Special Educational Needs (SEN) support

Support for children and young people with special educational needs, without an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

There are usually two levels of support in schools and settings for children with special educational needs:

  1. Special educational needs (SEN support), which is provided by the school or setting
  2. Education, health and care plans, sometimes called an EHCP, for when special educational needs support is not enough for your child to get the support they need.

Graduated approach

Once it has been decided that your child has special educational needs, their school or setting will put cycles of the graduated approach in place. This means they must:

  • assess his or her needs
  • plan what additional and different support or intervention they need
  • do - deliver this additional support and/or intervention
  • review - decide how effective this was and what needs to happen next

The school or setting should draw up a special educational needs support plan, involving you and your child in this planning and then in reviewing the plan at least three times a year.

The local authority funds schools and settings to meet special education needs and support. This meets the needs of most children with additional needs.

Schools are also able to request additional specialist involvement from other agencies at this stage. This means that there’s a wide range of professionals available to work in partnership with you to meet your child’s special educational needs. For more information, please see our SEND Specialist Support and Inclusion page.

Questions you might want to ask school

  • Why do you think my child has special educational needs or a disability?
  • How do you know that my child doesn’t have special educational needs or a disability?
  • What happens now?
  • What extra support is available to support my child?
  • How can we help as a family?
  • When and how will we review progress and special educational needs provision?
  • Who can support me?

The Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) at your child’s school or setting should usually be your main point of contact for discussions about their special educational needs, the additional support they need and the progress this leads to.


You can also contact the SEND Information and Advice Service (SENDIASS) for impartial information, advice and support. If you would like to speak to someone from the local authority please contact the special educational needs admin team and they will direct your enquiry to a member of staff based in your local SEND hub.

Contact us

Charities and other organisations also offer advice and support. You can find out more information about these, and local groups on our Local Offer page

Other information

The Department for Education has published a guide for parents and carers ‘Special educational needs and disability: a guide for parents and carers’ (2014)

This guides parents through the different parts of the SEN Code of Practice 0-25 years.