What Are Special Educational Needs
What are special educational needs?
Your child may be described as having special educational needs (SEN) if he or she has
developmental delay
a known disability or health problem
speech and language delay or disorder
behaviour difficulties which affect their ability to learn
learning difficulties
Many children (perhaps as many as 1 in 5) will have special educational needs at some time and these needs will usually be met in their early education setting, perhaps a nursery, playgroup or school. Sometimes outside specialists may give help. In a few cases the local education authority (LEA) may be asked to provide extra help, perhaps by carrying out a statutory assessment of the child's needs*.
What is an early education setting?
An early education setting is somewhere that provides education to very young children and receives funding from central government to do this. This includes maintained (state) mainstream and special schools, maintained nursery schools, independent schools, non-maintained special schools, local authority day-care providers such as day nurseries and family centres, other registered day-care providers such as pre-schools, playgroups and private day nurseries, local authority Portage schemes and accredited childminders working as part of an approved National Childminding Association network.
All settings which are in receipt of the government funding (except specialist provision) will be expected to have a member of staff who acts as "special educational needs co-ordinator" (SENCO). This can be the head of the setting. The Early Years SENCO should have responsibility for:
ensuring liaison with parents/carers and other professionals in respect of children with SEN
advising and supporting other practitioners in the setting
ensuring that appropriate Individual Education Plans are in place (See Parent Partnership's information sheet on "Individual Education Plans")
ensuring that relevant background information about individual children with SEN is collected, recorded and updated.
How is support provided?
Once a child has been identified as having special educational needs the setting should provide an appropriate programme that is additional to or different from the programme usually provided for all the children in the setting. This is known as Early Years Action and can be triggered if you or the setting are concerned that your child
is making little or no progress
continues to work at level significantly below those expected for children of a similar age in particular areas
has on-going emotional and/or behavioural difficulties which have not improved after using behaviour management approaches
has sensory or physical difficulties and has made little or no progress despite the provision of personal aids and equipment
has communication and/or social difficulties and needs some individual support in order to learn
An Individual Education Plan (IEP) should be written for the child which has details of the short-term targets, the teaching strategies and any provision to be put in place. The IEP should be discussed with you and should be reviewed regularly.
At the IEP review if it is felt that the child is not making enough progress in spite of the additional help, then a decision might be made to bring in professionals from outside the setting. These outside professionals, who could include an educational psychologist, specialist teacher, or speech and language therapist, will sometimes work directly with the child but are often more likely to provide advice to the setting on how best to support individual children. If outside professionals are involved, the child is said to be on Early Years Action Plus and the IEP should include details of their involvement. Regular reviews should take place and you should be involved in the process.
For a very few children, help given in the ways described above may not be enough for them to make satisfactory progress. For these children a Statutory Assessment of special educational needs (sometimes called Statementing) might be required*. parents/carers, schools and some settings** can ask the Local Education Authority (LEA) to carry out this assessment.
* (See Parent Partnership's information sheet "I think my child …").
What is statutory school age?
Statutory school age means the age when parents/carers have a duty to make sure that their child goes to school. In England, this is from the term after the child's 5th birthday until June of the academic year in which they reach the age of 16 (usually Y11).
Do very young children with SEN get support?
Children with serious learning difficulties benefit greatly from early help with their education. Hillingdon has a home teaching service called "Portage" for young children whose development is delayed.