Introduction to SEND

Frequently asked questions on special educational needs and /or disabilities (SEND) for children and young people between the ages of 0 -25


 1.  What is the definition of a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND)?

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says that children of school age or young people have a special educational need or disability if they:

  • have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of other children and young people of the same age
  • have a disability which stops or holds up them from making use of facilities and support provided for others of the same age in mainstream settings.

Read the Code of Practice here (external link) and see ‘What is the SEND Code of Practice 2015?’ below.


2.  What is a disability?

The Equality Act 2010 says a child or young person is disabled if they have a mental or physical impairment. The impairment must be expected to last longer than a year and has a large effect on their day-to-day life.

3.  What happens if a parent or carer or the setting thinks a child might have SEND?

If a parent or carer thinks that their child/young person has SEND, parents/carers should:

  • Talk to the class teacher/tutor in the first instance
  • Arrange a meeting with the school/setting’s SENDCo (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator) to discuss concerns and support.

If the education setting/school thinks that the child/young person has SEND they should:

  • Talk to the parent/carer about their concerns and start to gather evidence such as reviews of outcomes and reports about the child/young person’s progress.

4.  What should schools / education settings then do?

Schools and education settings need to make Reasonable Adjustments. This means making adjustments in both the setting and the curriculum so that children and young people can access learning.  Learn more about reasonable adjustments here (external link).   They also need to provide SEN Support (see below)

5.  What is Special Educational Needs Support (SEN Support) in schools? (see also questions 1 and 2 above)

The setting/school should give the child/young person the support they need. This could include getting advice and support from specialists outside the school, such as an educational psychologist or a speech and language therapist.

This SEND Support should be based on a four-part cycle of ‘assess, plan, do, review’.  This means that schools / settings must first:

  • ‘assess’ the strengths and difficulties, then
  • ‘plan’ what needs to be done to improve outcomes, then
  • ‘do’ i.e., carry out those plans, and then
  • ‘review’ the impact and decide (‘plan’ again) what more – or less – now needs to be done.

The Code of Practice section 6.44 says; “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”.

For more information about SEND Support in Sutton, please visit the Local Offer.

6.  What are the different types of special educational needs and disability?

  • Communication and Interaction – for example, where children and young people have speech, language and communication difficulties. These difficulties make it hard for them to make sense of language. It may be hard for them to understand how to communicate well and appropriately with others.
  • Cognition and Learning – for example, where children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age. They may have difficulty with organisation or memory skills, or in understanding parts of the curriculum. They may have a specific difficulty with one particular part of their learning performance, such as in literacy and numeracy.
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties – for example, where children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people. They may be withdrawn. They may behave in ways that hold up their and other children’s learning, or that impact on their health and wellbeing.
  • Sensory and/or Physical needs – for example, children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments. They may have a physical need that means they must have extra ongoing support and equipment.

A child or young person’s needs may cover more than one area. Further descriptions can be found in the SEND Code of Practice 2015 section 6.28.   You can find the Code of Practice 2015 by clicking on this link (external link).

7.  What is the SEND Code of Practice 2015?

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 is the statutory guidance that explains how the Children and Families Act 2014 is put into practice. It sets out how children and young people’s special educational needs and / or disabilities should be met. All local authorities and health services have to follow it (unless there is a very good reason for them not to).

The Code of Practice makes it clear that the following points must always be considered:

  • the views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person, and the child’s parents
  • the importance of the child or young person, and the child’s parents, taking part in decisions, and being given the information and support needed to take part
  • the need to support the child or young person, and the child’s parents, in order to help the development of the child or young person.

It also stresses the importance of everyone helping children and young people to achieve their best educational and other outcomes, and to prepare them for adulthood. Read more about preparing for adulthood.

8.  Who must follow the Code of Practice?

  • local authorities (education, social care and relevant housing and employment and other services)
  • the governing bodies of schools, including non-maintained special schools
  • the governing bodies of further education colleges and sixth form colleges
  • the proprietors of academies (including free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools)
  • the management committees of pupil referral units
  • independent schools and independent specialist providers approved under Section 41 of the Children and Families Act 2014
  • all early years providers in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors that are funded by the local authority
  • the National Health Service Commissioning Board
  • clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)
  • NHS Trusts
  • NHS Foundation Trusts
  • local health boards
  • youth offending teams and relevant youth custodial establishments
  • the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability).

9.  What is an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)?

Most children and young people with SEND will be supported within their mainstream early year setting, school or college through the Graduated Response and Quality First Teaching, with targeted and personalised support.

However, some children’s needs are more complex and long term and will require provision (support) that is over and above what would ordinarily be available in a mainstream setting.  In these situations, and when an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) has shown that this is the case, additional support is provided through an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)


For more information about EHC Needs Assessments and Plans (including how to ask for an assessment and what forms to complete) please visit: (external website)