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Additional Learning Needs

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The term ‘special educational needs’ (SEN) or 'additional learning needs' (ALN) has a legal definition, referring to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age.

Many children will have an ALN of some kind at some time during their education. Help will usually be provided in their ordinary, mainstream early education setting or school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists. If your child has special educational needs, they may need extra help in a range of areas, for example:

  • schoolwork

  • reading, writing, number work or understanding information

  • expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying

  • making friends or relating to adults

  • behaving properly in school

  • organising themselves

  • some kind of sensory or physical needs which may affect them in school


Your child’s progress at school
Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. When planning lessons based around the National Curriculum, your child’s teacher will take account of this by looking carefully at how they organise their lessons, classroom, books and materials.

The teacher will then choose suitable ways to help your child learn from a range of activities (often described as ‘differentiating the curriculum’). If your child is making slower progress or having particular difficulties in one area, they may be given extra help or different lessons to help them succeed. Just because your child is making slower progress than you expected or the teachers are providing different support, help or activities in class, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your child has SEN.

Getting help for your child
Your child’s early years are a very important time for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. When the health visitor or doctor makes a routine check, they might suggest that there could be a problem. If you have any worries of your own, you should ask for advice straightaway.

You should first go to your child’s class teacher or the headteacher.
You could ask us if:

  • the school thinks your child is having difficulties and/or has SEN

  • your child is able to work at the same level as children of the same age

  • your child is already getting extra help

  • you can help your child


If school agrees that he or she has SEN in some areas, they will adopt a step-by-step approach to meeting these needs. Schools and early education settings place great importance on identifying SEN so they can help your child as early as possible. Most children with SEN can have their needs met in a mainstream school. Once it has been decided that your child has SEN, your child’s teachers will plan their education taking account of the guidance given in a document known as the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

The Code of Practice is a guide for early education settings (such as nurseries and playgroups), state schools and local authorities, on how they should identify, assess and provide help for children with SEN.
You can read a summary of the code in the booklet, ‘SEN: a guide for parents and carers’.


Children learn in different ways, and can have different levels or kinds of SEN. So if your child has SEN, our school will increasingly, step by step, bring in specialist expertise to help with the difficulties they may have. This step-by-step approach is set out in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

As a school we will tell you if we start giving extra or different help to your child because of their SEN. The basic level of extra help is known as School Action, and could be:

  • a different way of teaching certain things

  • some extra help from an adult

  • using particular equipment like a computer or special desk

Your child may need help through this step-by-step approach for only a short time, or for many years. Remember that you should be consulted at every step, and be told about your child’s progress.

Individual Education Plans
Your child’s teacher is responsible for working with your child on a day-to-day basis, but may decide to write down the actions of help for your child in an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

  • The IEP could include:

  • what special or additional help is being given

  • who will provide the help and how often

  • what help you can give your child at home

  • your child’s targets

  • how and when progress will be checked

Sometimes school will not write an IEP but will record how they are meeting your child’s needs in a different way, perhaps as part of their lesson plans. But we will always be able to tell you how they are helping your child and what progress they are making.

If your child does not make enough progress under School Action, your child’s teacher or our SEN coordinator (SENCO) will talk to you about asking for advice from other people outside the school. These could include a specialist teacher or a speech and language therapist. This kind of extra help is called School Action Plus.

If our school cannot give your child all the help they need, you or a professional who has been involved with your child can ask for a ‘statutory assessment’ – a detailed investigation to find out what your child’s special educational needs are and what special help your child needs.

The assessment process
Local authorities look at requests and tell you (normally within six weeks) whether they will carry out an assessment. They also explain the assessment process.

If the assessment goes ahead, the local authority asks people to give their views on your child. They ask for advice from:

  • you

  • your child’s school

  • an educational psychologist

  • a doctor

  • social services (who will only give advice if they know your child)

  • anyone else who the local authority thinks it should get advice from to get a clear picture of your child’s needs


You can attend any interview, medical or other test during the assessment. You know your child best so your views are important. What your child thinks also plays a big part in the assessment.

You are free to suggest any other groups you know whose views may be helpful. The local authority should take them into account as part of the assessment. You may want to think about asking:

  • your local parent partnership service

  • voluntary organisations working with children

  • other parent support groups


The Welsh Government are currently proposing changes to the way children and young people's special educational needs (SEN) will be identified, assessed and met in Wales.


As soon as more information is available this page will be updated.

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