SEND Explained

Special Educational Needs and Disability

Everyone learns in different ways and at different rates. Many children and young people will therefore need extra help at some time during their education.  In most cases schools and settings will help them overcome any difficulties by providing work that is suitable for their level of ability.  This is called differentiation.

However, some children and young people will have a learning difficulty or disability that requires special educational provision. This is provision that is different from and additional to that generally available to pupils of the same age. These children and young people may be identified as having special educational needs (SEN).

What Does SEN Mean?

Special educational needs is described in law in the Children and Families Act 2014 as:

  1. A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
  2. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she—

(a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or

(b) has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.

  1. A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is likely to be within subsection (2) when of compulsory school age (or would be likely, if no special educational provision were made).
  2. A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.

What Does Disability Mean?

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.

What is the SEND Code of Practice?                            

The SEND Code of Practice 2014 provides statutory guidance for organisations (this includes schools, early years providers and post 16 settings) working with and supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The SEND Code of Practice covers the 0-25 age range.

The Department for Education has identified four broad areas which cover a range of needs. Some children and young people may have SEN that are defined by more than one of these areas:

1. Communication and interaction

Where 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.

Children and young people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger’s Syndrome, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction.

2. Cognition and learning

Where children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, they may:

  • 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 such as in literacy or numeracy

The term ‘learning difficulties’ covers a wide range of needs, including moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD) and profound and multiple difficulties (PMLD). Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia come under this term.

3. Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which present themselves in many ways, such as:

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

This broad area includes attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or attachment disorder. It also includes behaviours that may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders.

4. Sensory and/or physical needs

Where children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment.