You may come across the following terms when reading about support for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities.

You can view and download the full glossary and acronym list here.

If you notice any words/phrases that are missing, please email Thank you.

An academy is a school which receives funding directly from the Government and is not controlled by the local authority. The majority of academies are secondary schools, but some primary schools also have academy status.

Basic self-care tasks that must be accomplished everyday, such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring and continence.

Additional needs describes a group of children or young people who require additional support to help them make improved progress or catch up, which may be a short-term intervention or a longer-term strategy.

An advocate is someone who can help children, young people and parents say what they want if they find it difficult to do so.

The AWPU is the amount of money that every maintained school receives for each pupil that is on the school roll, whether or not they have SEN. The value of the AWPU varies from one local authority to another and according to the age of the pupils.

Education in a setting that is not a mainstream or special school. The education should be based on the needs of the child and can be provided through a variety of routes, including pupil referral units (PRUs).

Once a year, a meeting is set up to review the Education Health and Care Plan. At this meeting parents/carers, the child/young person and professionals review the needs of the child/young person and what support they require. After this meeting, the LA then decides whether an EHCP it is still needed and whether any changes should be made to the Plan.

Apprenticeships are paid for by the government and the employer. Learning at work through an apprenticeship scheme means getting a wage at the same time.

The SEND Code of Practice 2014 sets out four broad areas of special educational need that include a range of difficulties and conditions:

  1. Communication and Interaction (C&I)
  2. Cognition and Learning (C&L)
  3. Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties (SEMHD)
  4. Physical and/or Sensory Needs (P&SN)

The armed forces covenant sets out the relationship between the nation, the government and the armed forces. It recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families and it establishes how they should expect to be treated. The Covenant states that the children of service personnel should have the same standard of, and access to, education (including early years services) as any other UK citizen in the area in which they live.

ASDAN is an awarding organisation whose curriculum programmes and qualifications help young people develop knowledge and skills for learning, work and life.

Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism. People with the condition usually have difficulties with social communication, social interaction and social imagination.

An assessment is a way of working out what kind of support someone needs.

A medical diagnosis related to the child’s behaviour and attention span, which can affect their ability to concentrate and learn.

Different methods that can be used to help people with disabilities communicate with others, for example using signing, speech synthesisers, symbols, objects of reference or a combination of these.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. Autistic people think differently to other people. It affects how a person communicates with and relates to the people around them.

A family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly or disabled person.

A record of the health and/or social care services that are being provided to a child or young person to help them manage a disability or health condition. The Plan will be agreed with the child’s parent or the young person and may be contained within a patient’s medical record or maintained as a separate document. Care Plans are also maintained by local authorities for looked after children – in this instance the Care Plan will contain a Personal Education Plan in addition to the health and social care elements.

Services that are provided by the NHS for children and young people up to the age of 18 who need support with their emotions, their behaviour or their mental health

The Children and Families Act 2014 became law on the 13 March 2014. The Act aims to improve how different agencies and services work together and create a more joined-up approach to the statutory assessment process for children and young people with the most complex needs. The Act aims to give children and young people with complex needs and their families more choice and control about which services they can access and how they are paid for. The Act will also improve information about services for children and young people with SEN and their families.

CCGs are groups of professionals who work together to commission health services, ensuring there is sufficient capacity contracted to deliver the necessary services to people.

The revised Special Educational Needs Code of Practice was published by the Department for Education and Skills in January 2015. The code provides guidance on policies and procedures intended to enable pupils with SEN to reach their full potential, to be included in school communities and to make the transition to adult life successfully.

The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgement.

Thinking and reasoning abilities. A term often used by psychologists instead of intelligence.

The process that ensures the right people and services are in the right place at the right time for all children, young people and families. It is the process by which services are planned, investment decisions are made, delivery is ensured and effectiveness is reviewed.

Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. This may be because they have difficulty saying what they want to, understanding what is being said to them or they do not understand or use social rules of communication.

Understanding of spoken or written material or practical situations.

The form that is used by the nurse or other health worker who does the assessment to see if a person is eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare.

