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SEND explained

All about SEND?

What do we mean by special educational needs and disability?

Special Educational Needs and Disability (often shortened to SEND) describes the needs of children and young people who have a difficulty or disability that makes learning harder for them than most children or young people of the same age or have a disability which makes it harder for them to make use of and join in with activities that are generally available for all children.

For these children and young people (CYP) with SEND extra support should be put in place to meet these needs which should be ‘different from and additional to’ that which is available to other pupils.  The extra support put into place should match the needs of each child or young person.

There are a wide range of special educational needs which can impact on a child or young person’s ability to engage with learning and make progress. The SEND Code of Practice groups these needs into four broad categories to support identification of needs and ensure that the right support is put into place.

It is likely that individual CYP will have needs which overlap these areas or his/her needs may change over time.

What do we mean by disability?

The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that which has a long term and substantial adverse effect on a child or young person’s ability to carry out day to day activities including attending school. This definition includes children and young people (CYP) who may have a sensory impairment such as those affecting hearing and sight or long term health conditions such as epilepsy.

CYP with a disability do not always have difficulties with learning but schools and other settings have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that they are able to fully engage with learning and other activities offered by their education setting.

What are the four broad areas of need?

The SEND Code of Practice four broad areas provide an overview of the range of special educational needs. It is likely that individual CYP will have needs which overlap these areas or his/her needs may change over time.

Communication and Interaction

This area includes speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), which could mean difficulties with speech production, the understanding of language, the expression of language or a combination of all three. It also includes difficulties with the social use of language.

Children with a diagnosis of autism or autistic spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s syndrome, have needs in this area.

Children with communication and interaction difficulties may or may not also have learning difficulties.


Cognition and Learning

This area includes general learning difficulties (which may be moderate or severe), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) and specific learning difficulties (SpLD).

Assessments by professionals such as educational psychologists will determine whether a child has a moderate learning difficulties (MLD) or severe Learning difficulty (SLD).

SLD usually includes diagnoses such as Down Syndrome and other genetic conditions

Children with PMLD have very complex learning needs, in addition to SLD they may have physical disability, sensory impairments or a severe medical condition. Children with PMLD will usually be placed in specialist provision.

SpLDs include: dyslexia (difficulties with reading and spelling), dyscalculia (difficulties with number and calculation), and dyspraxia (or ‘developmental coordination disorder’, difficulties with motor planning). People with one or more SpLDs have a ‘spiky profile’ of attainment, with areas of strength (sometimes very high) and areas of need.

All children in this category have a form of learning difficulty.


Physical and Sensory Needs

This area includes sensory impairments, such as visual impairment (VI) and hearing impairment (HI), as well as physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy. Children with these disabilities will usually access support from specialist education and health services.

These children do not necessarily have ‘learning difficulties’, in that their cognitive functioning may be average or above; some children do have associated learning difficulties. 


Social, Emotional and Mental Health

This area includes CYP who may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which can impact on their outward behaviours. They might be isolated or withdrawn or display challenging behaviour.  Such behaviours may be indicative of underlying mental health difficulties (such as anxiety or depression), or emotional issues (such as disordered attachment).

Some children have disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which affect how they behave.

It is crucial to look for the underlying causes of any difficulties with behaviour and/or emotional state, and aim to support these, rather than just dealing with the presenting behaviour.

For some children with SEMH difficulties, the nature of these difficulties will mean that they have difficulties with learning. 


All early years settings, school and post 16 settings should be able to make provision to meet the needs across all four areas.

Croydon Local Authority has produced guidelines known as ‘ordinarily available descriptors’ which sets the strategies, interventions and resources which all schools are expected to have in place to address needs across each area.

What about pupils with medical needs who have SEND?


All schools have statutory duties to make appropriate arrangements to support pupils with medical needs to have full access to education, including school trips and physical education. These statutory duties are set out in guidance, supporting pupils at school with medical conditions. This guidance also includes non-statutory advice.

All schools must have their own policy to show the arrangements they make to ensure the wellbeing and inclusion of pupils with medical needs. This should be available on the school website.

A pupil with a medical need will usually have an individual health and care plan which gives details of his/her medical need and how this will be managed in school. Pupils with medical needs may not have any special educational needs.

If a pupil does have medical needs and SEND, the additional provision to meet these needs should be planned and coordinated alongside the health care plan.

What support is in place for children and young people who are looked after have SEND?

Children Looked After (CLA) are children and young people who are in care.

All CLA have an Electronic Personal Education Plan (ePEP). The Croydon Virtual School team monitor and carry out these plans. The Virtual School is a group of education and social care professionals who champion the educational progress for Children Looked After.

If the child also has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the process and timeframes for reviewing the plan are aligned with the review of the ePEP.

Where a child has SEND but no EHCP, the process of planning and reviewing the ePEP takes account of the SEND support that is in place.

If an EHC needs assessment is requested for a CLA, the Virtual School team may be asked to contribute to this assessment.

For more information about the Croydon Virtual School, visit the Croydon Council website.

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