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Special Educational Needs or SEN

The term Special Educational Needs (SEN) covers a wide range of needs including literacy, numeracy and other learning and thinking (cognition) skills, behavioural, social and emotional skills, communication and interaction skills (such as language difficulties or autism/ Asperger’s Syndrome) and physical / sensory skills including visual and hearing impairments.

There is a national Code of Practice regarding SEN and when a school feels that a child meets the criteria for SEN provision that is additional to or different from the provision usually put in place by the school, the child should be given that additional support. Provision for children with special educational needs is whole school matter and all teachers are teachers of children with SEN. Click for the definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN). All mainstream schools and Early Years provision are expected to have a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Early identification, assessment and provision for any child who may have special educational needs is essential. Regular recording of a child’s special educational needs, the action taken and the outcomes is also required.

Different levels of provision range from:
School Action is established when a child is identified as needing interventions that are additional to or different from those proved as part of the school’s usual differentiated curriculum and strategies.

School Action Plus is established when the child’s needs are such that the school needs to seek advice and support from external support services. These may be provided by the local Education Authority (LEA) or outside agencies such as myself.

Request for statutory assessment. Such a request may be made by school or parents, for only a very few pupils who have failed to make adequate progress though School Action Plus. The school will be expected to have already involved external agencies such as an Educational Psychologist, implemented and reviewed various strategies. If a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SSEN) is issued following the assessment process, this is a legal document describing the child’s needs and the provision needed to meet those needs. The statement is reviewed on an annual basis and can be reviewed more frequently if there are concerns or the child’s special educational needs (SEN) needs appear to have changed. Some local education authorities make available additional provision to schools when a statement has been issued, while an increasing number of LEA’s delegate provision i.e. additional funding is given to the schools as a matter of course and it is their responsibility to meet the needs of all the children in the school.

Individual Education Plan (IEP). Pupils receiving support at School Action, School Action Plus or via a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) should have the strategies to be employed to enable a child to make progress recorded on an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP should include short-term targets, teaching strategies, provision, review date, success and/ or exit criteria as well as recording the outcomes when the IEP is reviewed.

All schools and early education settings (nurseries etc) must have a written special educational needs policy. A child may not be refused admission to a school because they have special educational needs. Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) but without statements must be treated as fairly as other applicants for admission.

Interventions, or additional ideas, strategies and provision, include individual or small group work with a teacher or teaching assistant on skills such as literacy, numeracy, language, social/ emotional skills (emotional literacy/ emotional intelligence) or an individual behaviour plan might be established.

Outside consultants, e.g. an Educational Psychologist (EP) such as myself can be used at any time, including for consultations with teachers and parents etc, as well as providing in-service training (INSET) for some or all the staff about a variety of matters including various learning and behaviour management strategies. See Support for Schools and Early Years

The term AEN (Additional Educational Needs) is increasingly used to also include a wider range of needs not traditionally included as part of SEN, such as English as an Additional Language (EAL), traveller children and asylum seekers. It is suggested that any parent/ carer who has concerns about the their child’s education should first raise their concerns with the school, if they have not already done so.

There is a clear expectation that most children with special educational needs should be educated in mainstream schools, including many children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SSEN). Children need a SSEN in order to attend a special school.

In recent years there has been a national initiative to include as many children in mainstream schools as possible. The thinking behind this being that it benefits both the child concerned e.g. helping them to feel part of the community, learning appropriate skills from other mainstream children, more able to cope with the wider community during childhood and after leaving school. The Code of Practice states that, ‘ A parent’s wish to have their child with a statement educated in the mainstream should only be refused in the small minority of cases where the child’s inclusion would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children.’ (Section 1:35.) On the other hand, a number of parents argue that their child’s needs can only be adequately met with provision of a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SSEN) and placement in a special school.

Stephen Bayliss - Chartered Psychologist:

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