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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- for example, where children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or if they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children's learning, or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing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 Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) for impartial advice about SEND. Contact 01724 277665 or help@nlsendiass.org.uk

SEN Support

Under the Children and Families Act and SEND Code of Practice, School Action and School Action Plus have now been replaced with SEN support.

SEN support is support available in school for children and young people who have SEN, but do not have EHC Plans.

Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, education providers should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place.  This SEN support should take the form of a four-part cycle:

  1. Assess
  2. Plan
  3. Do
  4. Review

through which earlier decision and actions are revisited, refined and revised.  This is known as the Graduated Approach.



SEN support should include planning and preparation for transition between phases of education and preparation for adult life.


Involving specialists

Where a pupil continues to make less than expected progress, despite evidence based support and interventions that are matched to the pupil’s area of need, education providers should consider involving specialists to advise.


Requesting an Education, Health and Care needs assessment

Where, despite the school having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess, and meet the SEN of the child or young person, the child or young person has not made expected progress, the education provider or parents may consider requesting an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. See What is an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment? for further information.  

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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