A slower rate of development where a child learns more slowly than most children of the same age.

Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. Teachers take account of this when planning their lessons, organising the classroom and choosing books and materials. They are then able to choose from the range of available approaches and resources to make a selection which best fits the learning styles of a particular child or group of children. This is what is meant by a differentiated curriculum.

A payment made directly to a parent or young person to purchase specific services. Under the Children and Families Act 2014 a Direct Payment may be made as part of a Personal Budget so that the parent or young person can buy certain services that are specified in their EHC plan. Direct payments can only be used for provision provided on the school or college premises if the school or college agree.

A person is disabled if he or she has a physical or mental impairment, which has substantial and long-term effect on his/her ability to carry out day-to-day activities. The definition also covers pupils with sensory or intellectual impairments, those with a learning disability, severe disfigurements or progressive conditions.

An allowance for undergraduate or postgraduate students who have a disability or long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia which affects their ability to study. It can be used to pay for things such as special equipment, a note-taker or transport costs.

Local authorities must provide independent disagreement resolution to help parents and young people resolve disputes with local authorities, schools and other settings about SEND duties and provision.

A condition associated with specific learning difficulties in Maths. In its simplest terms this means that sufferers have problems with even simple arithmetic.

A learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

A common developmental disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. It may also affect speech.

A social care assessment of a child and his or her family, designed to identify needs at an early stage and enable suitable interventions to be put in place to support the family.

The Early Support Programme co-ordinates health, education and social care support for the parents and carers of disabled children and young people from birth to adulthood. A key worker is assigned to families that join the Programme.

The foundation stage begins when children reach the age of three. Many children attend an early education setting soon after their third birthday. The foundation stage continues until the end of the reception year and is consistent with the National Curriculum. It prepares children for learning in Year 1, when programmes of study for Key Stage 1 are taught.


A provider of early education places for children under five years of age. This can include state-funded and private nurseries as well as child minders.

Local Authorities must carry out an EHC needs assessment if a child or young person has or may have special educational needs and they may need support for these needs. The assessment is a detailed look at the special educational needs that the child or young person has and what help he or she may need in order to learn. It is sometimes called a statutory assessment. You can find out more in the SEND Code of Practice sections 9.45 – 9.52.

An EHC plan describes the special educational needs that a child or young person has and the help that they will be given to meet them. It also includes the health and care provision that is needed. It is a legal document written by the local authority and is used for children and young people who have complex support needs.

The ESFA is the government agency that funds education for learners between the ages of 3 and 19, and those with learning difficulties and disabilities between the ages of 3 and 25. The ESFA allocates funds to local authorities, which then provide the funding for maintained schools. The ESFA directly funds academies and free schools.

An educational psychologist looks at how a child or young person can be better supported to learn. This includes children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

A health condition that affects the brain and causes seizures.

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in school, the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone.

The First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) is a legal body. The Tribunal hears appeals from parents of children with SEN, and young people with SEN, about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans.

A condition caused by the mother consuming alcohol, resulting in abnormal brain development before birth.

The most common cause of inherited learning difficulties after Down’s Syndrome.

A free school is a type of academy, which is free to attend, but is not controlled by the local authority. Free schools receive state funding via the Education & Skills Funding Agency. Parents, teachers, businesses or charities can submit an application to the Department for Education to set up a free school.

A college offering continuing education to young people over the compulsory school age of 16. The FE sector in England includes general further education colleges, sixth form colleges, specialist colleges and adult education institutes.

The SEND Code of Practice says that schools should follow a graduated approach when providing SEN Support. This is based on a cycle of:

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Do
  • Review

Healthwatch England is an independent consumer champion, gathering and representing the views of the public about health and social care services in England. It operates both at a national and local level and ensures the views of the public and people who use services are taken into account. Healthwatch England works as part of the Care Quality Commission.

Pupils with a hearing impairment range from those with a mild hearing loss to those who are profoundly deaf.

An experienced teaching assistant who plans and delivers learning activities under the direction of a teacher, and assesses, records and reports on pupils’ progress.

The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. It incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law. The Human Rights Act came into force in the UK in October 2000.

