A Guide to SEN Support

Understanding Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Reforms in England.

What is SEN Support?

SEN Support has replaced Early Years/School Action and Early Years/School Action Plus from 2014, following the Children and Families Act.

Schools and other settings, such as nursery schools, use SEN Support to identify and meet the needs of children with SEN.

Support should then be provided by the setting to meet the needs of the child or young person.

Who can get SEN Support?

Education settings must make sure they meet the “reasonable” special educational needs of children they identify.

Early Years settings, schools and colleges should be able to meet the needs of most children with additional needs.

Most children and young people with mild additional needs will not require an Education Health and Care Plan and can be supported successfully by their education setting.

Some children and young people with educational, health and care needs, arising from complex disabilities, may require an Education Health and Care Plan. An EHC Plan is used when a “child exhibits less than expected progress” due to a wide range of difficulties.

The setting “should trigger an EHC needs assessment where they cannot meet a child’s needs. They should do so if they don’t have the expertise or funding to identify those needs fully or to identify the provision/support the child requires. They should also do so when they know what the child’s needs are and what provision should be put in place, but they cannot make that provision. In these circumstances, if the school has made them aware of the situation, the LA must agree to carry out an EHC needs assessment.”

Information from IPSEA website.

SEN Support is used to identify and to meet the needs of children with less complex needs in educational settings.

See the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Guide for Parents and Carers by the DfE for more detailed information.

Graduated Approach

This starts at the whole school level with teachers continually assessing, planning and reviewing their approach to teaching all children.

Where children with potential SEN are identified then the cyclical process becomes more personalised with more frequent reviews and specialist expertise in successive cycles to meet the needs of children with complex SEND.

See NASEN Graduated Approach Guide, for more information.

Early Years settings are advised to involve specialists “where a child continues to make less than expected progress, despite evidence-based support and interventions that are matched to the child’s area of need”.

The decision to involve specialists should be taken with the child’s parents.

(Paragraph 5.48 of the Code of Practice)

How to get SEN Support

If a child or young person has SEN, or an educational setting thinks that they might have SEN, then this process should be followed:


School staff must talk to a child’s parents and the young person to work out what support might be needed.


Once a child or young person’s needs have been identified, settings must decide:

  • what outcomes they want the child or young person to achieve
  • what support should be put in place to help them achieve those outcomes
  • There should be a clear date set to review whether these outcomes have been achieved.
  • Parents and the young person must be involved in agreeing these outcomes.


The staff, supported by the SENCO or Special Needs Co-ordinator, should put this support into practice.


The support should be reviewed by the setting and family and young person to see if it is working and the outcomes have been achieved. During the review some of the arrangements might be changed.

Schools must set out their arrangements for supporting pupils with SEN in an online policy. You will be able to view this policy via your Local Offer.

Recommended Reading

The Council for Disabled Children Early Years Toolkit contains all the information you need about SEN and Disability in the Early Years. Follow the link to this important document.


Contact for families of disabled children: support in the early years 

Department for Education: Special educational needs and disabilities A guide for parents and carers



School-based strategies
SEN Support
Graduated Approach

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