The SEN system
Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)can affect young people’s ability to learn in many different ways, some examples are below:
- Behaviour or ability to socialise, for example they struggle to make friends
- Reading and writing, for example because they have dyslexia
- Ability to understand things
- Concentration levels, for example because they have ADHD
- Physical ability
If you are concerned that your child may be showing any of the above symptoms and may have special educational needs then the first port of call should be the SEN co-ordinator, or ‘SENCO’ in your child’s school or nursery. If your child is not yet at a school or nursery then it is best to contact your local council directly.
Help can come of one two ways, if the school or childcare provider can provide the right level of support it within the setting they will receive Special Education Needs support there, for children under 5 this will include:
- a written progress check when your child is 2 years old
- a child health visitor carrying out a health check for your child if they’re aged 2 to 3
- a written assessment in the summer term of your child’s first year of primary school
- making reasonable adjustments for disabled children, like providing aids like tactile signs
For children between 5-15 the SENCo should be able to arrange support to cover the following extra needs:
- a special learning programme
- extra help from a teacher or assistant
- to work in a smaller group
- observation in class or at break
- help taking part in class activities
- extra encouragement in their learning, e.g. to ask questions or to try something they find difficult
- help communicating with other children
- support with physical or personal care difficulties, e.g. eating, getting around school safely or using the toilet
However, if a child needs greater support than the educational setting can provide then they will need an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHC). This EHC plan has replaced the Statements of SEN and Learning difficulties and covers a child up to age of 25. Your local authority carries out the assessment of whether a child needs an EHC plan and this assessment can be requested by either a parent or a representative from the school or another health or educational professional
Assessment and Plan
Following the request, the Local Authority has 6 weeks to decide wither or not they will carry out the assessment. If they do carry it out then local authority is likely to request the following information:
- any reports from your child’s school, nursery or childminder
- doctors’ assessments of your child
- a letter from you about your child’s needs
A decision will be made within 16 weeks whether a child or young person is deemed to need an EHC plan. If an EHC plan is agreed, the LA then creates a draft plan – parents then have 15 days to comment, including putting in a request for a child to go to a specialist needs school or specialist college. The local authority has 20 weeks from the date of the assessment to give you the final EHC plan
If you disagree with a decision not to carry out an assessment, the outcome of an assessment or the EHC plan itself then you can appeal to your local authority or if you cannot resolve the issue then you contact the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
Useful information and links to support you with either SEN support or an EHC plan are below:
- SEN code of practice:
Independent Parental Special Educational Advice:
- Local Authority SEN policy – each local authority will have one available on their website
Long Car Journeys
Whilst long car journeys with children can be something all parents dread there are ways to make them more bearable and even fun!
Firstly, being in the car can be an opportunity for some children to enjoy audiobooks, either on the main car stereo system or through headphone. For those not prone to travel sickness reading is a great car activity especially for slightly older children, it can be a chance for them to get stuck into the next Harry Potter! Another option is doing some colouring with washable or water based pens could also pass the time.
Then there is the option of family games and some suggestions of those are below:
I Spy (ages 3+) This all-time classic game involves spotting something inside or outside the car and announcing, “I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with,” followed by the first letter of the item. So, if your word is “road”, you spy something beginning with “R”. The first person to guess correctly then gets to pick an object, and so on. Generally, I Spy starts off with great enthusiasm but peters out after a time but it’s a great game for younger children
Back-seat bingo (ages 4+) This is a way to help children engage with the different things they see on a car journey. Ideally make up bingo sheets with images of things you might see on your car journey before you travel. Each person should have a slightly different set of images and the first person to spot all the things on their bingo sheet is the winner.
The alphabet game (ages 4+)
Pick a theme and, starting with ‘a’, take it in turns to think of a word starting with the next letter of the alphabet.
Mrs Smith went shopping (ages 5+) This is a great test of skill and concentration and ultimately memory! The first person starts: ‘Mrs Smith went shopping and she bought an apple’ then the next person has to repeat what has just been said and add something with the letter ‘B’ and so on, working your way through the alphabet. You could also change it to countries, food, animals, etc.
Car pool (ages 5+) Pick a colour and then try to spot a car of that colour, try and start with some more obscure colours like Yellow to keep engagement! Once you’ve spotted seven you can look for a black car to win the game. However, if your opponent spots a white then it’s their turn to spot the cars. This game can also work using the rules of snooker.
Registration plate games (ages 6+) This is a great game for inspiring creativity rather than competitiveness. Everyone chooses a passing car and memorises the last three letters of the number plate. Now make up a story using the letters as inspiration. Use the first letter to decide the name of the main character, the second letter could be an item or an animal in the story, and the third letter can provide inspiration for what the character’s doing.
Animal, mineral, vegetable (ages 6+) Think of an animal, mineral or vegetable then let everyone take it in turns to guess what it is by asking you questions – you may only answer “yes” or “no”.