The principle of Inclusion is that children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or a Disability have the right to be educated in Mainstream Schools alongside other children from their community rather than being educated in Special Schools.

Independent schools (sometimes called ‘private schools’) are schools that are not funded, organised or controlled by central government or Local Authorities ('LAs'). Instead, they are funded through a combination of tuition fees, gifts and endowments. Independent schools can be selective of their students and especially in the case of secondary education, students may face written assessments before being granted entry to a school.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, an independent special school (sometimes called an independent specialist school) is an independent school that is ‘specially organised to make special educational provision ('SEP') for students with special educational needs’. For the purposes of EHC plans, it is the Secretary of State who defines whether a school is an independent special school or not and a school must agree to this designation before it can be treated as such.

A job coach finds out what the work involves and then plans ways to help the young person fulfil their tasks. Support is on-going until the employee has learned the job.

Lacking capacity is when a person is not able to make a decision for themselves. Just because someone finds it hard to make one decision, it does not mean they are not able to make other decisions. The legal definition is given in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

A learning disability affects how someone understands and remembers information. It is different from person to person. Someone people may need more time to understand information.

School staff who work with school and college students to help them engage more effectively in learning and improve achievement.

The local government body of a county or city that provides services, including education, for local people.

A local offer is published by every local authority and provides information about the support and services that children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities and their families can get. It includes information about education, health and care provision. It also gives information about training, employment and independent living for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

Any child who is in care of the local authority, or who is provided with accommodation by the local authority social services department for more than 24 hours.

This is a school that provides education for all children, whether or not they have special educational needs or disabilities.

Schools in England that are maintained by a local authority – any community, foundation or voluntary school, community special or foundation special school. Definition from SEND Code of Practice April 2015

Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. It supports the development of essential communication skills such as attention and listening, comprehension, memory, recall and organisation of language and expression.

Mediation is a type of disagreement resolution. Every local authority must provide independent mediation to help parents and young people resolve disputes with local authorities about:

  • a decision not to carry out an EHC needs assessment
  • a decision not to draw up an EHC plan
  • the content of a final EHC plan or amended plan
  • a decision not to amend an EHC plan
  • a decision to cease to maintain an EHC plan.

Mediation must also be provided on the health and social care elements of an EHC plan. You can find more information on mediation in the SEND Code of Practice 11.13 to 11.38.

A mental capacity assessment is carried out to see if someone is able to make decisions. If someone cannot make a decision by themselves, they should still be supported to have their say.

Describes a general level of academic attainment that is significantly below that of other children of the same age. There may be difficulty acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills, speech and language difficulties and poorly developed personal and social skills. Pupils should only be recorded as having a MLD if additional educational provision is being made to help them access the curriculum.

Amendment or alteration of a programme of study, attainment target, assessment or any other component of the curriculum so that a child can access that area of the teaching and learning.

Practitioners from different sectors and professions working together to provide joined-up support for children, young people and families.

Pupils with multi-sensory impairment have a combination of visual and hearing difficulties. They are sometimes referred to as deafblind but may have some residual sight and/or hearing.

The SEND Code of Practice says in Section i of the Introduction: “where the text uses the word ‘must’ it refers to a statutory requirement under primary legislation, regulations or case law.” This means that wherever the term ‘must’ is used all the organisations listed in Section iv of the Introduction to the Code have a legal duty to do what the Code says.

This sets out a clear, full and statutory entitlement to learning for all pupils, determining what should be taught and setting attainment targets for learning. It also determines how performance will be assessed and reported.

NHS Continuing Healthcare is the name given to a package of care that is arranged and funded solely by the NHS for individuals aged 18and over who are not in hospital but have complex ongoing healthcare needs.

Schools in England approved by the Secretary of State under section 342 of the Education Acct 1996 as special schools which are not maintained by the state but charge fees on a non-profit-making basis. Most non-maintained special schools are run by major charities or charitable trusts.

The Notional SEN budget ('NSB') is an identified amount of money within a school’s overall budget that is to contribute to the special educational provision ('SEP') of children with SEN or disabilities. It is allocated to schools from a LAs School’s Block. It is not ring-fenced and schools are expected to provide SEN support from the whole of their budget.

The practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil. Off-rolling in these circumstances is a form of ‘gaming’. There are many reasons why a school might remove a pupil from the school roll, such as when a pupil moves house or a parent decides (without coercion from the school) to home educate their child. This is not off-rolling. If a school removes a pupil from the roll due to a formal permanent exclusion and follows the proper processes, this is not off-rolling.

Office for Standards in Education, a non-Ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) form its professional arm.

Section 9.66 of the SEND Code of Practice says: “An outcome can be defined as the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention. It should be personal and not expressed from a service perspective; it should be something that those involved have control and influence over, and while it does not always have to be formal or accredited, 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.”

A Parent Carer Forum is a representative local group of parents and carers of disabled children who work with local authorities, education, health and other providers to make sure the services they plan and deliver meet the needs of disabled children and families.

PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. It is an alternative communication system developed to help children affected by autism convey their thoughts and needs.

Peer support is when other pupils provide emotional, social or practical help to each other. Pupils are usually trained to provide this support.

Personal assistants are approved support staff who offer a range of individual support and care to disabled children and young people.

Once a child or young person has an EHC plan, the local authority (“LA”) must ensure the support set out in the plan is made for the child or young person. It is possible for the LA to consider making a payment to the parent, the young person or another nominated person, so that they can organise the provision themselves. This is called a direct payment. In order for the parent or young person to request a direct payment, the LA must first identify a personal budget. This is the notional amount of money that would be needed to cover the cost of making the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan.

An element of a care plan maintained by a local authority in respect of a looked after child, which sets out the education needs of the child.

A personal health budget is a set amount of money to spend on the support and services that will meet your health and wellbeing needs, as agreed between you (or your representative) and your local NHS team.

A Person Centred Review uses person centred thinking approaches to explore what is happening from the person and other people's perspectives. The review looks at what's working and not working, what's important to the person now and in the future, and agrees outcomes for change.

Sensory needs, which can be hearing loss and/or visual impairment or sensory processing difficulties and physical difficulties, can occur for a variety of reasons, e.g. congenital conditions (some progressive), injury or disease. The important consideration in this area is the degree to which the difficulties impact on a child’s or young person’s ability to access educational opportunities.

Disabilities that limit mobility. Among the causes are congenital conditions, accidents or injury.

Planned, home-based educational support for pre-school children with special educational needs. Local authorities usually provide Portage services. The Portage service is named after the town of Portage, Wisconsin, USA. There is an active and extensive network of Portage services in the UK, developed by the National Portage Association, which provides a Code of Practice and accredited training.

The transition of a young person leaving childhood and preparing to become an adult.

Someone with more than one disability, with the most significant being a learning disability. Many children diagnosed with PMLD will also have a sensory or physical disability, complex health needs or mental health difficulties. Pupils with PMLD need a high level of adult support both for their learning needs and for their personal care.

A provision map is a way of documenting the range of support available to pupils with SEN within a school.

Additional funding for schools to spend in order to raise the achievement of disadvantaged pupils. The Pupil Premium for each school is calculated according to the number of pupils eligible for free school meals.

This is a school established and maintained by a local authority that is specially organised to provide education for children who are excluded, sick or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school.

Reasonable adjustments are changes schools and other settings are required to make which could include: changes to physical features –for example, creating a ramp so that students can enter a classroom or providing extra support and aids (such as specialist teachers or equipment).

Respite care involves short term or temporary care of the sick or disabled for a few hours or weeks, designed to provide relief to the regular caregiver.

The process of identifying children and young people who have suffered or who are likely to suffer significant harm, and then taking the appropriate steps to keep them safe.

A category for young people (0-25) who need extra specialist support but not an EHC plan. This may take the form of additional support from within the school or require the involvement of specialist staff or support services. The purpose of SEN support is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives that have been set for them by the school. Schools should involve parents in this process.

This is the statutory guidance that supports Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014. It tells local authorities, early years settings, schools, colleges, health and social care providers and others what they must and should do to identify, assess and provide for children and young people with SEN or disabilities.

