What do we mean by 'special educational needs'

What do we mean by 'special educational needs'?

The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years describes SEN as:

“A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.

A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

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

For children aged two or more, special educational provision is educational or training provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, mainstream post-16 institutions or by relevant early years providers. For a child under two years of age, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind.

A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition above when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them (Section 20 Children and Families Act 2014).

Post-16 institutions often use the term learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD). The term SEN is used in the Code across the 0-25 age range but includes LDD.”

The majority of children and young people with SEN or disabilities will have their needs met within local mainstream early years settings, schools or colleges.

What the law says

Schools must “use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need. This means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN.”

The Children and Families Act 2014 is the key legislation for special education. It is the basis for the new Code of Practice. This guides how a child or young person has their needs identified and assessed.

The Law says that Local Authorities must have regard to:

  • “The views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person, and the child’s parents
  • The importance of the child or young person, and the child’s parents, participating as fully as possible in decisions, and being provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions.
  • The need to support the child or young person, and the child’s parents, in order to facilitate the development of the child or young person and to help them achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, preparing them effectively for adulthood”

Department for Education