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Identifying and Assessing Special Educational Needs (SEN)


What are special educational needs?

Children and young people with SEN have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help from that given to others.

Children and young people with SEN may need extra help because of a range of needs. This may be a need related to:

  • Communicating or interacting with others
  • Thinking and understanding
  • Social or emotional development
  • Mental health difficulties
  • Sight or hearing
  • Physical development

Many children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. A disability is described in law (the Equality Act 2010) as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term (a year or more) and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ This includes, for example, sensory impairments such as those that affect sight and hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.


What should I do if I am concerned my child may have SEN or a disability? 

As a parent, you will know your child better than anyone else. If you feel that your child may have additional needs, you could discuss your concerns with your Health Visitor or GP who will be able to refer you to other more specialist services, if required.

If your child has started at an Early Years setting such as a pre-school or day nursery or is in school, you could also discuss your concerns with your child’s class teacher or key person in the first instance. You may also ask to meet with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at the school, who has responsibility for ensuring that children’s needs are assessed and that suitable provision is arranged to enable children to progress and participate in all aspects of school life.

You can also contact the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service for Windsor and Maidenhead on 01628 683182 or email This is a free, impartial and confidential service available to any parent and child, or young person, resident in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.


SEN support in education settings 

You can approach your child’s school or other setting if you think your child might have SEN or they might contact you if they think your child might benefit from SEN support. If they decide to provide your child with support for their SEN, they must tell you.

The help provided within a school or an Early Years setting is called SEN support. This used to be called school action or school action plus or early years action or early years action plus.

SEN support is support which is ‘additional to’ or ‘different from’ the support given to other children in the class

SEN support provided is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives that have been set for them. This approach varies in how it works depending on the age of your child – for example, it may work differently in a nursery than it will in a school.

SEN support is part of what is known as the ‘graduated approach’ and in general works as follows :

  • Assess: Your child’s difficulties must be assessed by the staff working with your child so that the right support can be provided. This should include, for example, asking you what you think, talking to professionals who work with your child (such as their teacher), and looking at records and other information. This needs to be reviewed regularly so that the support provided continues to meet your child’s needs. That might mean getting advice and further assessment from someone like the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at school, Educational Psychologist, a specialist teacher or a health professional.
  • Plan: Your school or other setting needs to agree, with your involvement, the outcomes that the SEN support is intended to achieve – in other words, how your child will benefit from any support they get – and you need to be involved with that. All those involved will need to have a say in deciding what kind of support will be provided, and decide a date by which they will review this so that they can check to see how well the support is working and whether the outcomes have been or are being achieved.
  • Do: The setting will put the planned support into place. The teacher remains responsible for working with your child on a daily basis, but the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) and any support staff or specialist teaching staff involved in providing support should work closely to track your child’s progress and check that the support is being effective.
  • Review: The support your child receives should be reviewed at the time agreed in the plan. You can then decide together if the support is having a positive impact, whether the outcomes have been, or are being, achieved and if or how any changes should be made. Although there will be day to day monitoring of the impact the support is having for your child, having a more formal review meeting helps the key people involved decide on any changes that might be necessary.

SEN support can take many forms. This could include:

  • a special learning programme for your child
  • extra help from a teacher or a learning support assistant
  • making or changing materials and equipment
  • working with your child in a small group
  • observing your child in class or at break and keeping records
  • helping your child to take part in the class activities making sure that your child has understood things by encouraging them to ask questions and to try something they find difficult
  • helping other children to work with your child, or play with them at break time supporting your child with physical or personal care difficulties, such as eating, getting around school safely, toileting or dressing
  • modifying the classroom environment in a way that reduces stress for the child/young person

Each school, early years setting and college in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has been asked to provide information about the support they provide for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and disabilities for the Local Offer. This includes the SEN support they provide. To view any educational provider's Local Offer, please go the Childcare and Education section of the Local Offer and type in the name of the school as a keyword in the blue toolbar at the top of the page.

We have also set out the support we expect each school to give to any child or young person with SEN and Disabilities including SEN support. This can be found in our Local Authority wide Local Offer.

You can find out more about SEN support by contacting your child’s education provider, or by contacting the Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Service for Windsor and Maidenhead on 01628 683182 or email


Education, Health and Care Plans 

In most cases your child’s school or other setting will be able to meet the needs of children through SEN support. Children and young people with more complex needs might need an assessment for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, which have replaced Statements of SEN and Learning Disability Assessments (LDAs) from September 2014.

An EHC Plan brings your child’s education, health and social care needs into a single, legal document. Your child must have special educational needs to be eligible for a plan.

If you would like to talk to someone about a possible needs assessment for an Education, Health and Care Plan, you can contact the Children and Young People’s Disability Service (CYPDS) on 01628 685878 or email

You can also contact the Information, Advice and Support Service for Windsor and Maidenhead on 01628 683182 or email for impartial information and advice.

Where a professional is making a request for a needs assessment, this should be done with the knowledge and, where possible, agreement of the child’s parent or the young person.

Information is also available on when it is appropriate to request an EHC needs assessment in the Guidance Booklet: Education, Health and Care Needs Assessments and Plans. A graduated response to SEN and Disability 

To go to the Education, Health and Care Plan pages of the Local Offer, please click here


Where can I find further information? 

The above information is taken from the Special Education Needs and Disability: A guide for parents and carers produced by the Department for Education in August 2014.

The SEND Code of Practice is available at the following link: Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years

For further information. you can contact the Children and Young People’s Disability Service (CYPDS) on 01628 685878 or email

You can also contact the Information, Advice and Support Service for Windsor and Maidenhead on 01628 683182 or email for impartial information and advice.

4Children and the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) have produced a toolkit for SEN and disability in the early years. Each section of the toolkit provides a briefing on a particular aspect of the SEN and disability reforms as they apply to early years providers.