Special educational needs at school

The Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice sets out school responsibilities for provision for SEN support - here's our guide

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Identifying SEN at school

Class and subject teachers, with support from the school SENCO, are required to make regular assessments of every pupil's progress, both academically and in terms of social development. Where a pupil's progress is found to be significantly slower than that of his or her peers, or fails to match or better the pupil's previous rate of progress, the first course of action should be to target areas of weakness with high quality teaching. Where this does not result in improved progress, the teacher and SENCO should assess the pupil for possible special educational needs, with input from parents and the child. 

Assess, Plan, Do, Review

These are the four stages of action which an early years care provider must follow. In identifying a child who may have special educational needs, teachers should be considering the pupil's performance in standardised progress assessments; if progress appears to be insufficient, or has slowed down recently, and targeted high-quality teaching is not improving the situation, teachers should develop a targeted plan to support the child, with support from the school's SENCO. Parents, and the child him-or herself, should also have input into the plan.

The teacher is still responsible for working with the child on a daily basis, supported by the SENCO, and for implementing a plan, if one has been agreed upon, to support the child. Even when this involves group or one-to-one teaching away from the main class or subject teacher, they should still retain responsibility for the pupil. The SENCO should help to assess the child's response to the plan, and to advise on any adjustments that need to be made.

The plan should be reviewed in line with a date agreed upon by the teacher and SENCO with the child's parents. The impact and quality of support should be evaluated, with input from the child him-or herself. Parents should have clear information about the effectiveness of the support provided, and should be involved in planning next steps or any changes to the plan.

Specialist involvement

If your child is still not progressing a few months after making and following a support plan, the nursery should consider seeking outside advice, from, for instance, a speech and language therapist, an educational psychologist, or the health service. This should always be done in consultation with you and your child.

An Education, Health and Care needs assessment

If, after implementing the above plans and support strategies, your child's school considers that your child still needs additional help meeting their progress goals, or has additional needs, you may need to start thinking about getting an EHC assessment.

The EHC is a legal document that sets out your child's special educational needs as assessed by the local authority (which used to be known as the LEA), and sets out the provision which the local authority - with input from you and your child - feels is needed for your child. The aim is to ensure your child gets the right kind of help to enable him or her to progress within an educational environment.

You can apply for an EHC for your child from ages 0 to 25. Children over 16 can also request their own EHC needs assessment if they understand the process sufficiently themselves.

What Mumsnetters say about SEN and school

  • "Having the Head on our side was a massive thing, as she was instrumental in getting the training etc for her staff. Having a head teacher you trust will be a major part of the battle won." 
  • "An initial plan should identify your child’s specific weaknesses, state what will be done to provide additional support to overcome these weaknesses and set goals for improvement. Her improvement against these goals should be measured at least once a term and if there is little or no improvement then you should ask that she's placed on a higher level of SEN support (which may eventually lead to an assessment for the need for an EHC statement)."

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SEN Code of Practice


Statementing process and timeline


SEN at nursery


Last updated: 25 minutes ago