What are special educational needs?
The Education Act 1996 describes children with special educational needs as:
- having a much greater difficulty in learning than most children; and
- possibly needing some special arrangements to be made in school.
Following on from the Education Act 1996 the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), formerly DfES issued a guidance document called the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. This outlined in detail how schools, local authorities and other services should work together to make suitable educational arrangements for children with special educational needs. Some key points indentified in the Code of Practice were that:
- Most children with SEN will be able to have their needs met in mainstream school
- Schools, local authorities (LAs) including Children and Young People’s Services and other agencies, such as Health should work together to meet the needs of children with SEN
- There are a wide range of special educational needs and a wide variety of ways to meet those needs.
- Parents should be fully involved in their child’s education, along with the children themselves.
The Code of Practice recommends that all schools should:
- make provision for children with special educational needs
- have a policy on special educational needs
- have a named teacher with responsibility for co-ordinating arrangements - the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)
- use a 'staged approach' to identifying, assessing and planning for children with special educational needs
- work with parents/carers and keep them informed about what they are doing to help pupils with special educational needs.
The Code of Practice and other guidance says that LAs should:
- have a special educational needs policy
- have agreed ways to work with schools to monitor provision for children with special educational needs
- work closely with health to co-ordinate arrangements for children with special educational needs
- have a policy about how extra support and support services are provided for children and schools
- for a very small number of children with severe and complex needs, arrange a statutory assessment and decide whether to make a Statement of Special Educational Needs.
Since the Code of Practice the government have issued a number of other documents that focused to a lesser or greater extent on the provision that needs to be made for children and young people with special educational needs. These included:
- Removing Barriers to Achievement; this focused on raising educational achievement for children with SEN.
- Every Child Matters; which proposed a joined up approach in the way that services are provided to children, young people and their families. As a consequence what were formerly separate education and social services departments have now been brought together as Children’s and Young People’s Services.
- Every Parent Matters; which outlined the importance of parent’s involvement in their child’s education and emphasised the need for schools and parents to work in equal partnerships.
- The Children’s Plan; which is a ten year strategy for improving the lives of all children, but which indidated that funding would be made available to improve the quality of teaching of children with SEN, the way their progress is monitored and to provide specialist dyslexia support.
You can download copies of all these documents at the Department for Children, Schools and Families website www.dcsf.gov.uk