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FAQs and Myth Busting

Frequently Asked Questions about SEN Support

See our page about SEN Support in Mainstream Schools for more information.

You can find out what schools offer by:

  • viewing their SEN information report
  • viewing their SEN policies on their website
  • talking to the SENCo about the difficulties your child is having       

You can work with your school’s SENCo to plan appropriate support.

Local Offer for Southend linked here, will help you find out what help is available in Southend- for example voluntary, health or specialist services.

You should be involved in all discussion about your child's SEN, the SEND Code of Practice is really clear on this.

Make contact with your school SENCo to arrange an appointment.  Then you have an opportunity to share your views and those of your child.  You can also find out what support the school have or are planning to put in place.

Before a meeting it can be helpful to let school know what you would like to discuss.  You could make a list and email it to them ahead of your meeting.  Alternatively, hand it into your school office for the attention of the class teacher or SENCo.

See our a page called 'having successful meetings' for more information. 

A child may have Special Educational Needs or Disabilities, despite making expected academic progress. The Code of Practice says that when identifying SEN in schools...

‘It can include progress in areas other than attainment – for instance where a pupil needs to make additional progress with wider development or social needs in order to make a successful transition to adult life.’

‘It should not be assumed that attainment in line with chronological age means that there is no learning difficulty or disability. Some learning difficulties and disabilities occur across the range of cognitive ability and, left unaddressed may lead to frustration, which may manifest itself as disaffection, emotional or behavioural difficulties.’ 

6.18 & 6.23 Code of Practice

Talk to school about what your child is finding difficult and ask what support might be put in place to help them. The school’s own website could be a good starting point.  They may detail some of the programmes or interventions they offer.


The law is very clear that schools must identify, assess need and then plan support based on this information. Where school have identified what a child needs, this should be put in place. See our page about SEN Support in Schools for more information.

Sometimes it can be useful to talk with school about what they could put in place.  Perhaps they are unable to provide a one to one at lunch but may be able to suggest a supervised club, for example.

This is incorrect. SEN is about the needs of a child, not the diagnosis. Schools have a duty to identify SEN.  They must use best endeavors to make sure a child with SEN gets the support they need. See our page about  ‘SEN Support in Mainstream Schools’ for more information. 

There is also some government guidance for schools 'Supporting pupils with medical conditions', which highlights that schools should not wait for a formal diagnosis before providing support for a medical condition.

Some schools will have someone able to carry out Dyslexia screening.  Identifying Dyslexia is complex, a screening is not a diagnosis.  There could be many reasons your child may be having difficulties. 

It is quite common for parents to seek a private diagnosis.  Schools should consider involving specialists for any child that continues to make little or no progress, despite targeted support. For more information, follow these useful links:

Some children will appear on the surface to be ok.  Underneath, they may be finding things difficult and feeling too anxious or self-conscious to ask for help. It can be useful ahead of any discussion with school to talk to your child, ask them what they think might help them in school.

Try to find out what they are finding difficult and what is going well. Sharing this information with school should help plan what support might be needed. See our page about SEN Support in Mainstream Schools .

For example, some Autistic children may find ‘free time’ difficult.  Some, after a long day at school, might struggle to regulate their emotions and can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Often parents refer to this 'overwhelm' or as a 'meltdown'.  

It can be useful to try to build in some structure at home. A home timetable on display for what happens now and next can be helpful.

The National Autistic Society have some useful pages found by clicking the following links:

Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines explained

Visual supports - types and uses

This is very common. Children with SEN are often anxious about raising their hand in class and asking for help.  As they get older and start to become more aware of their differences, they often don’t want to attract more attention to themselves.  You could acknowledge to your child that many young people find this tricky.  Explain that it is ok to explore with school ways of asking for help which your child will find easier.

For example, it could be agreed that your child shows he/she is struggling by placing an item on the table.  This might be a coloured card system or a piece of school kit like a rubber. The teacher or TA comes over discreetly, going to other children first to see if they are ok.

In this way, your child doesn’t stand out.  Some young people prefer to speak to a key person at agreed times in the week.  They can talk about what they are finding difficult and explore ways to make this better.


It will be helpful to meet with school to discuss the issues and consider any patterns of behaviour.  It is very common for children and young people to present differently at home and at school. The environments and activities can be very different.

We recommend acknowledging the school view and experience.  This does not make your experience any less valid.  It is important to look at the whole view to unpick what your child is finding most tricky and what might make things easier.

Share with school any strategies you use.  Often parents are using strategies without even realising.  It can be less confusing for a child where the strategies at home and school are the same.

