The Importance of Supporting Children With SEN

Updated 05/03/2024

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Why is SEN so important?

During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many education and health services were badly disrupted. This meant that children with SEND and disabilities could not easily make the academic, mental and physical progress they wanted, leaving their routines, self-confidence, strategies to cope with anxiety, and ability to express their feelings, in a precarious state. Now, SEN provision and support must fire on all cylinders once again to help these children and young people bridge the gap of what has been lost, and to help get them back on the right track.

Supporting Children

Why do children with special needs need support?

Legally, colleges and schools must provide appropriate support for children and young people with SEN under the 2010 Equality Act. The Act states that schools must remove discrimination on grounds of gender, race or disability, and even suggests that education providers must treat a disabled person ‘more favourably than a person who is not that a disabled person can benefit from what you offer to the same extent that a person without that disability can.' Therefore, if schools do not provide support, they are breaking the law.

However, on a moral level, children with special needs require additional support because just like all children in school, they need help to learn, and attend school to be nurtured in all sorts of ways. The problems that young people with SEN or disabilities face will directly affect their ability to learn from their peers, and the academic curriculum. These issues can include:

  • Reading and writing difficulties
  • Barriers to understanding number work and general information
  • Being unable to make friends and build relationships with adults
  • Struggling with behaving appropriately
  • Difficulties with expressing their feelings
  • Problems with understanding others
  • Being unable to organise their time and surroundings
  • Problems with sensory or physical needs

Subsequently, if support is not given to help with these issues, then students could struggle to make academic progress, and neither learn how to overcome their difficulties or learn how to live with them.

Research has found that children and young people with SEN can excel when the correct support and educational provisions are provided. SEN students can achieve their potential by completing FE/HE courses, finding paid employment, attending university, getting closer to achieving their lifelong goal, or living independently. Ultimately, the support that schools and colleges provide children with SEN right now, will have huge implications and results for every child's future.

What is a SEN provision?

If a child or young person presents a learning difficulty or disability which demands extra support, then special educational provision should be made available.

SEN provision is a specifically-created area in a school, or a group of resources and strategies, which are offered daily to help pupils learn. Provision can be academically based, focussed on basic living and social skills, or a mixture of the two, depending on the individual needs of the students.

If schools are looking to improve their current provision then here are some ideas to consider:

  • Current SEN learning and development levels
  • Practitioner understanding and knowledge
  • Environment and setting approaches to identifying SEN children
  • Levels of colleague support and training
  • Parent involvement and insight
  • Education professionals and agency collaboration

If a pupil is identified as having SEN, then schools should act to remove any barriers to learning and put in place a personalised provision that will enable that child to reach their full potential. An important way that barriers can be removed effectively is by using a continuous 4-part cycle called the Graduated Approach. The cycle works to specialise and refine provision over time, and follows these main stages:


Teachers and staff must assess a student's needs and progress by observing, and then liaise with parents and the child where appropriate. Staff should also consider at this stage whether they should ask for specialist support from other outside agencies.


Staff and parents should agree on which interventions, resources, and strategies will help the pupil progress. The planning stage is also a useful time to help identify whether parents, carers or other staff may require extra training, and lock in a date for when the plan can be reviewed in the future.


Put the plan into action and take time to record any problems or progress made at school and home.


On the day of review, teachers, parents and appropriate staff should come together and reflect on how effective the support has been. This meeting will help to pull out the positives and negatives of the provision and act as the foundation for the next plan.

Although this Graduated Approach should run throughout the year repeatedly, if a student's development remains concerning, then staff should consult with parents and consider requesting an EHC needs assessment from the local authority. EHC Plans identify the educational, health and social needs of a young person, and clarifies the additional support required to meet their specific outcomes and needs. Six weeks after receiving the request and meeting with the child's parents, the local authority will decide whether an EHC plan is essential for the future progress and development of a particular child.

How schools can help children with special educational needs

One key way that schools can help children with special educational needs, is to make sure that all staff members keep good communication with each other, and that everyone knows who they can liaise or collaborate with. If schools can create an open and supportive network that connects the SENCO, teachers, teaching assistants, specialist assistants, supervisory assistants, therapists, and service workers, all students with SEN and disabilities will have a wonderful foundation.

Within this network, share, advise on, and finalise, essential strategies such as:

  • Addressing the child by name instead of just referring to them with ‘children' or ‘everyone' labels.
  • Acting as a good role model.
  • Making a focused learning environment.
  • Communicating regularly with all staff through easy message systems e.g. home/school notebooks.
  • Understanding the main approach of how to communicate and work with the child.
  • Providing a quiet space where pupils can calm down.
  • Being consistent when applying rules and using them regularly.
  • Reinforcing verbal instructions with visual and tactile supports e.g. visual timetables.
  • Helping the child build friendships at their own pace.
  • Celebrating differences and encouraging other children to recognise and celebrate those differences too.
  • Ensuring that all support builds independence and does not impede it.
  • Recording which learning styles suit the student best.
  • Constantly revising and reinforcing learning.

Across all the staff who are involved with a child or young person with SEN, being aware of the EHC plan, or supporting the request for one as discussed above, is incredibly important. Your observations will improve their development day by day, and can help to spot early signs or changes in their additional needs. One special person who must bring all these staff members together and manage them effectively is the school SENCO.

Good SENCO practice includes:

  • Organizing time to plan and implement changes in the provision.
  • Making sure the provision's SEN policies and procedures are reviewed regularly.
  • Ensuring children and parents are at the centre of any SEN provision and decision making.
  • Speaking with parents about SEND changes.
  • Supporting interventions that are evidence-based.
  • Training staff under the new SEND framework.
  • Raising children identified with SEN to the attention of the local authority.
  • Meeting Code expectations when identifying and supporting young people with SEN and disabilities.
  • Managing the transitional planning for students with SEN.

Check our previous blog for more information about specific strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

Supporting students with SEN has never been more important. We hope this post provides you with some extra ideas and strategies to help young people with disabilities and SEN to feel more confident in their classrooms once again.

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