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Home What are Special Educational Needs and Disability? What is the Children and Families Act 2014? What is the SEND Local Offer? What is Early Help? What is an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment? Where can I find Independent Help and Support? Key documents for implementing the SEND reforms

What are Special Educational Needs and Disability?

These animation videos have been co-produced with our children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities from a range of schools in North Lincolnshire - Althorpe and Keadby Primary school, Outwood Academy Foxhills, St Luke's Primary School, North Lindsey College and John Leggott College. They produced the animations drawings used in the videos and recorded the voice-over. We are very grateful to all of those who contributed and hope that you find the videos informative.

Some children have needs or disabilities that affect their ability to learn.

These special educational needs (SEN) can include a child's:

  • behaviour or ability to socialise eg not being able to make friends
  • reading and writing eg they have dyslexia
  • ability to understand things
  • concentration levels eg they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • physical needs or impairments

The terms 'special educational needs' and 'disability' have legal definitions. These can be found in paragraphs xiii - xxiii of the Introduction to the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice.

Children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) may need extra help because of a range of needs. Paragraphs 6.27 - 6.35 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice set out four areas of SEN:

  • Communicating and interacting - for example, 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

  • Cognition and learning - for example, where 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 - for example, where children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or if they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children's learning, or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing

  • Sensory and/or physical needs - for example, 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.

What is a disability?

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 stipulates 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 auxiliary aid services (for example, tactile signage or induction loops), so that disabled children and young people are not disadvantaged compared with other children and young people. This duty is what is known as 'anticipatory' - people also need to think in advance about what disabled children and young people might need

Who to talk to

If you think your child may have special educational needs and / or a disability, contact the person in your child's school or nursery responsible for SEN.

This person is called the 'SEN coordinator', or 'SENCO'. Contact the local council or your doctor if your child isn't in a school or nursery.

Contact your local Parent Partnership Service for impartial advice about SEN.

Types of support

There are stages of support to try and help children with special educational needs and or disability.

If your child is getting the help they need and they're learning well, there's no need for them to go on to the next stage.

If your child has high needs, they won't need to go through earlier stages of support and can get an assessment straight away.

From 1 September 2014 there were changes to the stages of support and the assessment process.

Before 1 September 2014

The stages of support were:

  1. Early Years Action / School Action
  2. Early Years Action Plus / School Action Plus
  3. Assessment
  4. Statement of special educational needs

Early Years Action / School Action

Your child's teachers or SENCO will discuss your child's needs with you and decide what help to give. You should be asked about the help your child is given and its results.

This could mean a different way of teaching certain things, or some help from an extra adult.

Early Years Action Plus / School Action Plus

This is extra help from an external specialist eg a speech therapist.


An assessment of special educational needs is carried out by your local council. Experts and people involved in your child's education will be asked about your child's needs and what should be done to meet them.


A statement of special educational needs describes your child's needs and how they should be met, including what school they should go to.

Further education

If your child has a statement of special educational needs, he or she will have a 'transition plan' drawn up in Year 9. This helps to plan for their future after leaving school.

The transition plan gets reviewed each school year.

Your local council will make sure that your child gets the support they need and will work with social services before your child leaves school.

They must also make sure your child gets any education and training they need when they leave school if they're 16 to 18, or 19 to 24 if they've had a learning difficulty assessment (LDA).

Changes from September 2014

From 1 September 2014 there will be changes to the way children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) get support.

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans

Statements and learning difficulty assessments (LDA) will be replaced by an education, health and care (EHC) plan. An EHC plan sets out your child's needs and how they should be met.

You may be able to get a personal budget for your child, if they're eligible for an EHC plan. This will give you more say on how money is spent on your child's needs.

Young people in further education and training will also be eligible for an EHC plan, up to the age of 25 in some cases.

You can download the Department for Education's letter to parents on SEND changes.

If your child already gets support

Your child will transfer by spring 2018 if they have either:

  • a statement
  • a LDA

Your child will transfer by spring 2015 if they already get help through any of:

  • School Action
  • School Action Plus
  • the early years versions of School Action or School Action Plus

The transfer will happen at a time that makes sense for your child (eg around a termly review) or when they move school (eg nursery to primary).

Councils can choose to transfer children to an EHC plan earlier.

Your local council will let you know when your child is going to transfer.

North Lincolnshire's Transition plan and timetable can be found here

If your child is in further education or training

They'll continue to get support and can ask for an EHC plan if both of these apply:

  • they're in further education or training from September 2014 to September 2016
  • they get help because of a learning difficulty assessment

The school and North Lincolnshire Council will work with you to agree what support your child needs.

Your child may need an EHC plan if they have very complex needs. Speak to special.needssection@northlincs.gov.uk about an assessment.

Help and advice

Speak to your child's school or contact your SEND Information and Support Service (SENDIASS formerly the Parent Partnership Service).

You can also call the free Contact a Family helpline.

Contact a Family helpline

Telephone: 0808 808 3555
Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 5pm
Find out about call charges
You can also get help from Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA).

IPSEA advice line

Telephone: 0800 018 4016
Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4pm and 7pm to 9pm
Friday, 1pm to 4pm
Find out about call charges

Further information

If you would like further information on all these changes the DfE has produced a helpful guide for parents called 'Special educational needs and disability - A guide for parents and carers'. (August 2014). This guide explains how the system that supports children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities works.

It covers:

  • the law and statutory guidance on which the system is based
  • places to go for help and further information
  • details about changes to the system from 1 September 2014

It may also be useful for staff in:

  • schools and colleges
  • early years education settings

who are dealing with the parents and carers of children and young people with SEND.

A copy of the guide is available to download here.


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