Praising positive behaviour can be really effective. You can also explain you are finding the daily calls stressful and agree how school will communicate with you in the future.

Where school have tried all strategies and are unsure how to support, they should seek specialist advice.

This comes back to the four-stage cycle of SEN Support. Once required outcomes have been agreed, progress should then be measured, and support monitored as part of the cycle.

At the review stage the evidence should show whether your child has achieved the outcomes.  If not, support should be reviewed and changed with fresh targets set where necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions about Education, Health and Care Plans

An Education Health and Care Plan is often called and EHCP.

An EHCP describes your child’s educational needs.  It details the help they will get to achieve their ambitions.

An EHCP can include any health and care support your child needs.

It is a legal document written by the local authority.  It is for children and young people whose needs cannot be met by the support that is usually available at their school or college.

Most children with special educational needs will have their needs met through extra support provided by the education setting. This is known as SEN Support.  It can include a wide range of provision and interventions. 

If an educational setting has exhausted all the possible support options and a child/young person is still not progressing as expected, it might be appropriate to request an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment.

The local authority will expect to see evidence of what, if any, progress has been made.  They will need to see that school have done everything they can to help your child make progress.
If your young person with SEN is not in education but wants to be, you can contact us to discuss their options.

The SEND Code of Practice says, ‘A local authority must conduct an assessment of education, health and care needs when it considers that it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.’ (CoP 9.3)

Where the setting has exhausted all possible support options or is unable to maintain the required level of support without the help from the local authority, they can use this information as evidence within their request for an EHC needs assessment.

Chapter 9.14 of the Code of Practice details the information a local authority must consider when deciding whether to assess.

The Code also says that a local authority, whilst applying their own criteria when deciding whether to assess, ‘must be prepared to depart from those criteria where there is a compelling reason to do so…’ (CoP 9.16)

Usually a request will be made by the setting to the local authority, though as a parent or carer you have the right to make a request directly with the local authority. 

As the educational setting will be requested to submit information within 15 days, we would recommend you let school know you have, or are planning to make a request.

Where your child is aged between 16 and 25, they also have a right to request an EHC needs assessment.

You can make a direct request by contacting the Special Educational Needs Team in writing, by phone or email. 
The local authority will take some basic information from you including:

  • your child’s name
  • date of birth
  • where they go to school
  • family information including
    • address
    • contact details for you and anyone else with parental responsibility.

You will be sent a form to complete within 15 days.

The local authority will let you know their decision in writing, within 6 weeks of the request.

From start to finish the process is 20 weeks.
The initial stage takes six weeks.  This is where the local authority decides whether to carry out an assessment.

It is really helpful to find out why the local authority reached this decision. You can ask them for a meeting, including school to discuss their reasons.

It could be that they have identified some support that school can put in place without an EHC plan for example.

You have the right to mediation and appeal.  Your letter will explain this, and we can offer further advice and support.

We can help you with preparing for a meeting.  Sometimes we may attend with you, but we cannot tell you what you should say.  This should be your views.

We aim to help you to feel confident to have your say and feel heard. You could take a friend or family member along for support.  Always let school,  or the local authority know who will be going so they can make sure the room can accommodate you all.

An EHC needs assessment will not always lead to an EHC plan.

If the local authority decides an EHC plan is not necessary, they will write to you.  They will include information about your rights to mediation and appeal.

Information gathered as part of the assessment will indicate ways in which the setting can meet your child’s needs without an EHC plan.

An outcome is what you expect to be achieved within an agreed timescale.
The SEND Code of Practice says…

‘Outcomes will usually set out what needs to be achieved by the end of a phase or stage of education in order to enable the child or young person to progress successfully to the next phase or stage…’ (9.68)

‘An outcome can be defined as the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention… it should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART). When an outcome is focused on education or training, it will describe what the expected benefit will be to the individual as a result of the educational or training intervention provided.’ (9.66)

‘When agreeing outcomes, it is important to consider both what is important to the child or young person – what they themselves want to be able to achieve – and what is important for them as judged by others with the child or young person’s best interests at heart. ‘(9.67)

If the Local Authority agree to an EHCP, you will receive a draft plan. You will then have 15 days to suggest any changes you would like to be considered. You can request to meet with them, this is sometimes referred to as a co-production meeting.

This gives you an opportunity to meet with the SEND Officer and any other professionals you would like to invite.  You can discuss provision and go over the draft plan, including requesting any changes you would like to make.

Ahead of the meeting it can be helpful to prepare notes about any questions you have or changes you would like to request.

Your child should be part of any planning or decision-making.

