Special Educational Needs

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The term ‘special educational needs‘ (SEN) refers to children and young people who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. This could also mean having a physical disability that can prevent some of the school’s educational facilities from being used.

Different types of special educational needs are described with different levels i.e. moderate, severe, specific, multiple or profound learning difficulties. Sometimes dyslexia is considered to be a special educational need as it causes the young person to have difficulty learning and acquiring basic skills. Other examples of special educational needs include young people with hearing or visual impairments, speech or language difficulties or a physical disability.

There are also other conditions such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD) that mean young people have difficulty learning and will have special educational needs.

If you have special educational needs you might need help in a few areas including your schoolwork, relating to other young people and adults, your behaviour and physical activities.

Schools should provide you with the extra help, either from your teachers, the SENCO (the person in the school who is responsible for coordinating help for children with special educational needs), or from an outside specialist. However, sometimes it is better for you to attend a school that is more suitable for your needs.

A statement of special educational needs SEN is a detailed examination carried out by various professionals who can include the school or education adviser, an educational psychologist, a doctor and social services. It is used to find out exactly what your special educational needs are and is important to make sure that you receive the help and support you need.

You will find detailed information about the rights and support offered in education for children and young people with special educational needs here.

Below is a list of organisations that can offer advice and guidance on SEN, click on the links to visit the relevant sections.

Citizens Advice Bureau’s section on Special Educational Needs

The National Autistic Society

Advice Now

Disability Rights UK


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Special Educational Needs Code Of Practice

There is a Code of Practice for special educational needs which provides practical advice and guidelines to Local Education Authorities (LEAs), maintained schools and early education settings to carry out their statutory duties.

The SEN Code of Practice for Wales says:

  • A child with SEN should have their needs met
  • Their needs will normally be met in mainstream schools or settings
  • The views of the child or young person should be taken into account
  • Parents have a vital role to play in supporting their child‘s education
  • Children with SEN should be offered full access to a broad, balanced and relevant education based on the National Curriculum

Transition Planning

When a child has a statement of special needs, a transition plan must be drawn up that brings together all the necessary information to plan for a young person‘s move into adult life.

  • It should ideally be a time of creativity with great choices and mainly led by the young people and their families
  • Transition should be based on the idea that young people with learning disabilities will live in inclusive communities
  • Education and transition planning should encourage and support employment so that young people will have a place in their communities
  • The drawing up of the transition plan must involve parents or gurdians and other agencies with a major role in the young person‘s post-school life e.g. Social Services, Health Professionals, Careers Wales
  • The transition plan must be reviewed annually until the young person leaves school
  • Transition plans should not only include post-school arrangements, they should also plan for on-going help in school as identified in the statement of special educational needs
  • Transition is not about planning services, it’s about planning lives. There must be realistic outcomes for the young people that deliver real choices and opportunities 


Children and young people with ‘special educational needs‘ (SEN) can be supported by Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) to cover their transport costs throughout their education.


  • If you have a taxi to school up to the age of 16 this should continue if you decide to go back to school for year 12
  • Each local education authority (LEA) has its own policy on transport though so it would be worth checking the policy for your authority


  • The LEA has responsibility for transport for people up to the age of 19

You will need to check the policy for your LEA as not all may provide a taxi for disabled students to go to college

  • If you are over 19, want to attend a local college and need a taxi to get to college you will need to speak to the college when you apply

Some colleges use money called the Financial Contingency Fund to help disabled students with transport costs

  • It is sometimes possible to get support for taxi costs from social services if you have a social worker

Residential College

If you are going to a residential specialist college and are under 19 then you will need to find out if your LEA will fund transport for you at the beginning and end of terms

  • If you want to go home during the term you will need to pay for this


If you need to have a taxi to university you may be able to apply for the Disabled Students Allowance

  • Part of this will cover any extra costs that you have to pay for transport as a result of your disability

Funding Disability Benefits

If you have a disability you may be able to get some benefits. There are many rules that apply when claiming a benefit so to find out more you will need to contact JobCentre Plus or your social worker, if you have one.

Disability Living Allowance

You can apply for DLA whether or not you work and it’s for children or adults.
This is made up of two parts:

  • Care – if help is needed with personal care or to keep you safe
  • Mobility – if it is difficult to walk or get around

Some people will just be able to get one part while others may get both. Very young children can have this benefit.

