Special Educational Needs

Legal definition of SEN

The term Special Educational Needs (SEN) has a legal definition.

What does Special Educational Needs (SEN) mean?

Children with special educational needs have learning difficulties or impairments that make it harder for them to learn than most children the same age. 

Children with SEN might need additional help with a range of needs, such as:

Many children have additional or special educational needs of some kind at different times during their education. Schools and other organisations can help most children overcome these difficulties easily and quickly. But a few children will need extra help for most or all of their time at school.

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans

The Children and Families Act includes some key elements that affect families of disabled children and young people:
  • Local authorities must publish a clear, transparent ‘local offer’ of services, so parents and young people can understand what is available.
  • A more streamlined assessment process, co-ordinated across education, health and care, will involve children and young people and their families throughout.
  • Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans replaced Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments. These plans (from age 0 to 25) reflect the child or young person’s aspirations for the future, as well as their current needs.
  • Young people aged 16 to 25 in Further Education will have the right to request a particular institution named in their EHC plan and the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

What is an Education, Health and Care Plan? 

Education, Health and Care Plans are only available for children with severe and complex needs. All families with an approved education, health and care plan have a legal right to request a personal budget, if they choose.

Will this replace my child’s Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN)? 

Yes. The Council for Disabled Children has produced a parent-friendly guide on the Special Educational Needs and Disability system.

Where can I get more information and support about SEN changes?

A range of organisations are available to assist parents and young disabled people with Education, Health and Care Plan process.

The Council for Disabled Children has information on who is available in your area. You can receive Independent Support from a trained and experienced person to help you navigate through the new SEN system.

What happens if my child attends an academy or free school?

Academies and free schools have the same SEN duties as other schools.

If you live in Leeds, Suffolk, Norfolk, Peterborough, Thurrock or Southend

Scope can provide Independent Support to you and your child. Please fill out our Independent Support form to register.

Find more SEN websites.

Got a question about Education, Health and Care Plans?

Contact our helpline