The local authority should involve your child as far as possible in this process. They must take into account their views as well as yours.

Your child may need help to express their views. For example, from a family member or practitioner already working with them. Consider alternative ways they can share their views, pictorial or video for example.

Our service can help children and young people directly with:

  • questions they might have
  • getting their views across
  • support preparing for and at meetings too

The local authority will review the EHC plan every 12 months or earlier if necessary. This must be done in partnership with you and your child or the young person.  This must take account of your views, wishes and feelings.

The local authority must decide whether to keep the plan as it is, make changes, or cease to maintain it.  This decision must be made within four weeks of the review meeting. You have a right of appeal if the local authority proposes to cease the EHC plan.

For some young people an EHC plan will continue until they are 25. However, the plan will stop if the young person:

  • Goes to university
  • Gets a job
  • Tells their local authority they no longer want their EHC plan, or
  • The local authority decides the outcomes have been achieved and Special Educational Provision is no longer necessary

The first step will be to raise your concerns with the educational setting. There may be reasons why support has been changed or delayed.

Once an EHC plan is finalised the setting will set interim targets linked to the 'outcomes' in section E.  This is key as it enables progress to be reviewed throughout the year. If you are unsure what these targets are, you could arrange to meet with the SENCo.

If you have spoken with the setting and still have some concerns that the 'provision' in section F of the EHC plan is not being made, you should let the local authority know.

In law, it is the local authority’s duty to secure the special educational provision in an EHC plan.  This means to ensure that provision is made.

IPSEA have some useful guidance including an example letter, if you have been unable to resolve this by contacting school or the local authority.

An EHC plan is only for children or young people with special educational needs. Some types of training can be considered an educational need, for example an apprenticeship or internship.

If your child is no longer in education or training, the local authority will likely cease the EHC plan at the next annual review. There must be a special educational need for a plan to continue.

No, EHC plans can support young people in further education settings (6th form or college) and will cease when they go into higher education (university).

Frequently Asked Questions about Choosing a New School

We can't recommend schools to you; everyone's experience is unique.  Opinions will therefore differ. We would advise you to keep an open mind about the opinions of others.  Visit any school to form your own views before making any decisions.

You will find you get an instinct for where you would like your child to go by:

  • Research
  • Asking questions
  • Getting a feel for the school

You should apply for a mainstream school place as part of the usual admissions process. This will ensure you secure a school place for your child regardless of the outcome of the EHC process.

You can find details about school admissions on Southend Council's website.  Every child has the right to a mainstream education so this would usually be the starting point. 

We usually find parents feel better placed to make a decision by:

  • researching
  • visiting schools
  • meeting staff and asking questions

If the Local Authority decide to issue an EHCP, you will be asked to name your preferred school at the draft stage.  The Local Authority must consult with your chosen school.

Schools (including academies and free schools) must have regard to:

CoP chapter 1 explains the basic principles which focus on inclusive practice and removing barriers to learning. Chapter 6 outlines school responsibilities.

If a school says they are concerned about their ability to meet your child’s needs, get as much information as possible as to why. You may find that you can explore with the school other means of supporting your child.  If they cannot offer a strategy a previous school provided, what could they offer instead which might have a similar impact?

Children and young people should be educated in mainstream education in accordance with sections 33 & 34 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

An admission authority must not discriminate against a person in the arrangements and decisions it makes as to who is offered admission as a pupil on the grounds of:

  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex or sexual orientation

All mainstream schools receive money to provide SEN Support.  They can apply for additional funds for any child requiring a higher level of support where this can be evidenced.

Schools must not discriminate and are responsible for meeting the needs of every child in their school.  Sometimes this will mean making 'reasonable adjustments' or purchasing resources or planning individual support.

If your child has an EHC plan, the special education provision (outlined in section F of the plan) must be provided.

Children normally attend school full-time in the Reception Year in the September following their fourth birthday.

All primary schools must offer children a full-time place at the start of the Autumn term in September. However, legally a child does not have to start full-time education until the term after their fifth birthday.

Whatever you decide, it is important that you apply for an infant or primary place by the closing date.
Section 2.16 of the School Admissions Code outlines the duty.

Teachers are trained to differentiate in the classroom to meet the needs of each and every child.  In any class there is a wide range of ability.  Any support a child receives is targeted around needs. If you feel your child would benefit from repeating a year, discuss with school and the LA Admissions team (and the SEND Team where there is an EHC plan).
The local authority must make any decision based on the best interests of your child.

