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Support in schools for children with special educational needs

Teachers have a responsibility to identify children who have special educational needs (SEN) and provide them with the extra support they need to include them in mainstream education. Children have special educational needs if they have difficulties in one or more of the following areas:

  • learning (eg reading or maths problems, severe learning difficulties
  • communication (eg speech and language difficulties, autism)
  • behaviour (eg emotional difficulties, aggressive behaviour)
  • sensory or physical capability (eg hearing impairment, cerebral palsy).

Most children with special educational needs attend their local school and where possible they are educated with other children of the same age.

Schools have a number of stages of support for children with special educational needs. The first two stages are School Action and School Action Plus. The stage that your child is at will depend on their individual learning needs. Each level of help is governed by a national code of practice.

School Action

If the school feels that your child is not making enough progress in class, school staff will provide additional support, known as School Action. This can take a variety of forms depending on your child's needs, and normally includes drawing up an individual education plan with you. This educational plan is regularly reviewed and amended to meet the changing needs of your child.

If your child has not been identified and you feel that they need special educational support then you should speak to their class teacher.

School Action Plus

If your child is still having difficulties then the school will move to the School Action Plus stage. The special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) at the school can ask for help from outside specialists, such as an educational psychologist, advisory teacher or a speech therapist, to make sure your child receives the effective and long term support that they need. Your child's individual education plan is also reviewed and amended, based on the advice of the support services involved.

Statutory assessment

If your child has more complex needs that cannot be met by School Action Plus, the school may consider asking for a statutory assessment. Parents can also ask for an assessment to be made.

What to do if you think your child needs help 

If your child has not been identified and you feel they need additional support, speak to your child's class teacher and express your concerns.

Parent Partnership Service (PPS)

PPS provide information and support to help you make informed decisions about your child's education and make sure that your views and concerns are represented. If you think your child has SEN or you have been told they have SEN.  Find out more about the Parent Partnership Service. All contact is treated in confidence.