Getting extra help for children with special educational needs (and disabilities) or sen(d)

Links to FRG online advice for family and friends carers about education

Introduction to SEN(D)
Assessments of a child's SEN(D)
Appealing against SEN(D) assessment
Unfair treatment of disabled children

FRG education advice for family and friends carers homepage
Key information about the education system
Early years and pre-school education
Choosing a school and getting a place
Working in partnership with the school
What happens if a child does not attend school
What happens if a child is excluded from school
Help with Further and Higher Education
Where to get further information

What kind of extra help is available for children with SEN(D)?

Where a school identifies that a pupil is making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances, their first response should be to target high quality teaching at the pupil's area of weakness through a process of differentiation ('differentiation' is a process where a child can be taught differently from classmates in order to achieve the same progress that is expected of them). After this, if progress continues to be less than expected, the class or subject teacher, working with the SENCO, should assess whether the child has SEN.

Pupils with special educational needs/disability are currently classified into two distinct levels of provision of need: SEN support, and an EHC (education, health and care) plan:

SEN support

Under the new system for managing SEND, schools must use a four-part process to support a child with SEN. The new SEND Code of Practice explains this as "Assess, Plan, Do and Review"(i) . This means that the SENCO and teachers should first assess your child to see what help she/he needs, make a plan for how that support will help them, including what progress they expect to see, do put this support in place, and then regularly review the situation to see if the plan is working, or whether different help is needed. The SEND Code of Practice does not say how often the plan should be reviewed, but they should meet with you at least three times a year to see how the plan is progressing (6.56 SEND Code of Practice). The school must provide a report at least once a year on the child's progress.

Every school should publish on their website their SEN information report, which sets out their policy for managing pupils with SEN. It should include information about how they assess children with SEN, how they consult with parents/carers and the kinds of adaptions they make to the curriculum and learning environment for children and young people with SEN (section 6.78 SEND code of practice).

The school can ask for specialist support services, (e.g. a specialist teacher, an educational psychologist, a speech and language therapist, an autism specialist, an occupational therapist or other specialist professional) to provide further advice and support if necessary. They must do this if your child continues to make little progress or work at substantially lower levels than expected(ii). The Code of Practice recognises four broad areas of need that can be met through SEN support: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health difficulties; and sensory and/or physical impairments.

What if my child is still not making progress, even though the school has provided SEN support?

If your child has not made the expected progress, even though the school has identified, assessed and provided SEN support, the school or the parents /carer should consider requesting an Education, Health and Care needs Assessment. This replaces the assessment for a statement of special educational needs under the old SEN system.

Who can request an assessment of the need for an EHC plan?

A request can be made by:

  • The school or further education institution
  • A young person aged 16-25 (for themselves)
  • The parents or carers of a child below the age of 16, but not after the young person has reached 16.

If you are raising a young person over the age of 16, and you think they may need an EHC plan, then you should talk about it to the young person. You could help them to make the request for the EHC plan, if they need support to do this, but it must be their request.

The local authority must carry out an EHC needs assessment if they believe your child's special educational needs may require more help than a mainstream education setting can normally provide. The local authority must tell you within 6 weeks of your request if they are going to carry out an EHC assessment.

How will an EHC assessment help my child?

The EHC assessment will help the local authority decide if your child needs an Education, Health and Care Plan. An EHC plan is a legal document that describes a child or young person's special educational, health and social care needs. It explains the extra help that will be given to meet those needs and how that help will support the child or young person to achieve what they want to in their life.

If the child/young person has an EHC plan, what extra help will they get?

The exact help offered will depend upon the individual child or young person's needs, and what the assessment of their needs says about the sort of support they should get. An EHC plan has 12 sections labeled alphabetically:

A: The views, interests and aspirations of your child.
B: Special educational needs (SEN).
C: Health needs related to SEN.
D: Social care needs related to SEN.
E: Outcomes - how the extra help will benefit your child
F: Special educational provision (support).
G: Health provision.
H: Social care provision.
I: Placement - type and name of school or other institution.
J: Personal budget arrangements.
K: Advice and information - a list of the information gathered during the EHC needs assessment.

The plan should be written so that everyone can understand it. It should be clear and detailed about the amount and type of support your child will get and how the support will help your child. Most children with special educational needs will have their needs met by the provision of additional support within a mainstream school.

If the child has an EHC plan, do I get a say in what school they go to?

The child's parent or carer, or the young person has the right to request that a particular educational establishment be named in their EHC plan. This could be a maintained nursery or school, an academy or free school, a non-maintained special school, a further education or sixth form college, or an independent school or college that is on a list approved by the government.

If you ask for a child who has a EHC plan to be educated in a mainstream school, then the local authority has to agree to this request, unless they can demonstrate that the school is not suitable for the child's SEN, the child's attendance would have a serious impact on the education of other pupils, or it would be an inefficient use of the local authority's resources. The school and the local authority must take reasonable steps to address any such issues before they refuse the request. Mainstream education cannot be refused by a local authority on the grounds that it is not suitable.

Will the child's statement of special educational needs be reviewed?

Once a child has an EHC plan, this has to be reviewed at least once a year for children aged five and over, and at least every three to six months for children who are under five. The purpose of the review is to check how well the child is doing, whether they are getting the right help, and whether the EHC plan is still needed. You must be given at least two weeks' notice of the review meeting.

You must be invited to take part in the Annual Review if the child is under 16. If the review is for a young person aged 16-25, then they must be invited. The others who must be invited to attend include the head of the school or educational institution, local authorities workers who specialise in educational and social work provision for children with special educational needs, and a health professional. Everyone invited should be asked to submit written reports on the child's progress. You can submit your own comments at this stage. All the reports should be circulated to everyone invited to the review meeting, at least two weeks before the meeting takes place.

The meeting will consider the child's progress in meeting the objectives identified in the statement of SEN, what sort of support the child needs, and whether the statement is still needed. A review report will then make recommendations to the local authority, and include any differences of opinion. It is important that you prepare for the meeting because the review helps to inform the local authority's decisions about the statement and the support that will be provided for the child.

After the review meeting, the head teacher will send the review report with recommendations to the local authority, who will consider the statement of SEN and decide whether it is still needed or needs to be amended. You should be notified within one week of this decision being made.

If you disagree with the recommendations of the review, you can challenge them. You should initially try to explain your disagreements, and try to come to an agreement with the local authority. However, if you do not reach agreement, and you do not agree with the support that the review is proposing, or the review is proposing that there is no further need for an EHC plan and you disagree, then it is possible to take the matter to a SEND Tribunal. You would need to contact the independent mediator suggested by the local authority first.

How do I prepare for the review meeting?

You may find it helpful to look at the most recent statement or review, in order to make notes on certain key points. This could include, for example:

  • whether the report made a correct assessment of the child's special needs,
  • whether the goals that were set were realistic for the child,
  • what progress the child has made towards meeting the goals,
  • whether the support that was provided was what the child needed, and
  • whether the child needs more, less or different support to that which is currently being provided.

Further information

Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
Coram Children's Legal Centre Special Educational Needs
ACE Education Special Educational Needs
The Information, Advice and Support Services Network (IASS Network)
SEND: Guide for parents and carers
SEND code of practice 0 to 25 years: Statutory guidance (2014)
Special Education Needs: Code of Practice (2001)

(i) SEND code of Practice section 6.44
(ii) SEND Code of Practice, sections 6.58 and 6.62

Contact Us

The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street
London E8 3DL

For advice, please contact:
0808 801 0366
(from 9:30am to 3pm Mon-Fri)

For administrative queries,
please contact: