Children with special educational needs find it harder to learn than the majority of children of the same age, or they may have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities provided for other children. About 1 in 5 children and young people may have special educational needs at some time. Schools, colleges and LA’s can help most children overcome the difficulties, other children will have special educational needs throughout their schooling or college. Some will have special educational needs in particular areas of their learning and others may need help with all or most aspects of their education.

What are “special educational needs” (Education Act 1996 section 312) 

  • A child has “SEN” if he has a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for him

What is a “learning difficulty” (Education Act 1996 section 321)

  • A Child has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of his age
  • A Child has a disability which either prevents or hinders him from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of his age in the LEA’s schools, or
  • A Child is under compulsory school age and is, or would be if special educational provision were not made for him, likely to fall within the above definitions

A Child with special educational needs might experience difficulties in one or more of the following areas:

  • Communication and interaction(expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying)
  • Cognition and learning (reading, writing or number work, or understanding information) Behaviour, social and emotional development
  • Sensory and/or physical
  • Medical need

Children do not have a learning difficulty solely because their first language is not English or Welsh. However, some of these children may also have learning difficulties.

Some learning difficulties are clear from an early age, but in some cases the difficulties may not be noticed until the child is at school. 

What is special educational provision?

Special educational provision is the additional or different help given in school to children with special educational needs. For a young child under two years old, any educational provision is special educational provision.

Special educational provision takes many forms. For most children with learning difficulties and special educational needs this will be in their mainstream class or group. It can include group work or individual support that takes place inside or outside the mainstream classroom. It could also be attendance in a specialist class or base or in a special school. For other children and young people, their needs may be met more appropriately at a Special Teaching Facility (STF) a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), Special school or Specialist College.

The Code of Practice (COP)

The SEN Code of Practice for Wales gives practical guidance to local authorities (LAs), the governing bodies of schools, and settings that receive government funding to provide early education. It also applies to those who help them, including the health services and social services. The SEN COP gives guidance on how to support pupils who have SEN. Not all children’s special needs will be the same, so the COP says that there should be a graduated response to meeting their needs. All Schools and LA’s should have regard for the Code of Practice, which means they must not ignore it.


Proposed changes to the current SEN system

Legislation in relation to SEN is currently set out in Part IV of the Education Act 1996. Although the definition of SEN applies to children and young people with a wide range of needs, the legislation focuses primarily on those children and young people with more complex needs who are entitled to a statement of SEN issued by the local authority.  In Wales around 22 per cent of all pupils have special educational needs and around 3% have a statement of their special educational needs.

The legislation relating to post-16 learners in FE with LDD is included in the Learning and Skills Act 2000 (‘the 2000 Act’). The legislation on LDD relates to the statutory assessment (by the Welsh Ministers) of those children and young people with more complex needs who are leaving school and intend undertaking further education or training.

The Welsh Government is proposing to make changes to this system; they believe the current terminology stigmatises children and young people and is associated with a system which needs fundamental reform.  They also believe there is a lack of clear criteria about when and for whom a statement should be made results in an inconsistent approach between local authorities. They are proposing to:

  • Introduce the terms additional learning needs’ and ‘additional learning provision’ to replace the existing terms ‘special educational needs’ and ‘special educational provision’.
  • And introduce Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to replace statements of SEN, post 16 assessments (140)

A new Code of practice will be introduced to accompany the new legislation which will include mandatory requirements and guidance to which those bodies and other providers of education and training must have due regard, i.e. they must not ignore.  The LA will retain responsibility for ensuring IDP’s are developed for those children and young people requiring one and for ensuring the provision it recommends is put in place.

To see the Welsh Government’s proposals > click here