Identifying special educational needs

What are Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

The term “Special Educational Needs” has a legal definition. Children with special educational needs have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age.

Approximately one in five children will have special educational needs (SEN) at some point during their school years and some will have SEN for the entirety of their formal education.

Special educational needs could mean that a child has:

  • difficulties in acquiring basic skills in school
  • emotional, social and behavioural difficulties, for example, making friends, relating to adults or behaving appropriately in school
  • a specific learning difficulty, for example, acquiring reading, writing, number work, understanding information and/or developing organisational skills
  • sensory or physical needs, for example, hearing or visual impairment that can impact on their ability to learn
  • communication problems, for example, difficulties with speech and language, or understanding what others are saying
  • medical or health conditions that may slow down their progress and/or involves treatment that affects their education

What you should do if you think your child has Special Educational Needs?

If your child is of preschool age, then you should discuss your concerns with your family GP, health visitor or early years setting. If you think your school aged child may have a special educational need that has not been identified by the school or early years’ setting, you should talk to your child's class teacher, Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCo) or the head teacher.

If your child is in secondary school, you should talk to the child's tutor group teacher, head of year, SENCo or the head teacher.

Explain why you think your child has SEN and ask the following questions:

  • Does my child learn at the same rate as other children of a similar age?
  • Are there any particular problems you have identified?
  • What can the school do to help?
  • What can we, as parents, do to help?

You can also contact the Swindon Special Educational Needs and Disability Information and Support Service (SENDIASS) for information advice and support

What will happen next

Most children and young people with special educational needs will have their needs identified and met within school or college or early years setting. Sometimes outside agencies may also assess your child’s needs and develop strategies to meet them.

This is called a multi-agency approach. Sometimes this will be recorded in a non-statutory plan called an Early Help Record and Plan which will be developed with parents, and regularly monitored, evaluated and reviews against the outcomes.

Helpful resources

Help us to improve this website

Use this form to provide feedback on this webpage. Don't use it to contact us about a service or make a complaint. We will not reply, even if you include personal details such as your name and address. If you want us to reply, you should contact us in a different way.

What is your feedback for this webpage?

Give feedback about this page