Frequently Asked Questions
What is meant by SEND (special educational needs and disabilities)?
A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special provision to be made for them. (A young person is defined as a person over compulsory school age (the end of the academic year in which they turn 16).
A child or young person has a learning difficulty or disability if they:
- Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
- Has a disability which makes it difficult for them to use the facilities normally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or post-16 institutions.
The broad areas of special educational needs are:
- Communication and interaction
- Cognition and learning
- Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
- Sensory or physical needs
Someone has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
How are children or young people with SEN (special educational needs) supported in schools and other educational settings?
The Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years states that all children and young people are entitled to an appropriate education which is appropriate to their needs, which will enable them to:
- Achieve their best
- Become confident individuals living fulfilling lives, and
- Make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training.
Education, health, social care and other services should work closely together to meet a child or young person's needs. School and other educational settings are required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils they teach. Government funded mainstream schools must:
- Use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need - this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people's SEN
- Ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN
- Designate a teacher to be responsible for coordinating SEN provision - this teacher is called the SEN coordinator or SENCO
- Inform parents that they are making special educational provision for a child
- Prepare an SEN information report which sets out how the school will meet the needs of their pupils with SEN and publish this on their website.
Children and young people's special educational needs should be met through a graduated approach which recognises that children and young people learn in different ways, and can have different kinds and levels of SEN. A child or young person's SEN should be addressed as soon as possible through early intervention, high quality teaching and SEN provision.
This leaflet provides further information about the SEND Graduated Approach.
SEN provision is when a children or young people with SEN or disabilities access help from their educational setting that is extra or different to that usually available to pupils or students of the same age to help them to access the curriculum. Many children and young people (about one in six) will require additional support for their SEN or disabilities at any given time during their education.
The child or young person's special educational needs are assessed, desired outcomes identified for them, and a support plan, which includes SEN provision, is put in place. This is known as the ASSESS, PLAN, DO, REVIEW cycle of support.
SEN provision has a broad definition, and could cover a wide range of things, for example:
- Additional support in class from a teaching assistant
- Having materials presented in a different way, e.g. in a larger font
- Specific interventions for literacy or numeracy
- Support with communication or social interaction
- Support for their emotional needs
A child or young person's support plan is reviewed after an agreed period of time to check progress and see if any changes need to be made. The child and their parents, or the young person should be fully involved in this process and their views taken into account.
The educational setting may ask for advice or support from external support services from education, health and/or social care professionals, and will seek the consent of parents or young people for this to happen. Educational settings are funded to meet the needs of their pupils with SEND, but can also ask the Local Authority for extra funding, known as 'high needs funding', to meet a child or young person's needs, when this may be necessary.
This leaflet explains the funding system for supporting children and young people with SEN.
Some children or young people may need additional support which is not considered to be special educational provision; for example they might need certain treatments or medicines administered at school because of a medical condition they have. In order to be classed as having SEN, they must require support with education which is different from that given to other children or young people of the same age.
What can I do if I don't think my child is getting the support they need in school?
If you are concerned about how the school is supporting your child you should contact the class teacher, form tutor or SENCO as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. You can ask for a meeting to talk through extra support for your child. If your child has had recent assessments outside of school or has received a medical diagnosis, it is important to share this information with the school so that they can better understand your child's needs and the best ways to help them in school.
You can look at the SEN Information Report for the school, their policy for SEN, and other relevant policies, such as their equality and behaviour policies to see how pupils with SEN are supported in the school. These documents can be found on the school's website. It is also a good idea to keep a file of documents that relate to your child's SEN; e.g. examples of school work, school reports, test results, SEN support plans, professional reports, etc.
It can be helpful to write a list of your concerns prior to talking to or meeting with school staff; for example, concerns about
- Your child's progress with their schoolwork, concentration, social skills and physical skills, etc
- Behaviour at school
- Behaviour at home
- How your child feels about school
- Other issues such as bullying and any action taken so far.
During a meeting with the school you may also want to discuss:
- How your child is currently supported in school and whether they have a SEN support plan; if not, whether they need one
- How the school is measuring your child's progress and whether he/she is making expected progress
- The involvement of any specialist services; e.g. SEND Support Services, Educational Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapy, CYPS (Children and Young People Service for mental health), etc
- What you can do at home to help your child
- What the next steps will be if your child needs more help
What are EHC (Education, Health and Care) needs assessments and EHC Plans?
The needs of most children and young people with SEN can be met with high quality teaching and SEN Support. If a child or young person has very high levels of need and does not make expected progress over a period of time, the educational setting, parents or young person may consider asking the local authority to carry out an EHC (Education, Health and Care) needs assessment. In making their decision, the Local Authority will require evidence about the steps that have been taken already and why the child or young person needs more support than the setting can normally provide.
