What does ‘SEN’ mean?

‘SEN’ stands for Special Educational Needs. It is not something you are ‘diagnosed’
with, it means that your child or young person has a learning difficulty and/or
disability (1) which means that special provision needs to be made for them.

This is broken down further. A learning difficulty is described as:

“a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the
same age”

A disability is described as something 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”

Having a learning difficulty and/or disability does not automatically mean that a
child or young person has SEN. It is only when they need:

“educational or training provision that is additional to, or different from, that
made generally for others of the same age” (2) that the term ‘SEN’ is used.

‘SEN’ therefore does not mean that a diagnosis of a condition is needed. Some
children may have rare genetic conditions that have not yet been identified, so
there is no diagnosis. Others may not need any additional or different provision
made for them, because all the support they need is made ‘as standard’ in their
school already.

A child or young person with a learning difficulty or disability is always compared to
a typical peer of the same age in mainstream in general. They are not compared
to peers in their particular class. The learning difficulty could be within a specific
area of their learning, such as a very limited attention span. The child or young
person does not need to be academically behind.

1 Children and Families Act s20
2 Children and Families Act s21


SENsational Families is registered in England and Wales under charity number 1173051.
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