0118 908 8233

Search our Site
Struggling at school

Struggling at school: How can schools help?

  • If you have concerns about your child’s education you should talk to the class teacher first. Find out what difficulties are they seeing. Maybe they have similar concerns or they may reassure you that your child is progressing within what is considered normal for their age.
  • If you are still concerned then talk to the SENCO. What have they already put in place? What could they do next?
  • If your child is not at nursery or school then talk to your GP or Health Visitor about your concerns.

How to discuss your concerns with school or nursery

Good communication between schools and parents is always important, but even more important if your child is struggling. A good relationship with your child’s school depends on:

  • Keeping the channels of communication going.
  • Being solution-focussed and forward looking rather than problem focussed and dwelling on what has happened in the past.
  • Flexible approach to solutions: school may well have different ideas to you about how to solve a problem.
  • Mutual respect.


Many parents find it very difficult to ask questions about their children, especially if they are nervous, angry or upset. We have produced a factsheet on non-confrontational questioning (PDF document)

We also have a sheet of questions you could ask your SENCO (PDF document)

The term special educational needs (SEN) has a legal definition: a child has special educational needs if he/she has a learning difficulty or disability requiring special educational provision. 


A learning difficulty or disability means that they have either: 

  • A significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of their peers or:
  • A disability which means they can’t access the type of facilities provided for children/young people of their age in a mainstream school, or find it very difficult to access them.


Special educational provision is provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children of the same age by mainstream pupils. 

You do not need to have a diagnosis in order to have special educational needs. It is all about the difficulties you are experiencing and how they impact on your learning. 

All children are different and many will have additional needs at some time during their education. Teachers are expected to differentiate the curriculum as part of their normal teaching practice for all pupils (sometimes referred to as Quality First Teaching). Just because your child requires a little extra help or support doesn’t mean they have special educational needs. 

  • SENCO stands for Special Educational Needs and Disability Coordinator. Some schools use other names such as 'Inclusion Manager'. 
  • Every school should have one.
  • They are responsible for overseeing all pupils’ special educational needs.
  • They give advice to class teachers about strategies or interventions they could use to help a child progress better, or any reasonable adjustments that should be made to ensure a child’s SEN or disability is supported.
  • They will request support from other professionals outside of school if necessary.
  • Any additional support that your child receives should be recorded and reviewed regularly by the class teacher and SENCO.


 The SEND Code of Practice 2015, says: 

All children and young people are entitled to an education that enables them to make progress so that they: 

  • Achieve their best
  • Become confident individuals living fulfilling lives
  • Make a successful transition into adulthood’


They should use their ‘best endeavours to meet the special educational needs of their pupils – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN.’ 

How do they identify my child’s needs? 

Schools will have ways of measuring progress of all their pupils. Class and subject teachers will identify those who are making less progress than expected. In particular they will be looking for progress which is:

  • Slower than that of their peers 
  • Fails to match their previous rate of progress 
  • Fails to close the gap between them or their peers

There are 4 areas of need:

  • Cognition and Learning: how they learn. Do they have more difficulty than their peers with their learning?
  • Communication and Interaction: not just how they speak, but also how well they understand. It also covers their ability to understand or use social rules and may affect their ability to make or keep friends.
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health: this covers a wide range of difficulties such as anxiety or depression, displaying challenging behaviour, impulsivity.
  • Physical and Sensory: physical disabilities, visual or hearing impairments.


If your child is identified as having a special educational need they will be put on the SEN (Special Educational Needs) register. You should be told if your child has special educational needs and given details of any extra help they are being given.


Schools will use an ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’ model to monitor progress of pupils with SEN and to measure the effectiveness of the support they put in place. Schools should involve you in developing and reviewing the support plan. Different schools use different names for these plans. Some of the common ones are: 

  • SEN support plan
  • Provision plan
  • Individual Education Plan
  • Individual Learning Plan

How often should support be reviewed? 

Schools must provide annual reports for parents on their child’s progress. 

In addition, if a child is receiving SEN Support the school should talk to parents regularly to set outcomes and review progress and discuss what support will be available to help them. School and parents should meet at least 3 times each year. 

Do I need an Education Health and Care Plan to get support? 

No. All schools have an amount of money within their overall budget called the notional SEN budget which they can use to support pupils with SEN. They will be expected to use up to £6,000 before they seek additional funding. Find out more about school funding by reading our leaflet Funding for SEN support (PDF document)

School can provide many different types of support:

  • A special learning programme for your child
  • Extra help from a teacher or teaching assistant (TA) within the class
  • Working with your child in a small group
  • Working individually with your child
  • Using different equipment or materials
  • Providing movement breaks, fidget tools
  • Supporting your child to develop social skills
  • Helping with physical or personal care
  • Advice or extra help from specialists

Involving specialists 

Schools should consider involving specialists if a pupil continues to make little or no progress despite support, but they can also contact them for advice on identifying SEN and effective support.  

They should always discuss the involvement of specialists with parents and should share what has been discussed. 

They have access to a range of specialists e.g.:  

  • Emotional literacy support assistants (ELSAs)
  • Specialist teachers 
  • Educational psychologist 
  • Behaviour support (provided by Foundry College in Wokingham) 
  • Speech and Language Therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational Therapists


You can find details of how each school meets the needs of SEN pupils on the schools pages of the local offer.

The local authority provide a document titled Ordinarily Available Provision - A Graduated Response, giving details of the support which a child or young person can expect to receive from education settings from the funding available to them. You can find the document on the Local Offer under the section What should I expect from my child's nursery, school or college?

When to request and Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment 

If the school has put extra support in place and have tried everything available to them, and your child is still not making progress, or the gap between them and their peers is increasing then you may need to request an EHC needs assessment.