Special educational needs and disability (SEND)
Special educational needs, disability and areas of need
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (2015) defines special educational needs as follows
“A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
- has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age,
- has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream-post 16 institutions.”
For children aged two or more special educational provision is education or training provision that is additional to, or different from that generally is made for other children of the same age. For a child under the age of two, special educational provision means education provision of any kind. A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition shown above when they reach compulsory school age, or would do so if special educational provision were not made available for them.
Children’s special educational needs are generally thought of in the following four broad areas of need and support:
- communication and interaction;
- cognition and learning;
- social, emotional and mental health, and;
- sensory and/or physical needs.
There is often an overlap between disability and special educational needs. Therefore, a child can be defined as being disabled, having a special educational need (SEN) or having both a special educational need and a disability (SEND).
The Equality Act (2010) defines disability as
a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
This definition provides a relatively low threshold and includes many children and adults. Long term is defined by the Equality Act as a year or more and substantial is defined as more than minor to trivial.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and SEND
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the statutory framework for children's early education aged 0 to 5 years providing standards for all children's learning (including those with additional needs), development and care in early years settings. All early years providers must follow the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the EYFS and the learning and development requirements, unless an exemption from these has been granted. All Ofsted-registered settings offering early years provision must meet these standards to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe.
The EYFS states that those that work with young children should be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early to concerns. SENCOs need to be aware that in particular, parent/carers know their children best and it is important that all practitioners listen and understand when they express concerns about their child’s development. They should also listen to and address any concerns raised by children themselves.
The EYFS framework requires non-maintained providers to have arrangements in place for meeting children’s special educational needs. They should have clear arrangements in place for identifying children’s additional needs and to promote equal opportunities. This approach should form part of the provider’s overall approach to monitoring the ongoing assessment of all children’s progress and development.
Those in group provision are expected to identify a SENCO and childminders are encouraged to identify a person to act as SENCO to help support children with SEN.
If a child is also disabled then the child is offered support and protection under the Equality Act 2010. Additional duties are set out within the Act for those settings in receipt of public funding.
How can settings ensure that children with SEND are supported?
Funded early years settings should follow the guidance in the EYFS and SEND Code of Practice to ensure all requirements outlined are incorporated into all aspects of their provision. Settings should ensure that all staff are knowledgeable in relevant law and policy and know how to apply it in their practice. This ensures children's needs are identified early, appropriate support is given, and children are referred onto external agencies if their learning and development continues to be a concern. Below are some other useful resources produced by the Alliance to keep practice lawful and effective:
Ready Steady SENCO This publication provides guidance on the essential qualities to being an early years Senco
Guide to the Equality Act and Good Practice This publication provides guidance on the Equality Act and good practice in the provision of services for disabled children, adults users and staff
Member settings can download free mini guides on the SEND Code of Practice and Working with children with SEND from our members area
Members can access free Cache endorsed training via our online platform EduCare.
Other useful documents