What are Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (SEND)
Definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN)
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 them. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if they:
a. Have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age; or
b. Have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post 16 settings.
A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if they fall within the definition at (a) or (b) above or would so do if special educational provision was not made for them (Clause 20 Children and Families Act)
Definition of disability
Many children and young people who have SEN may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 – that is a physical or mental impairment which has a long term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities’. This definition provides a relatively low threshold and includes more children than many realise: ‘long term’ is defined as ‘a year or more’ and ‘substantial’ is defined as ‘more than minor or trivial’. This definition includes sensory impairments such as those affecting sight or hearing and long term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and cancer. Children and young people with such conditions do not necessarily have SEN but there is a significant overlap between disabled children and young people and those with SEN. Where a disabled child or young person requires special educational provision they will also be covered by the SEN definition.
A child must have a special educational need to be considered for an Education, Health and Care assessment. A care need or medical need in isolation would not result in an EHC Assessment.
The four primary areas of Special Educational Needs are:
- Communication and interaction
- Cognition and learning
- Social, emotional and mental health
- Sensory and/or physical
This information is about the support that mainstream schools must and should provide for children with special educational needs (SEN).
What is SEN Support?
Every child with special educational needs should have SEN Support. This means help that is additional to or different from the support generally given to most of the other children of the same age.
The purpose of SEN Support is to help children and young people achieve the outcomes of learning objectives set for them by the school in conjunction with parents and pupils themselves.
If your child is on School Action or School Action Plus they should transfer to SEN Support by September 2015.
Every school must publish a SEN Information Report about the SEN provision the school makes. You can find this on the schools website. You can also ask your child’s teacher or the schools Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) for information on the SEN provision made by the school.
The Local Offer published by Durham Local Authority also sets out what support it expects early years settings, schools and colleges to make for all children and young people with SEN or disabilities.
SEN support can take many forms, including:
- a special learning programme for your child.
- extra help from a teacher or a learning support assistant.
- making or changing materials and equipment.
- working with a child in a small group.
- observing your child in class or at break and keeping records.
- helping your child to take part in the class activities.
- making sure your child has understood things by encouraging them to ask questions and to try something they find difficult.
- helping other children work with your child or play with them at break time.
- supporting your child with physical or personal care such as eating, getting around school safely, toileting or dressing.
- advice and /or extra help from specialists such as specialist teachers, educational psychologists and therapists.
A graduated approach
Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place. SEND Code of Practice (6.44)
When your child is identified as having SEN, the school should use a graduated approach based on four steps. These are:
Teaching staff should work with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator to assess your child’s needs, so that they get the right support. They should involve you in this and where possible, seek your child’s views.
The SEND Code of Practice says:
Schools should take seriously any concerns raised by a parent, SEND Code of Practice (6.45).
Sometimes schools will seek advice from a Specialist Teacher or a Health Professional. They should talk to you about this first.
If the school decides that your child needs SEN support they must tell you. The school should agree with you the outcomes that will be set, what help will be provided and a date for progress to be reviewed.
Your child’s class or subject teacher is usually responsible for the work that is done with your child and should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved. The school should tell you who is responsible for the support your child receives.
All those who work with your child should be made aware of:
their needs, the outcomes sought, the support provided and any teaching strategies or approaches that are required. SEND Code of Practice (6.49)
The SEND Code of Practice says:
- Schools should meet with parents at least three times a year, SEND Code of Practice (6.65).
- The school should review your child’s progress, and the difference that the help your child has been given has made, on the date agreed in the plan. You and your child should be involved in the review and planning the next step. If your child has not responded to the help they were given, the review should decide what can be done next. The may include more or different help.
Sometimes it helps to involve other professionals to investigate the difficulties or to plan the next steps.
You and the school can look at the Local Offer to see what support should be available that could help achieve your child’s outcomes.
Sometimes the next step may be to ask the local authority for an Education Health and Care needs assessment. If the school decides to do this they must tell you. If you think it is needed you can ask for this yourself.
Where can I get more information, advice or support?
You can find our more about SEN Support by
- looking at the SEN Information Report on the school website
- talking to your child’s teacher or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator
- looking at the Local Offer
- reading Chapter 6 of the SEN Code of Practice
You can get in touch with Durham SENDIASS who can give you:
- information about SEN Support, including information about SEN funding
- advice about what to do if you are not happy with the support your school is providing
- information about other organisations, support groups and information services that could help
- information and advice about your rights to request an EHC needs assessment
Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment for children in early years settings or at school
This information is about Education, Health and Care needs assessment, which is sometimes called statutory assessment. It covers:
- children in early years settings
- children and young people of school age
What is an EHC needs assessment?
An EHC assessment is a detailed look at the special educational needs (SEN) of a child or young person and the support he or she may need in order to learn. Local Authorities are responsible for carrying out EHC needs assessments under the Children and Families Act 2014.
The needs assessment brings together information about:
- what your child can and cannot do
- the special help they need
It includes information from:
- your child
- the early years setting or school
- other professionals who work with or support your child
The assessment is to see of your child needs an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan).
When is an EHC needs assessment necessary?
The school or early years setting can often give your child help through SEN Support. This means that the school makes additional or different provision from that provided to most other pupils to meet their needs. Sometimes other professionals will give advice or support to help your child learn.
Some children need more help than the school can provide. If your child does not make progress despite everything the school has tried, an EHC needs assessment might be the next step.
