How to identify SEN

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At a glance

Information about Special Educational Needs (SEN) and what to do if you think your child has SEN.

What are Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

Special Educational Needs (SEN) is a legal term. It describes the needs of a child who has a difficulty or disability which makes learning harder for them than for other children their age.

Around one in five children has SEN at some point during their school years. Some children have SEN right through their time in school.

SEN covers a broad spectrum of difficulty or disability. Children may have wide-ranging or specific problems. Eg, a child might have difficulty with one area of learning, such as letters or numbers. Or they might have problems relating to other children, or to adults.

Having English as a second language is not considered by law to be a SEN.

What if I think my child has SEN?

You know your child better than anyone else. If your child is pre-school, don't wait for their next routine health check - visit your GP and ask for their opinion. If your child attends a pre-school speak to their teacher or key worker.

If your child is already in school (including nursery) talk to their teacher. Ask also to speak to the school's Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who organises extra help for children with SEN.

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

Your child's teacher and the SENCO will use the SEN Code of Practice to work out whether your child has SEN.

What will the school 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 will probably 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.

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