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Glossary of SEN Terms

Below are some common terms that relate to Special Educational Needs and Disability. 

Assess, Plan, Do , Review

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The Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle, sometimes shortened to APDR, is used by educational settings to ensure that children and young people with special educational needs at SEN support or with an Education, Health and Care plan receive the best possible provision and acheive positive outcomes. 

It is used by the educational setting so that SEN provision evolves to meet the needs of all children and young people with SEN. 

This is also used to support children, young people and families in Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments, planning and review processes.  

The SEND Code of Practice 0-25 promotes the use of the ‘assess, plan, do, review cycle’.

Cornwall’s SEND Local Offer is a website that gives information about  the support that is available to children and young people in Cornwall (aged 0–25) with special educational needs and / or disabilities (SEND) and their families.

Cornwall’s SEND Local Offer website gives information for  parents, carers and other individuals such as professionals and voluntary organisations. It also has a Youth Local Offer page that is aimed at young people, or parents/carers of young people, who are preparing for adulthood.

Education, Health and Care plans can be referred to as EHCPs or EHC plans. An Education Health and Care plan is for children and young people aged up to 25 years, who are in education or training, who need more support than is available through SEN support.

An individual’s Education, Health and Care plan identifies their educational, health and social needs and sets out the additional support to meet those needs.

When a pupil is identified as having Special Educational Needs schools must put effective provision in place and ensure that all barriers to learning are removed. The Local Authority is required by law to set out what it expects educational settings to offer pupils with SEN at SEN Support, this is called the Graduated Response.

Cornwall Council has produced some guidance documents which set out the minimum standards for pupils with SEN across Cornwall. The aim of these documents is to inform inclusive, enabling and consistent practice across Cornwall’s schools and set out what educational settings are expected to offer pupils with SEN at SEN Support.

The Graduated Response ensures that early years settings, schools and colleges: 

  • Take immediate action when a pupil is identified as having Special Educational Needs (SEN).  
  • Removes all barriers to learning by putting effective support for the pupil in place.
  • Informs the pupil's family as soon as the pupil's SEN is identified. 
  • Works in partnership with the pupil, their parents and carers, including them in decision making.
  • Reviews the support put in place for children and young people with SEN at least termly. 
  • Involves the child or young person, their parents and carers in reviews.
  • Gains advice from specialist professionals if necessary.
  • Uses Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycles to inform changes to a child or young person's SEN support.

Preparing for adulthood is the term used to describe the support given to children and young people to prepare them for the new responsibilities, new experiences and new challenges of the next stage of their education, training and employment. Everyone has a part to play in preparing children and young people for adulthood from the earliest stage. For example, raising the aspirations of children and young people and their parent/carers, supporting pupils to achieve the best possible outcomes in education and employment, independent living and participation in society.

Social, Emotional Mental Health can be shortened to SEMH. Good social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) creates the foundations for healthy and positive interactions. Aspects of good SEMH include social wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and psychological wellbeing. Only a small proportion of children and young people will have SEMH identified as their primary Special Educational Need.  By this it is meant that all other areas of SEN have to be fully investigated through the Assess, Plan, Do, Review process and clear evidence needs to be produced showing that behaviours / unwanted actions are not a result of an unmet or undiagnosed need.

Special educational needs are referred to as SEN. The term special educational needs has a legal definition, referring to children who have learning difficulties that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age.

“A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

(a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or

(b) has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.” SEND Code of Practice 0 to 25 (2015).

Special educational needs can mean that a child or young person has:

  • Communication and interaction needs - difficulty in expressing themselves, understanding what others are saying or difficulties socially interacting with others
  • Cognition and learning needs – difficulties in learning or retaining basic skills or a specific difficulty with reading, writing, mathematics or understanding information
  • Social, emotional and mental health needs – difficulties making friends or relating to adults. May be withdrawn, isolated or find regulating their behaviours challenging
  • Sensory and/or physical needs –sensory impairments or difficulties such as those affecting sight or hearing, or physical difficulties which impact on their learning Individual children or young people may have needs that cut across some or all these areas and their needs may change over time.

A child or young person may have needs in more than one area of need. 

SEN support is the term used to describe the support that schools provide for pupils who have been identified as having SEN but who do not need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. Pupils at SEN Support are given support that is additional to and different from the majority of children and is paid for out of the school's resources. Most pupils with SEN in mainstream schools are provided for at SEN Support. For more information visit our Meeting Needs at SEN Support page.

The term Special education needs and/or disability is often referred to as SEND. Guidance, legislation and regulations often use the abbreviation SEND.

This includes children and young people with SEN

Children and young people with a disability do not necessarily have special educational needs, but there is a significant overlap between disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs.

The SEND Code of Practice provides statutory guidance relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act. The SEND Code of Practice describes the principles that should be observed by all professionals working with children and young people who have SEN or disabilities.

These include:

  • taking into account the views of children, young people and their families
  • enabling children, young people and their parents to participate in decision making
  • collaborating with partners in education, health and social care to provide support
  • identifying the needs of children and young people early
  • making high quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people
  • focusing on inclusive practices and removing barriers to learning
  • helping children and young people to prepare for adulthood
Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Every school or Early Years setting has a SENCO, who is the person responsible for coordinating help for children with special educational needs. Colleges also have a named person responsible for the coordination of SEN support and provision, similar to the role of a SENCO

The term ‘transition’ is used to describe the life changes that a child or young person may go through. This includes moving from class to class, Early years to Primary School, Primary School to Secondary School and Secondary School to work, college or university.