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Special Educational Needs (SEN) - What is it? General introduction

The term special educational needs (SEN) has a legal definition which is set out in the Education Act 1996.  It applies to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it significantly harder for them to learn or access education than most other children of their age.

The term SEN covers a wide range of types of need including:

  • specific learning difficulties;
  • moderate learning difficulties;
  • speech, language and communication needs;
  • behavioural, emotional and social difficulties;
  • autistic spectrum conditions;
  • visual and hearing impairment;
  • physical disability,
  • multi-sensory impairment
  • profound and multiple learning difficulties.

About 20% of children and young people are identified with SEN at some stage in their education.  The vast majority have their needs met with the support available in their local school or setting. A relatively small number of children with more significant and complex SEN may need more specialist support.