Support at school

A child has special educational needs (SEN) if he or she has learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for him or her to learn than most other children of about the same age.

Many children will have special educational needs of some kind during their education. Schools and other organisations can help most children overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily. A few children will need extra help for some or all of their time in school. Each school must publish on their website a local offer detailing the level of support you can expect from the school if your child has special educational needs or a disability.

Special educational needs could mean that a child has difficulties with:

  • Communication and interaction - in expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
  • Cognition and learning - in gaining basic skills in school such as reading and writing
  • Social, emotional or mental health difficulties - making friends or relating to adults or behaving properly in school
  • Sensory and/or physical - such as hearing or visual impairment, which might affect them in school or a medical or health condition which may slow down a child’s progress and/or involves treatment that affects his or her education.

Children make progress at different rates and have different ways they learn best. Teachers take account of this when they organise lessons and teach. Children making slower progress, or having difficulties in one area, may be given extra help or different lessons to help them succeed.

You should not assume - just because your child is making slower progress than you expected or the teachers are providing different support, help or activities in class - that your child has special educational needs. Every school has a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). If you have any concerns about your child you should contact the class teacher and the SENCO to discuss these.

What you should ask

Talk to the teacher/SENCO about:

  • why you think your child has SEN
  • whether your child learns at the same rate as other children their age
  • what the school can do to help
  • what you can do to help

What the school will do

Schools are required by law to provide an education for all pupils, regardless of their ability or special needs. Every child's education is equally important.

If the SENCO and your child's teacher agree that your child has SEN, the school should take a 'graduated approach' - this means 'step-by-step'. They will offer your child extra support, with the possibility of more support if needed.

Whatever the school decides to do, you have the right to be informed and for your views, and your child's views, to be taken into account.

The school may provide support through a SEN support plan, or consider requesting an assessment for an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Meetings with the school

If you have concerns about the level and type of support that your child is getting you may feel that a meeting with the SENCO, your child’s teacher and yourself would be useful.

Before the meeting, write down any questions you want to ask and take them to the meeting.

It is a good idea to show your questions to the SENCO a few days before the meeting so they can gather the correct information for discussion.

Note down what is agreed and keep for reference if a follow up meeting is needed.

Some questions you may ask (can be changed to suit your child):

  • My child’s current position
    • Academic levels?
    • Social and emotional well-being, do they have friends and are they happy?
    • Support given in school, when and what by who?
    • How is progress measured, targets, tracker system?
  • Way forward
    • What plans do the school have to support my child in the future?
    • Are there any plans to get specialist input such as specialist teacher, educational psychologist or education programmes?
    • What can I do to help the school support my child?

Further information and advice

If you are unable to agree about the nature of your child's difficulties or how they might be resolved, you may seek help from the Information, Advice and Support Team.

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