Last updated:

13th July 2023

How can schools help?

What is a special educational needs?

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.