Oxfordshire SEND local offer

Does my child have special educational needs?

What are special educational needs and where to go if you are worried about your child?

What do we mean by 'special educational needs or disability' (SEND)?

Children and young people with SEND have barriers to their learning making it more challenging for them in comparison to other children and young people of the same age. They may need different or additional support to help them thrive and reach their potential and could have a range of needs that might change over time. The SEND Code of Practice categorises these needs into four broad areas:

  • Communication and Interaction
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health
  • Sensory and/or Physical needs

Children and young people with a disability may or may not have special educational needs. A disability is described as a continuing condition, physical or mental, which makes it more difficult to carry out certain day-to-day activities.

If you have concerns about your child or their progress then you can talk to their key worker (nursery), class teacher (in primary school), form tutor or head of year (in secondary school) or tutor (in college). They will be able to offer advice and support in the first instance and may also speak to the special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (SENDCO). You can also ask to speak with the SENDCO for further guidance.

Staff will work closely with you and your child to identify needs as soon as possible and to ensure appropriate support is put in place at the earliest opportunity.

At times staff may seek advice from external professionals or other agencies who can offer additional support.

SEN support

SEN support is the way in which staff identify, plan for, and meet the needs of children with SEN. This approach is known as the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ cycle and is often referred to as the ‘graduated approach’.


The SENDCO will work alongside other staff to observe and assess your child to begin identifying potential barriers to learning.

They will speak with your child to find out their views and will talk to you about any needs they may have identified. You can ask questions or for further information so that you are clear about what support might be needed and why.

If your child has identifiable barriers, then the next step is to create a plan to ensure they are being supported in the right way.


Once any needs have been identified, the team around your child will develop some aspirational and realistic outcomes and an accompanying plan of support to meet these over time.

Your child’s strengths will be used to inform this plan which will help to ensure support and activities are going to work for them.

These activities, strengths, and outcomes will be written into a support plan, sometimes called a pupil profile. The plan will outline what support should be implemented and how frequently it should take place, as well as where this might happen, such as in a small group, in the classroom or out of class.

This plan must be reviewed throughout the year, usually once a term but more frequently if required.


Once a plan has been put together the nursery, school or college will take steps to put this into action. This may be through in-class strategies, physical resources or interventions to fill gaps in learning.


When it is time to review the plan, you will be involved in evaluating how effective the support has been in helping your child to meet their targets and outcomes.

Changes can be made to the plan using your and your child's input, supported by staff in the setting. Often children will have made good progress and the support will no longer be required. Where less progress has been made, the plan can be adjusted.

The assess, plan, do, and review cycle can be repeated as required.

Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

Most children with SEN will have their needs met with SEN support. An education, health and care plan (EHCP) can be requested when help beyond SEN support is required.

An EHCP is a legal document that describes a child or young person's special educational, health and social care needs. It explains the extra support that must be provided to help meet those needs.

You can find out more about the process of applying for an EHCP.

Frequently asked questions

Is SEN the same as disability?

A disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a long term and substantial negative impact on daily life.

Not all children with special educational needs are disabled. At the same time, a child or young person may be disabled but will only have special educational needs if the disability impacts on his or her learning.

Whether a child or young person has a disability and/or special educational needs, there are laws and guidance to help ensure that their needs are recognised and supported.

My child has SEN and is finding school hard. What can I do to help?

As your child already has identified Special Educational Needs, it is a good idea to ask to meet with the staff team working with your child and the SENDCO at the school. You may already have a review meeting arranged to look at your child's progress and support but,  if not, you can contact your child’s teacher to ask for one to be set up.

You can explain at the meeting why you think your child needs more help. Perhaps you feel they are not making progress,are falling further behind or just telling you and showing you that they are unhappy at school. You can ask to see evidence of the progress your child is making and talk through any changes to support that you feel would help.

The school might offer increased support or adapt the ways they are teaching your child. The school should always be able to show you what support your child is getting, how they are monitoring progress and who else is involved in planning their support, for example, an educational psychologist or a speech and language therapist.

How do I decide which is the best school for my child with SEN?

This question applies whether you have a child starting school at 5,  when they are transferring to secondary school or when expressing a preference for a placement in a specialist setting (if your child has an Education Health Care Plan in place)..

All children are different, so are all schools. The best way to decide which school will suit your child and meet their needs is to visit a range of schools to get a clearer picture of what is available and where your child will fit in and be well supported.

The SENDIASS leaflet Choosing a school (pdf format, 79Kb) provides questions you might like to ask during your visit. It helps to ask the same questions at each school. The OCC webpage is also useful to support your choice 

If you are deciding which school to name in your child's  Education Health and Care Plan, the discussions you had when writing their EHCP with professionals who know your child well may give you some pointers as to the school which can best meet your child's needs. Most children stay in the same local mainstream school they attended before they had the EHC Plan.

Help and information

Search on the Family Information Service website for organisations and groups that support parents and carers of disabled children and young people and those with SEN and additional needs.

Impartial free advice and support - education

The special educational needs and disability information advice and support service (SENDIASS) offers impartial information, advice and support to parents of children and young people with SEN and disabilities regarding their education. You can get in touch by completing this online form.

The service aims to help parents, carers, young people and educational professionals to work together to provide the best possible support to children and young people with special educational needs, by:

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