Special Needs Education in the UK

In depth information about the provisions for children with special needs in the United Kingdom: details on education, assessment of special needs, benefits and finding support groups...

Special Educational Needs (SEN) in the UK refers to children with disabilities or learning difficulties that make it more difficult for them to learn or access education than other children. This can include problems with schoolwork, expressing themselves, behaviour, organising themselves, relating to adults, making friends or sensory or physical needs.

Children with special educational needs are generally integrated into mainstream state schools as long as the schools have the right resources with which to look after them. This means adequate equipment and enough teachers with the skills to give them the education that will help these students achieve their potential.

If their disabilities are so severe that they can not be looked after adequately at a mainstream school, it is the responsibility of the local authority to provide funds for that child to go to a special school or be educated at home.

If a child has special educational needs, a step-by-step approach is adopted to meet the needs of the child. The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice is used as a guide to help children with SEN.

  • For information on special educational needs: Click here

Assessment of Special Educational Needs

Under UK law it is up to mainstream schools to try to meet special educational needs. If it is not possible for a mainstream school to provide the help needed by a child in their schooling, it is up to the local authority to assess the child's needs and provide solutions.

An assessment can be requested by the parent or by the child's school, although the school should talk to the parent first before requesting an assessment. Assessment of SEN are carried out by local authorities.

The assessment procedure involves the local authorities who will ask for input from the child's school, the child's parent(s), a doctor, an educational psychologist, social services and anyone else who may be in a position to provide help or advice. Following the assessment, SEN officers decide whether to write a statement of SEN. Parents are informed within 12 weeks of the assessment if this is the case. A statement of SEN outlines the needs of the child and the help that they should receive.

  • For comprehensive information on statements of SEN: Click here

Following a statement of SEN the decision is made to either send them to a mainstream school or a special school.

Special Needs Schools in the UK

The website Special Needs UK has information on schools in the UK for children with SEN.

Special Needs Associations in the UK

There are national as well as local support groups which aim to bring together parents and children with disabilities. Local information is also available from local authorities.

Further Information

  • For comprehensive information on special needs education in the UK: Click here
  • Information on caring for a disabled child: Click here