School Holiday Learning
School holidays can be a real opportunity for children to apply what they have learned in school to real life situations. And whilst holidays are a break from class-based learning it is important to keep their minds active and in a routine, research has shown that those children who do not engage in any mental activity during the long summer holidays can lose up to a third of what they have learnt during the academic year. Below are some ideas on fun school holiday learning:
Make a Holiday diary
This promotes writing skills and also can encourage creativity and drawing and hopefully can provide a memento of your child’s holiday. Children will retain a lot more information from a trip or experience that is recorded. The following link offers a free template on how to design a holiday journal/scrapbook
From Zoo trips where science and geography are brought to life to Castles and Museums where history can be fun and magical. Days out offer a brilliant way to really engage children with the whole range of the subjects they study at school. Many places offer worksheets and games for the children to complete while there to really keep their interest.
The holidays allow time away for the more rigid structure of the school day and allows time for children to indulge in imaginative play. This could be simple games such a dressing up or you could try some more adventurous ideas especially with older children. You could try and conduct some DIY science experiments – show your children that science doesn’t have to be boring. There are some easy and fun chemistry activities you can do in your own back garden; the website Science Bob has some great ideas https://sciencebob.com
There are ways to make a trip to the park or even just playing in the garden a great deal of fun for children. For younger children, it could be organising them a mini-beast hunt, getting them to look for insects and bugs and then draw an annotated picture of them to even make a bug house! For slightly older children making tents and camps in the garden from old sheets gets the children can provide real life problem solving and strategy skills.
For teenagers you could try Geocaching, where you use a mobile device to find hidden items, is a great way for them to navigate and explore and it’s easy to set up an account through this link:
Get Reading and Writing
Holidays offer a great opportunity to catch up on reading so if you are not already a member of a library it’s a great time to join one. Libraries often have extra activities during the holidays perhaps author visits or story reading take place and provide a different environment for learning.
In addition to all of the above there are also plenty of websites which have activities for children to try that cover a wide range of subjects – such as the BBC:
The School Run has a range of downloadable packs to purchase online for all ages:
Developing Social and Emotional Skills
Developing your child’s social and emotional skills are just as important as basics such as English and Maths and it is something that schools will help develop. There is also behaviours and support that can be given at home to further help these skills.
Social and Emotional Skills at School
Social and Emotional skills will be specifically focussed on is PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education) at school. The key aims of the subject are to help to give children the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to lead confident, healthy and independent lives. It aims to help them understand how they are developing personally and socially, tackling many of the moral, social and cultural issues
However there social and emotional skills are also important at school in more informal ways, such as developing friendships and being able to maintain good relationships and communication with teachers and other staff and professionals at the school.
How can children be supported at home?
Help with communication skills
Being able to communicate is crucial to developing relationships so below are some tips on how to help with your children’s communication skills:
- Play lots of games that encourage children to talk, such as I Spy, Spot the Difference and Simon Says
- Give your child lots of opportunity to speak to you
- With younger children, repeat their sentences back correctly to show that you are listening and so that they can hear examples of proper speech
- Give your child plenty of time to get their words out
- Read books that make use of repetition, such as those containing rhymes and songs
- Listen to your child with interest, ask them about their day, and to retell familiar stories to you
Developing good social skills
Social skills are essential for children to succeed in friendships, school life, community life and then later in university or working life. There is a great deal at home that you can do to help your child develop good social skills:
- Demonstrate good social skills yourself. Remember that Children learn by what they see you do, not what you say they should do. So, for example try to demonstrate how you ‘put yourself in someone else’s’ shoes and explain to your child why you are doing that
- Discuss any friendship troubles or issues your child may have. Explain the other child’s perspective and encourage them to go back to them and try and resolve the issue and explain how they feel
What are selective Schools
A selective school is one which offers places based on a child meeting the selection criteria this is usually academic ability but it can be in other areas such as music sport or languages. In contrast, a comprehensive school admit children with all abilities in all subjects. Selective Schools can be both private or state schools. In addition, there are also ‘Super Selective Schools’ that pick the very top performers and in some cases pupils may need to score as much as 99.5 per cent in the 11+ to win a place.
The majority of selective schools allocate places on the basis of academic ability which is assessed by the 11+ exam. However, the chances of your child getting into a selective school still depend on where you live, especially for state grammar schools. According to national figures, almost half of pupils who attain the basic pass mark in the 11+ exams still fail to gain a grammar school place because the competition is so fierce. This does vary from county to county with Kent and Essex being highly competitive but Buckinghamshire being a little less so due to far more grammar schools in the area. For private schools, geographical constraints may not be as much as an issue.
Benefits of Selective Schools
There is a great deal written on both the positives and negatives of the selective school system but below are some key benefits of selective schools:
- Your child is likely to be with like-minded peers who have a strong attitude to learning and a desire to do well.
- The schools have a particular focus on achievement and create a strong learning environment, in which they help their pupils achieve good results.
- A more traditional form of education is offered, with firm discipline considered a high priority.
- Your child may have a wider range of academic subjects to choose from at GCSE and A level, including single sciences, further maths and more languages.