Section 2.17A of the Schools Admissions Code states that admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include taking account of:

  • the parent’s views
  • information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development
  • where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional
  • whether they have previously been educated out of their normal age group
  • whether they may naturally have fallen into a lower age group if it were not for being born prematurely
  • the views of the head teacher of the school concerned

When informing a parent of their decision on the year group the child should be admitted to, the admission authority must set out clearly the reasons for their decision. See the School Admissions code.

See excerpts below from the Schools Admissions Code.

Section 2.21 of the Schools Admissions Code state ‘There is no requirement for local authorities to co-ordinate in-year applications but they must provide information in the composite prospectus on how in-year applications can be made and will be dealt with. Local authorities must, on request, provide information to a parent about the places still available in all schools within its area, and a suitable form for parents to complete when applying for a place for their child at any school for which they are not the admission authority. Any parent can apply for a place for their child at any time to any school outside the normal admissions round.  They can do this by applying directly to admission authorities, except where other arrangements are in place locally (e.g. the local authority coordinates all in-year admissions).’

Section 2.22 of the Schools Admissions Code states ‘Own admission authority schools must, on receipt of an in-year application, notify the local authority of both the application and its outcome, to allow the local authority to keep up to date figures on the availability of places in the area. The admission authority must also inform parents of their right to appeal against the refusal of a place’.

Section 2.24 of the Schools Admissions Code states ‘When an admission authority informs a parent of a decision to refuse their child a place at a school for which they have applied, it must include the reason why admission was refused; information about the right to appeal; the deadline for lodging an appeal and the contact details for making an appeal. Parents must be informed that, if they wish to appeal, they must set out their grounds for appeal in writing. Admission authorities must not limit the grounds on which appeals can be made’.

A school may refuse a place if they currently have a high proportion of children with challenging behaviour:

Section 3.12 of the School Admissions Code states ‘Where a governing body does not wish to admit a child with challenging behaviour outside the normal admissions round, even though places are available, it must refer the case to the local authority for action under the Fair Access Protocol 66. This will normally only be appropriate where a school has a particularly high proportion of children with challenging behaviour or previously excluded children. The use of this provision will depend on local circumstances and must be described in the local authority’s Fair Access Protocol. This provision will not apply to a looked after child, a previously looked after child or a child with a statement of special educational needs or Education, Health and Care Plan naming the school in question, as these children must be admitted.’

If you are declined a place the local authority should therefore be notified by the school via the ‘In-year Fair Access Protocol’ known as ‘IYFAP’.

Read about Southend Councils Fair Access Protocol

Section 1.27 of the SEND Code of Practice states ‘Children without an EHC plan must be educated in a mainstream school, unless there are exceptional circumstances.’

If your child has an EHC plan, there will be an Annual Review.  This would be the ideal time to discuss provision- both what's in place currently and what might need to change.  The appropriateness of school should also be discussed. You can request an early review where there are concerns.  This provides you with the opportunity to share your views with the local authority.

Consider whether fresh advice might be needed from an Educational Psychologist or other specialist.  Discuss this as part of the annual review. It could be that fresh advice includes recommendations that the current school could implement.  Equally, this advice may indicate that a specialist setting would be more appropriate.

You can research special schools listed in the Local Offer or within the Directory of schools.  There is one for primary and one for secondary. The admissions pages will help you to find out which school or schools might be appropriate for your child’s needs. We would encourage you contact special schools directly to discuss your child’s individual needs. If possible, arrange a visit, before you make any decisions.

You may request a special school for your child as part of the EHC plan process- either when you receive your initial draft EHC plan or following amendment at an Annual Review.

You can take a look at the Local Offer to identify special schools in Southend.
The local authority must consult with your chosen school, provided they are a type of school listed within section 38 of the Children & Families (C&F) Act 2014.

As this is part of a legal process, you will have the opportunity of mediation and/or appealing if you are in disagreement with the local authority about the school named in the plan.

The local authority may only reject your request to name your chosen school where:

  • The school or other institution is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person
  • The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others
  • The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient use of resources

These are the only lawful reasons a local authority can reject a parental request for a place at a school (within the prescribed list of types of school outlined in section 38 (3) of the Children & Families Act 2014).

A school being ‘full’ is not a lawful reason to refuse. If, after consulting with the school, the local authority decide to reject your request and name another school or type of school, you will have the option of mediation and/or appealing to the tribunal within two months of receiving the final or amended EHC plan.


Contact the Special Educational Needs Team in Southend, your current local authority will also liaise with them and pass on your child’s file & EHC plan. You can find their details on the Local Offer for Southend.

Further Information about SEND Support


Myth Busting