What does special educational needs mean?

If a child has a learning difficulty or a disability that makes it harder for them to learn than most children of their age, they may have special educational needs (SEN).

As many as one in five children may experience some kind of difficulty in learning at some point of their school life.

If your child's special needs have been picked up at an early age, you may be thinking about suitable pre-school education and for your child to have opportunities for play, stimulation and interaction. Please click on the button below to find out more information on Early Years and Childcare:


How are special educational needs met in schools?

As soon as any difficulties are identified most children and young people with SEND will have their needs met by resources which are normally available in settings, schools and colleges. These could be in the form of additional staff support (e.g. classroom assistants), specialist equipment or different ways of teaching.The school may also seek advice from specialist educational advisory services such as Inclusion Support. The school will also seek advice from health professionals if any special needs are caused by a medical condition (see downloads section for the Sandwell guidance that schools should follow).

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs)

Every school in Sandwell has a teacher, the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who is responsible for co-ordinating support for pupils with SEN in their school. Additionally every school is required to produce a SEN Information Report which sets out how the school meets the needs of pupils with SEND. The SEN Information Report must be easily accessible on the school's website.

If you are worried about your child's progress ask for a discussion with the SENCO and/or the class teacher so that you can explain your concerns and hear how the school will be able to help.  

Schools with Focus Provisions

Some schools have a Focus Provision (FP). These are based in mainstream schools and take pupils with certain types of significant need. They all have specialist support staff and equipment. More information about Focus Provisions can be found in Part 4 of the Guide for Parents and Carers which you can access from the downloads section of this page.

Alternative Provision

Alternative Provision provides education for children or young people, including those who cannot attend mainstream school due to social, emotional and mental health needs and medical needs. Additionally, it makes provision for those children and young people who are at risk of or have already been permanently excluded. The Local Authority maintains a list of registered alternative providers that it has approved, following checks on the quality of the provision and safeguarding arrangements. A referral to alternative provision must be made in consultation with the child or young person, and their parents / carers. 


Very occasionally, a child or young person will have a level or complexity of need that will require more resources than a setting, school or college can provide. In these cases the school will ask for a Community Assessment Meeting (CAM) to be convened. At the CAM all parties (the child or young person, parents, school, other support agencies) will meet to look at the evidence and plan a way forward. This may result in the Local Authority deciding to start an assessment which could result in the issuing of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) which sets out in detail the resources needed and who should provide them. This process will be co-ordinated by the Special Educational Needs Team based at Connor Road (tel: 0121 569 8240). If an EHC Plan is issued it will be reviewed every year to ensure that the resources detailed in it are still appropriate to achieve the desired outcomes. For more details please see Part 1 of the Guide for Parents and Carers which you can access from the downloads section of this page.


All children and young people have the right to full-time education up to the age of 16 and now must attend education, attend training or be employed from 16-18. Many young people with special educational needs and disabilities benefit enormously from these last few years, whether they stay on at school, move to a college of further education or apprenticeship.

Education providers can find further guidance in the SEN and Disability Handbook for Education Providers which can be accessed from the downloads section.

Schools' Accessibility

All schools have duties to ensure that they are accessible to children and young people with SEND. Additionally, the Local Authority has a duty to support the schools it maintains in promoting that accessibility. You can find out more on the Accessibility of Schools page.

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