The Local Authority will look at:
- your child’s attainments and rate of progress
- their special educational needs
- what has already been done
- the difference that support has made
- your child’s physical, emotional and social development and health needs
Who can ask for an EHC needs assessment?
- parents – by writing to the local authority
- a young person over the age of 16 but under the age of 25
- the early years setting or school, but only after talking with you first
It is always a good idea to talk to the school or early years setting before asking for an EHC needs assessment.
Durham’s Special Educational Needs and Disability Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) can help make your request.
Other people, such as your doctor or health visitor can tell the local authority that they think your child needs an assessment.
What happens when the local authority gets a request for an EHC needs assessment?
As soon as the local authority gets a request for an EHC needs assessment they must tell you about it.
The local authority has up to six weeks to decide whether to make a needs assessment. During this time it may ask you, the school and other professionals for information.
It will look a all the information and must then tell you whether it has decided:
- to start the EHC needs assessment immediately or
- that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary
What happens if the local authority decides that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary?
The local authority must tell you why it thinks an EHC needs assessment is not needed. It must also tell you about:
- your right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and the time limit for appealing
- independent disagreement resolution and medication
- how to get further information, advice or support
If you disagree with the decision, Durham SENDIASS can explain your options to you.
What happens if the EHC needs assessment goes ahead?
The local authority will write to you to tell you what will happen and ask for your views. Your views and your child’s views are really important. Durham SENDIASS can give you information, advice and support to help with this.
The local authority will ask a number of other people for information about your child. This is called ‘advice’ and it should include further information about:
- your child’s education, health and care needs
- the desired outcomes for your child
- the special educational, health and care provision that might be required to meet their needs and achieve the desired outcomes
The local authority must ask for advice and information from:
- parents (or the young person)
- your child’s early year setting or school
- an educational psychologist
- health professionals who work with your child. This might include a paediatrician, speech and language therapist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist
- social care staff
- anyone else you ask them to contact who may be able to give relevant advice
If your child has a vision or hearing impairment the local authority must also seek information and advice from a suitably qualified teacher.
The local authority should also try to find out your child’s views. You, the school and other professionals may be able to help with this. If you think your child needs someone to help them give their views, you can ask Durham SENDIASS for more information about this.
You will have the chance to discuss your child with everyone involved in the needs assessment and you will receive a copy of all the reports when the needs assessment is finished.
If you want information, advice or support during the EHC needs assessment, contact Durham SENDIASS. This can include having an Independent Supporter to help you.
When does the EHC needs assessment end?
Once the local authority has all the information and advice it must decide weather your chid needs an Education Health and Care Plan.
An EHC plan is a legal document written by the Local Authority. It describes the special educational needs that a child or young person has and the help that they will be given to meet them. It also includes the health and care provision that is needed. You can read more about EHC plans in Durham’s Local Offer.
Sometimes the local authority will decide that your child has special educational needs that can be met through SEN Support. If this is the case the local authority must tell you of its decision within 16 weeks of receiving a request of an EHC needs assessment. The local authority must also tell you about your right of appeal.
If the Local Authority decides an EHC plan is necessary it must first write a draft plan. It will send you the draft EHC plan and copies of the reports so that you can read it all. You should check that everything you think is important has been included and that your agree with the outcomes and the proposed provision. The local authority will also ask you which school you prefer your child to go to.
You have 15 days to make comments, to ask for a meeting or accept the draft plan.
Note that if you do not reply within 15 days the Local Authority may assume that you agree with the draft plan.
The last stage is for the local authority to send you the final EHC plan. If you are still unhappy with the plan or cannot agree with the Local Authority on a school, you have a right to go to mediation and or to appeal (see below)
If you need any help at any stage you can contact Durham SENDIASS.
What if I do not agree with the Local Authority about the EHC needs assessment or the EHC Plan?
At any stage you can ask to talk to a member of the Local Authority’s staff. This will usually be the person named in the letter the Local Authority sends you when it receives a request for an EHC needs assessment.
If the Local Authority decides that an EHC needs assessment and an EHC plan are necessary for your child, they must carry out the assessment and issue a plan whatever your views are.
Durham SENDIASS can give you impartial information and advice about the options open to you and support you through the process. This could include help from an Independent Supporter.
You also have the right to request an independent disagreement resolution and in some circumstances, mediation. You can find out more about disagreement resolution and mediation in the SEND Code of Practice – Chapter 9.
My child already has a Statement. Will they have an EHC needs assessment?
Between September 2014 and September 2018 Local Authorities will gradually transfer Statements of Special Educational Need to the new system. When this happens for your child and EHC plan transfer review will take place. The review will involve an EHC needs assessment. You, your child or the young person must be invited to a meeting as part of this transfer review.
Your child’s existing Statement, review reports and other information may be sufficient for the needs assessment as long as you, the Local Authority and those providing the advice agree that they are. If there is not agreement that they are sufficient, the Local Authority must gather more information and advice.
Where can I get more information, advice or support?
You can read about Education, Health and Care needs assessments in the SEND Code of Practice, Chapter 9.
The Local Offer includes more information on the local arrangements for EHC needs assessment.
Parents Information File
Many children will, at some time in their lives, have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). For some children these needs may be temporary, whilst for others they may be more long term. Most children will have their needs identified and met by their school, college or early years setting. This file is mainly intended to give information about special needs support and arrangements in Durham Local Authority (LA) schools.