What is special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?

If you are concerned about any aspect of your child's development it is important to speak to someone as soon as possible. You could speak to your doctor, health visitor, or if your child attends childcare, you could speak to their key person. If your child has started school and you do not feel they are making the progress that they should, talk to your child's class teacher, the school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) or the head teacher.

Special educational needs (SEN)

A child or young person has special educational needs if they experience 'significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or has a disability that makes it difficult for them to access the educational provision (including early years education) provided for other children of the same age' (SEND code of practice, 2015).


Some children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. A disability is described in law as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities' (Equality Act, 2010). This includes sensory impairments such as hearing or visual impairments and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy or cancer. Having a disability doesn't necessarily mean that a child or young person has SEN.

SEND code of practice

The SEND code of practice sets out four broad areas of need:

Communication and interaction

A child or young person has speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others. This may include children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

Cognition and learning

A child or young person who learns at a slower pace than others of their age, has difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, has difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or has a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia.

Social, emotional and mental health

A child or young person with social and emotional difficulties which present in different ways including being withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained.

Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attachment disorder.

Sensory and/or physical

Many children and young people with vision impairment (VI), hearing impairment (HI) or a multi-sensory impairment (MSI) will require specialist support and/or equipment to access their learning, or habilitation support. Children and young people with an MSI have a combination of vision and hearing difficulties.

Some children and young people with a physical disability (PD) require additional ongoing support and equipment to access all the opportunities available to their peers.

Some children and young people may have needs in more than one of these areas. You can find more information about SEND in these documents:

SEND in schools

For children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) this may mean that they need more help than others while they are at school or college. Mainstream early years providers, schools and colleges must adapt their practice and provide targeted support so that children and young people with SEND can achieve their potential. We have created intervention guidance for SEND in schools and other educational settings to help schools meet the needs of children and young people with SEND using a graduated approach.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)

Some children and young people require more specialist help and support and may require an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in order to access a mainstream setting. For a small number of children, a mainstream setting might not be the most appropriate placement to meet their special educational needs and a specialist placement will be required. You can find out when and how to apply for an EHCP.


Local authorities are required by law to plan to improve access to every aspect of education for pupils with disabilities and to monitor and review their plans regularly. You can find out more about accessibility in Herefordshire's schools, including how accessible each school is, on the accessibility in schools page.

Education otherwise than at school (EOTAS)

EOTAS stands for education otherwise than at school and is education provision to meet specific needs of pupils whom have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) who, for whatever reason, cannot attend a mainstream or special school. Some examples of EOTAS are:

  • Online tuition
  • Home tuition
  • Other tuition centres
  • Therapies such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy or physiotherapy

These or any other provision which educates or trains a child or young person can be treated as special educational provision if described in section F of the Education Health and Care Plan. Read our education otherwise than at school (EOTAS) policy.