The local authority must conduct an EHC needs assessment when it considers that it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person through an EHC (Education Health and Care) Plan. The EHC Plan is a legal document that details the child or young person's SEN and the education, health and social care provision required.
These leaflets provide further information:
For further information on EHC needs assessments and Plans, including how to request an EHC needs assessment (Statutory Assessment) visit the Contact website or IPSEA (Independent Parental Special Education Advice) websites:
What can I do if my child is being bullied in school?
There is no legal definition of bullying. However, it is usually defined as behaviour that is repeated; intended to hurt someone either physically or emotionally; and often aimed at certain groups, e.g. because of disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Bullying can take many forms and includes name calling, making offensive comments or threats, kicking, hitting, taking belongings, inappropriate text messaging and emailing, sending offensive or degrading images by mobile phone or via the internet, producing offensive graffiti, gossiping, excluding people from groups, and spreading hurtful and untruthful rumours. Bullying can seriously damage a child or young person's confidence and sense of worth, and may affect their health. It needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Bullying is different from the usual disagreements that children and young people may have from time to time.
Schools maintained by the Local Authority must have measures in place to encourage good behaviour and respect for others, and to prevent and address all forms of bullying. They are required by law to have a behaviour policy in place, which should include a clear anti-bullying policy and strategies to tackle bullying.
If you think your child is being bullied, you should talk to your child and then talk to the school about what can be done about it.
Specific information for parents of children with SEN and disabilities and a guide to dealing with bullying, can be found on the Contact website at
What is meant by exclusion and what can I do if my child has been excluded or is at risk of exclusion from school?
There are two types of exclusion from school; fixed term (for a specific number of school days) or permanent. Fixed term exclusions must not add up to a total of more than 45 days in one school year. Children with SEN and/or disabilities are much more likely to be excluded from school than other children.
Only the head teacher of a school or the principal of an academy can exclude a pupil. Any exclusion of a pupil, even for a short period of time, must be formally and accurately recorded.
Formal exclusion is the only legal method of removing a child from a school. Informal or unofficial exclusions are illegal regardless of whether they are done with the agreement of the parents or carers. A lunchtime exclusion is counted as a half day exclusion.
Pupils can only be excluded for disciplinary reasons: they cannot be excluded because a school, pupil referral unit (PRU) or academy cannot meet their needs or for something which their parents did or did not do.
Exclusion from school is a serious step for a school to take and can be a worrying time for parents and children. Coram Children's Legal Centre, an independent national organisation, provides advice on their website about steps you can take if your child has been excluded from school.
You can also contact us on 01670 623555 or 01670 620350 for information, advice and support.
What is meant by disability discrimination?
A disabled person is defined as someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial, long term and adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Long term is defined as 'a year or more' and substantial is defined as 'more than minor or trivial'. A key principle of the Equality Act 2010 is that, wherever possible, disabled people should have the same opportunities as non-disabled people in their access to education.
The Equality Act covers admissions, exclusions, education and associated services. It sets out the legal obligations that schools, early years providers, post-16 providers, local authorities and others have towards disabled children and young people. They must not directly or indirectly discriminate against disabled children and young people. 'Reasonable adjustments' must be made to make sure disabled children and young people are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with their peers. This duty is anticipatory in that it requires thought to be given in advance to what disabled children and young people might require and what adjustments may need to be made to prevent any disadvantage. Schools and local authorities must publish accessibility plans setting out how they plan to increase access for disabled pupils to the curriculum and the physical environment.
This link to the Contact website gives further details, including steps you can take if you feel that your child is being discriminated against at school.
Is my child entitled to free transport to get to and from school?
The Council provides free transport to children who:
- are of compulsory school age
- are a resident of Northumberland
- attend their nearest and appropriate qualifying school, or
- attend their nearest school chosen on grounds of religion or belief
- live beyond the statutory walking distance for their age, or
- live within the statutory walking distance for their age but the walking route is deemed “unavailable” for safety reasons by the council, or
- qualify for “extended rights” on the grounds of low income, or
- are unable to walk to school as a result of their disability, special educational needs or mobility problems
Further information can be found in the following documents:
- The Northumberland Couty Council Home to School Travel and Transport Policy which covers home to school transport arrangements for children of compulsory school age who attend a publicly funded school.
- The Home to School Transport Handbook for Parents & Carers of Children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND).
A separate policy is applied for students aged over 16 which can be accessed by visiting the School Transport webpage.