Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: FAQ

What does Special Education Needs mean?

Children and young people with Special Educational Needs may need more support to learn than the majority of children and young people of the same age; some may have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities provided for learners. About one in five children and young people may have Special Educational Needs at some time.

All children and young people learn at different rates and have different events going on in their lives that can affect their rate of learning. Early years’ settings, schools, colleges and Local Authorities can help most children overcome these difficulties. For some, these difficulties are short–term; for other children, however, they will have Special Educational Needs throughout their school or college life. Some will have Special Educational Needs in particular areas of their education, whilst others may need help with all or most aspects of their education.

A child or young person has Special Educational Needs 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 them from making use of facilities for education or training of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in schools or settings.

What are other types of Special Needs?

There is not a direct link between having a disability and having a Special Educational Need (SEN). However, there will be some forms of disability where a child or young person is more likely to have SEN. The critical factor is whether the disability prevents or hinders the learner from making use of education or training that is generally provided.

English as an additional language
A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language in which they are, or will be taught, is different from a language which is or has been used at home.

Healthcare needs
Not all learners with a medical or healthcare need will have SEN. Medical conditions will not be regarded as SEN where:

  • they do not cause a significantly greater difficulty in learning, or 
  • where they do not constitute a disability that necessarily affects access to education or training generally on offer.

However, if a healthcare need does impact on a child or young person’s capacity to learn, they may require some adaptation to the curriculum which is set out in an Individual Health Care Plan.  

When do you know if a child has Special Educational Needs?

Some learning difficulties are clear from an early age, but in some cases the difficulties may not be noticed until the child is attending a school or setting. Also, children may have difficulties in several areas.  If children have levels of attainment well below expected levels, after teachers have tried different ways of helping, this can be called Moderate Learning Difficulties (or MLD) or General Learning Difficulties (or GLD).

Children who are behind in their work (or are struggling) will often have low self-esteem, low levels of concentration and low motivation. They may refuse to try new work because they think they will fail before they start. These children will often need support to access the curriculum.

What are some examples of the Special Educational Needs that a child may experience?

  • Reading, writing, number work,
  • Understanding information,
  • Expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying,
  • Making friends or relating to adults,
  • Behaving appropriately at school,
  • Organising themselves,
  • Difficulty in hearing, seeing or moving around which may affect their learning.

With many children, these difficulties are not severe and are temporary.

What might a child with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities need extra help with?

  • Thinking, understanding and learning,
  • Physical activities,
  • Managing sensory issues,
  • Understanding and managing emotional or social difficulties,
  • Expressing their needs, knowledge and skills using alternative to speech,
  • Understanding language,
  • Understanding how to relate to and behave with other people,
  • Accessing environments and activities within an educational setting.

How can schools support children with Special Educational Needs?

Schools and other settings can help most children overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily, but few children will need extra help for some, or all their time in school.

The way that schools and settings assess and identify whether a child or young person has a Special Educational Need or Disability may vary but all schools and settings must follow the guidance set out in the SEND Code of Practice (2015)

To find out more about how St James supports children identified with an SEND please see the Support in School section.

What is an EHCP and how do I apply for one?

Please see information on the local offer via this link:

What is an EHCP? - Local Offer Birmingham

This shows the typical timeline for the completion of an EHCNA