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Our Favourite Things to Know About Special Educational Needs

Tinies Education Special: A growing number of children in the UK are now said to have Special Educational Needs and Disability, but what does that mean and what support is available if your child has SEND?

 

Over 1 in 5 children in England have SEN

Around 21% of children in England are said to have Special Educational Needs and Disability, which translates to about 1.7m children.

As a parent, you may be worried that your child fits into that category, but it's a complex term so you could be forgiven for not knowing what it all means!

We've found out the key facts, along with where and how to find support.

What are 'Special Educational Needs and Disability'?

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) is a legal term...

It's used to describe the factors or disabilities that make it more difficult for a child to learn compared to other children around the same age. Learning difficulties or disabilities included within SEND are wide-ranging, and can include:

  • Learning difficulties - which prevent or hinder them from adopting basic skills in school
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties - they may find it difficult to socialise, make friends or behave appropriately in school
  • Specific learning difficulty - they could struggle to read, write, use numbers, and to process or understand information given to them
  • Sensory or physical needs - this includes hearing or visual impairment, which might affect them in school
  • Communication problems - it might be tricky for the child to express themselves or understand what others are saying
  • Medical or health conditions - these may slow down a child's progress and involve treatment that affects his or her education.

Note: Although extra support may be given at school to children who have English as a second language, it's not technically considered by law to be a Special Educational Need or Disability.

What should I do if I think my child has SEND?

Recognising Special Educational Needs and Disability

Contact your Local Authority or councilIt's important to remember that every child will progress at his or her own rate, and there are lots of different ways in which children learn effectively.

Try not to assume that, just because your child is making slower progress than you expected or that teachers are providing different help and activities, he or she has SEND. There could be a variety of reasons for slightly altered support during lessons.

If you're concerned that your child is experiencing difficulties in learning or is developing at a much slower rate than expected for a child of their age, your first port of call is to seek professional advice from your GP.

Your next steps are as follows:

Nursery or pre-school

If your child is of a pre-school age, you should visit your GP and ask for their opinion. If your child attends a nursery or pre-school, speak to their teacher or key worker - you can contact your local council for information on SEND if your child isn't in a school or nursery.

Your local Parent Partnership Service can also offer advice on the topic.

Primary and Secondary school

If your child is already in school, start by talking to their teacher - they'll be able to offer a rounded view of your child's attainment levels and advise further.

Schools are also equipped with a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who's responsible for organising extra help and support for children with SEND; ask to speak to the SENCO as well as your child's class teacher.

Points to raise

You might want to have the following in mind when speaking to educational professionals:

  • Why you think your child has SEND
  • Whether your child learns at the same rate as other children their age
  • What the school can do to help
  • What you can do to help.

Once you've discussed your worries with the teacher and SENCO, you'll be able to find out what the school's opinion is on your child's situation. The SENCO will talk you through and detail what happens next.

If it's decided that your child has SEND, staff working with your child should take note of the guidance in the SEND Code of Practice (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have a similar Code of Practice, though there may be slight differences between them). The Code describes how help for children with SEND in schools and early education settings should be made through a step-by-step approach.

What educational support is out there?

Supporting children with Special Educational Needs and Disability

Your child may receive one-to-one supportThe 'graduated approach' in the SEND Code of Practice acknowledges that children learn in different ways and that there are different natures or levels of SEND.

This is great - it enables specialist help to be brought into the school to address a child's difficulties.

Approaches in the classroom

Teachers should be able to take account of any SEND by organising their lessons and teaching methods to suit those in need of specific support. Children making slower progress or having particular difficulties in one area may be given extra help or different lessons to help them.

Your child may receive an individually tailored learning programme, a support assistant, regular lessons alone or in a small group, and an Individual Education Plan (IEP) setting targets for improvement.

You should know what's happening

Your school or education setting must tell you before they start giving additional help due to your child having SEND; the procedure is called Early Years Action or School Action.

If your child isn't making enough progress, you should expect the teacher or SENCO to discuss further interventions from outside of the school with you. It might include getting input from advice from, say, an Educational Psychologist or a Speech and Language Therapist. This stage is known as School Action Plus.

Your child's progress will be carefully recorded, monitored and reviewed, and you should be kept informed about your child's progress. You should also be able to see an education plan for your child with clearly recorded reviews and outcomes, and reference to the involvement of other professionals, if applicable.

What happens if my child isn't making progress?

If your child still doesn't seem to be making enough progress or needs a lot of extra help, your Local Authority might decide to carry out a statutory assessment of your child's needs.

Education Healthcare Plan

An Education Healthcare Plan is a formal document detailing a child's learning difficulties and the help that will be given, and is only required for about 2% of the total school population. A Plan is given following a statutory assessment.

It's only necessary if the school or early education setting cannot provide all the help that your child needs, and is usually only required for children who have the most significant and long-term SEND that demand a very detailed assessment.

More information on SEND

Speak to your GP first

Arming yourself with as much information as possible is key when you have a child with SEND.

We found the following resources to be useful:

If your child does have Special Educational Needs and Disability, you will need to understand the nature and severity of their condition. There are many support groups and charities out there where you can interact with experts, and meet parents who have similar experiences to you.

 
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