Extra support in school

The information on this page is for families in England only. I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

The law says that schools must do everything they can to make sure children with special educational needs (SEN) get the extra support they need to achieve as well as they can.

Most children with special educational needs (SEN) go to a mainstream school. Mainstream schools provide this extra help through a system called SEN support.

In this article

School SEN information report

Schools must publish information about how they support pupils with SEN. They must also have a policy setting out how it supports disabled pupils to be included in school activities.

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 role of the SENCO

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.  

If you think your child needs some extra help in the classroom, make an appointment to speak to your child’s SENCO or teacher about your worries. It may help if you take a summary of what your concerns are including:

Ask what support your child is getting, whether the teacher or SENCO shares your concerns, and what the next stage will be if they need more help.

The SEN support plan

If your child is receiving 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 these.

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.

What if I have questions about how the school is supporting my child?

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 school.

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.

What if my child needs more help than their school can give?

A small number of pupils may need more help than a mainstream school can normally give at the level of SEN support. These 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 support them.

Information for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Read our information about education in Wales.

Find out about the system of support for children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland on the NI Education Authority website or Senac (special educational needs advice centre).

In Scotland, the system of support for children with additional support needs is called additional support for learning. You can read more about it on the Enquire website.