Call our free helpline0808 808 3555
Call our free helpline
0808 808 3555
Most children with special educational needs (SEN) go to a
The law says that schools must do everything they can to make
sure children with SEN get the extra support they need to achieve
as well as they can. Mainstream schools do this through a system
called SEN support.
The school must publish information about how they support
pupils with SEN. It must also have a policy setting out how it
supports disabled pupils to be included in school activities.
Every mainstream school has a special educational needs
coordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for organising extra help
for pupils with SEN. The SENCO works with the class teachers and
subject teachers to plan the help each child needs.
The school must tell you if they are giving your child this
extra help. It should work with you and your child to plan their
support and regularly check how your child is progressing.
In England (see further down for Northern Ireland, Scotland and
Wales), every school must publish an SEN Information Report (SEND
Code of Practice section 6.79). This must include:
Your child's school must tell you if your child is receiving
special educational provision through SEN support.
The school should draw up an SEN support plan, involving you and
your child, focusing on the outcomes your child needs and wants to
achieve and detailing how the school will help them to achieve
The school should give you clear information about the extra
help your child is getting. The school should meet with you at
least three times a year to review how your child is progressing
and what the next steps will be. This should be in addition to
scheduled parents' evening meetings. The school must provide a
report at least once a year on your child's progress.
The SEND Code of Practice says that schools should use a
'graduated approach', or four-part cycle (Assess, Plan, Do and,
Review) to support your child with SEN. This means that the SENCO
and teaching staff should:
The school can ask specialist support services, for example,
educational psychology, behaviour support or speech and language
therapy to carry out assessments and provide further advice and
support if necessary.
In the podcast below, our parent adviser Michaela shares her top
tips for parents whose children are about to start a new
A small number of pupils may need more help than a mainstream
school can normally give at the level of SEN support. Such pupils
will need an Education
Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment to decide what help they
need. This assessment can lead to an Education Health and
Care (EHC) plan.
Pupils with an EHC Plan can go to a mainstream school or a
special school, depending on their needs. In a special school there
are only pupils with special educational needs, and they will
usually have needs that are more complex. The school may have
specially trained teachers, therapists or special equipment to
See below if you live in Wales or the bottom of this page if you
live in Northern Ireland or Scotland.
In England, it's a good idea to ask for a meeting with the class
teacher, form tutor or SENCO (see above) to discuss extra support
for your child. If they have had recent assessments or a diagnosis,
it is important to share this information with the SENCO so that
the school can better understand how to help your child at
You might want to ask someone who teaches your child and knows
them well, such as the class teacher, form tutor or head of year,
to attend the meeting as well.
Before the meeting
Look at the school's policies on SEN, equality and behaviour to
see how pupils with SEN and disabilities are supported in the
school. Collect your own evidence to show your child's
difficulties. For example:
Write a list of your concerns. Mention:
At the meeting
During the meeting, you may want to ask:
It is a good idea to make sure that at the end of the meeting,
you and the school agree what will happen next. Ask for this to be
put in writing. Agree a future date for another meeting to see if
anything has changed. It's helpful to end the meeting on a positive
note by emphasising that you hope that you and the school can work
together to support your child.
First, talk to the class teacher or form tutor. It's a good idea
to write a list of your worries, including your child's behaviour
at home. Ask whether the teacher shares your concerns and what the
school can do to help your child. If you have done this, and you're
still worried, make an appointment to speak to the special
educational needs coordinator (SENCO) at the school about your
worries. Listen to this podcast on how to approach the school and how a SENCO will work with parents. It may help if
you take a summary of what your concerns are including:
Your child should get more intensive help on School Action if
they are making little or no progress with the help normally
available in class. Depending on your child's needs and the
school's resources, help could include:
This is an increased level of support for pupils who need more
help than they can receive on School Action. Some children with
more complex needs may move straight to this level. Help may
If your child is getting extra help at school action or school
action plus, their progress should be recorded in an individual
education plan (IEP) - reviewed at least every six months. The
school must tell you about the support your child is getting and
involve you and your child in reviewing the IEP. This is a document
which lists three or four targets, the help which will be given to
achieve these and how success will be measured.
Your child may need more or less additional support as time goes
on, and so may move between School Action and School Action Plus,
or may no longer have special educational needs, if they have made
enough progress and no longer need the extra help. If a child needs
more help than a particular school can give at School Action Plus,
they may need a statutory
assessment. This is the first step to getting a statement of
special educational needs.
The special educational needs code of practice gives detailed
practical guidance on how to identify and help pupils with SEN.
Maintained schools and local authorities must always consider what
the code says, when they make a decision about a pupil with SEN.
The code says that a child with SEN should have their needs met,
and that parents have an important role to play in supporting their
child. If you have a child with SEN and you want to know what kind
of help they should be getting, you might find it helpful to look
at parts of the code of practice yourself. Download the SEN code of practice.
We also support Northern Ireland and Scotland. Give our helpline
a call on 0808 808 3555 and we can provide information or signpost
you to alternative sources of advice in those nations where
appropriate. Find out our local office details in the In your area
Any questions about support at school? How to get an EHC plan?
What kind of school is best for my child? Call our freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 and talk
to one of our education advisers.
Find out about Education,
Health and Care (EHC) assessments and EHC