom, including how to negotiate relationships with parents and TAs. It also has an extensive jargon buster as well as simple and practical advice on what to do when things go wrong.

  • The Special Needs Jungle website carries extensive information about SEND including articles written by SEND specialists.

  • The Driver Youth Trust Drive for Literacy Universal Toolkit provides a range of resources that are useful for classroom teachers to improve literacy standards.

  • Barney Angliss can be contacted via and on Twitter

  • Nancy Gedge, @drivertrust @nancygedge

  • The Optimus Education website carries extensive information on SEND.

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