Special Educational Needs

Children learn at different speeds and not all children learn in the same way.

Many children need extra help of some kind during their time at school. In most cases, staff in mainstream schools can help children to overcome difficulties quickly and easily. They do this through providing a teaching programme suitable for each child's needs and level of ability. You may hear this called "differentiating the curriculum".

However, a few children will have difficulties that require help in addition to this. These children are said to have Special Educational Needs. They could have difficulties with:

  • all of the work in school
  • literacy, maths or understanding information
  • expressing themselves or understanding others
  • making friends or relating to others
  • a hearing or visual impairment
  • a physical or medical condition

Guidelines for mainstream schools have been produced to use when assessing a child's special educational needs.

These guidelines follow the government's Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs 2002 and set out what schools should be doing to support their pupils. The aim is to make sure all children with special educational needs:

  • have their needs identified as early as possible
  • have their needs met, usually at their local
  • mainstream school
  • have access to a suitable curriculum
  • make reasonable progress
  • have their and their parents' views taken into
  • account
  • are included fully in their school community
  • make a successful transition to adult life

Your child will still be part of the class group, but may receive some extra or different support to others in the class. This will be written down in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a Group Education Plan.

Working with school

Your child will have the best chance of success if you work with the school. 

  • You know your child better than anyone else, particularly what works at home. It can help if you are prepared to share your experience and good ideas with the staff at school.
  • Because teachers are seeing your child in a different environment from you at home they may have important knowledge and experience that they can offer you in return.
  • It is important to encourage your child and praise any achievements. You may find it helpful to set aside a specific time each day to talk with your child about school.
  • Try to be realistic in your expectations for your child. Small steps to success are important.
  • Teachers and other school staff will also benefit from your positive support and encouragement.
  • It is important to focus on your child's strengths as well as where there might be a need for additional support.
  • It may help to ask the question "What can we and the school do together to make something possible?"
  • Learning to play and share with other children will help your child develop good social relationships and build self-confidence.
  • Your child does need to be in school to take advantage of the education on offer. Try to avoid taking your child out of school during term time.

You can provide useful information to school about:

  • Any hobbies and interests your child enjoys.
  • How your child behaves at home.
  • Any changes in general health or well-being of your child.
  • Changes within your family which may affect your child.
  • Appointments, medical treatments or assessments outside school.
  • Difficulties with areas of school work or homework you may observe.

Most children's special educational needs can be met by their local mainstream school, using funding from the school's own budget. A small number of children with significant and complex needs may need a Education, Health and Care (EHC) Assessment. This could lead to a Statement of Special Educational Needs, which describes a child's difficulties and sets out the appropriate educational provision they need. More information about statutory assessment.


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