All schools must publish on their websites information about their policy and arrangements for supporting children with SEN. This must be kept up to date. The information that has to be included can be found in Section 6.79 of the SEND Code of Practice.

SCE oversees the education of UK Service children abroad. It is funded by the Ministry of Defence and operates its own schools as well as providing advice to parents on UK and overseas schools.

Pupils with SLD have significant intellectual or cognitive impairments. This will have an impact on their ability to participate in the school curriculum without support.

Should is a word that occurs frequently in the SEND Code of Practice. Section i of the Introduction to the Code says: “where the text uses the word ‘should’ it means that the guidance contained in this Code must be considered and that those who must have regard to it will be expected to explain any departure from it. This means that wherever the term ‘should is used all the organisations listed in Section iv of the Introduction to the Code must consider what the Code says. However they may depart from it.”

Sometimes a service that provides information, advice and support may be asked for help that it is not able to give directly. When this happens the person seeking information, advice or support may signposted to other service providers. This means that they will be given information, including contact details, about other sources of help.

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs are a type of special educational needs in which children/young people have severe difficulties in managing their emotions and behaviour. They often show inappropriate responses and feelings to situations.

This means that they have trouble in building and maintaining relationships with peers and adults; they can also struggle to engage with learning and to cope in classroom without additional strategies and interventions. Children with SEMH will often feel anxious, scared and misunderstood.

SENDIASS offer free information, advice and support to parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs, and the young people themselves. They are statutory services which means there has to be one in every local authority.

A child or young person who has special educational needs may:

  • Find it harder to learn than other people their age
  • Face challenges that make it hard to go to school or college
  • Need extra or different support to learn

A panel set up to arbitrate when disagreements occur between parents and the local authority about the provision for a pupil’s Special Educational Needs, or when a parent alleges discrimination on the grounds of a child’s disability.

The SENCO is the person at a school who is in charge of making sure students who have special educational needs or disabilities get the support they need.

Special educational provision is provision that is different from or additional to that normally available to pupils or students of the same age, which is designed to help children and young people with SEN or disabilities to access the National Curriculum at school or to study at college.

A school which is specifically organised to make special educational provision for pupils with SEN. Special schools maintained by the local authority comprise community special schools and foundation special schools, and non-maintained (independent) special schools that are approved by the Secretary of State under Section 342 of the Education Act 1996.

Services provided by the local authority or health service to provide specialised services for children with acute or high level needs.

An umbrella term used to cover a range of frequently co-occurring difficulties, usually dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADD and ADHD.

A wide range of difficulties related to all aspects of communication in children and young people. These can include difficulties with speech, understanding what others say, and using language socially.

A process of assessment referred to as an education, health and care needs assessment carried out by the Local Authority for a child or young person 0-25. An EHC needs assessment is a detailed look at a child’s special educational needs (SEN) and the support her or she may need in order to learn.

Supported internships are a structured study programme based primarily at an employer. They enable young people aged 16-24 with a statement of SEN, or an Education, Health and Care plan to achieve sustainable paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need for work, through learning in the workplace.

Additional funding available from the LA for pupils with high needs, i.e. those whose educational provision costs more than £10,000 per year

A plan drawn up at the annual review meeting which sets out the steps needed to move from one school to another or from school to adult life.

If the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal does not uphold your appeal in full, it is possible to appeal further to the Upper Tribunal. Appeals to the Upper Tribunal can only be made on very narrow grounds. The Upper Tribunal will not consider appeals purely on the basis that you disagree with the decision taken by SENDIST.

A person over compulsory school age (the end of the academic year in which they turn 16). From this point the right to make decisions about matters covered by the Children and Families Act 2014 applies to the young person directly, rather than to their parents.

Youth offending teams are part of local authorities and are separate from the police and the justice system. They work with local agencies including the police, probation officers, health, children’s services, schools and the local community, to run local crime prevention programmes, help young people at the police station if they’re arrested, help young people and their families at court, supervise young people serving a community sentence and stay in touch with a young person if they’re sentenced to custody.

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