Incapacity In Youth

  • If you are over 16 and under 20 (can be up to 25 in some circumstances) and are/have been unable to work for 196 days you may be able to claim this benefit
  • You can be in school or college and claim this benefit as long as you have less than 21 hours of study on a mainstream course. Any time spent on support that you get as a result of your disability won‘t count towards these hours

Income Support

  • Income Support is generally paid to people on a low income
  • If you are on the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance for care then you should also be able to claim Income Support

For further information and to see whether you qualify for any disability benefits, click here

Disability Wales

Voices And Choices

The Welsh Assembly Government and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales think that children with special educational needs should have a right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales. Children should have this right when their parents or guardians decide not to make an appeal themselves.

Children and young people living in Wales have a right to:

  • Appeal certain decisions made by their local authority about their special educational needs
  • Bring a claim about disability discrimination against schools

The appeal and claim rights are identical to those that already exist for parents/carers. This does not affect the parental right to make an appeal and claim. It simply means that children now have the same rights as their parents/carers to make their own appeal and claim.

The law recognises that not all children will feel sufficiently able to make an appeal or claim. In this situation a case friend can act on behalf of a child to make an appeal or claim to us at SENTW.

Information for young people, parents/carers and case friends and can be found in our guidance booklets that can be downloaded by following this link to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales website: http://sentw.gov.uk/youngpeople/informationbooklets/?lang=en

Support In School

There are many ways that school can give you support, depending on what you need. You might have to have an assessment so that the school can find out what your needs are and how they or other people can help you.

Depending on your circumstances you might have your needs written up in a Statement of Special Educational Needs. There is a Code of Practice in Wales that outlines what schools and local education authorities should do when someone needs support in school.

The support for learning that can be given will be varied but could include:

  • A person to take notes for you
  • A person to read information for you
  • Help to organise your work
  • A laptop computer

If you feel that you really need support with your learning in school then you, or your parents, need to speak to one of your teachers or to the special needs co-ordinator (known as the SENCO).

Personal Support In School

Some students may also get personal care support.
This could include:

  • Help with eating
  • Help with moving around the school
  • Help with going to the toilet and changing

For more information please go to:www.gov.uk/rights-disabled-person/education-rights


Support In College

Most colleges will have courses that are designed to help young people with disabilities to improve basic skills, become more confident and try a range of practical courses to find out what they would like to do.

These courses often have titles such as Vocational Preparation. If you already know what course you want to do but need support the college can apply for funding to put the support in place.

The kind of support that may be on offer can include:

  • A person to take notes for you
  • A person to read information for you
  • Help to organise your work
  • A laptop computer
  • Help with eating
  • Help to get around the college

Talk to your careers adviser about the support that you could get in college.

For more information please go to: www.gov.uk/rights-disabled-person/education-rights

Support In Higher Education

If you have special needs and require additional support to enable you to make the most of Higher Education you may have extra factors to consider and will need to ask questions about courses and facilities.

Each university will have a disability statement and a member of staff who is responsible for arranging support for students with disabilities. When choosing a university these are some issues that you may want to consider:

  • What courses are on offer
  • The content of the courses and how they are assessed
  • What support is on offer for disabled students – each university will have a member of staff who is responsible for arranging support for disabled students. The level of support offered may vary between universities
  • How far from home you are prepared to go
  • Size of the university
  • Whether you would like to live in a town, city, more rural area etc and how easy it is to travel around the area
  • What other facilities the university has and how accessible the site is
  • What kind of accommodation and facilities for disabled students are available
  • Are there/have there recently been other disabled students there

Disabled Students Allowance

  • If you have a disability and are applying to higher education (university), you may be able to claim Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)
  • This allowance is claimed from the local authority
  • They will ask for evidence of your disability and may want you to have an assessment
  • The money can be used to pay for staff to support you, equipment or disability-related transport costs

Disability Rights UK

Specialist Residential Colleges

For a very small number of young people, going to a local college when they leave school may not be the right option.

Local colleges offer a wide range of courses and support but sometimes they cannot offer a course with the support needed. In these cases a young person may be able to think about going to a college away from home. These are called specialist colleges. This means that the staff are trained to offer a high level of support for young people with disabilities.

What If I Want To Go To A Specialist College?

  • Going to a college like this away from home is something that you can only choose to do if the local college cannot offer the support you need
  • Your careers adviser will talk to you about the colleges that might best meet your needs and how to apply for them
  • You would need to arrange to visit the college(s). You would then be asked to go there again and stay for a night so that you can find out more about the college and they can find out more about you
  • If you then want to go to this college your careers adviser would need to apply for the funding for you, but this is not given in all cases
  • You would need to live away from home during term time and would come home in the holidays and on some weekends
  • You could stay in the college for up to 3 years