An overview of SEN support

Find out what special educational needs (SEN) are, what support is available and who provides it.

A child or young person may have special educational needs when a learning difficulty or disability means that they require support that is different or additional to that which is normally available to pupils of the same age.

SEN can be characterised by a range of needs and difficulties. There are four broad areas:

  • Communication and interaction - speech, language, and communication needs and difficulties with interaction with others.
  • Cognition and learning - learning difficulties vary in severity and may make it difficult to learn everything or just certain things.
  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties - this covers a wide range of needs and these may be seen in a child or young person as withdrawn and isolated behaviours or as challenging and unsafe behaviours.
  • Sensory and/physical needs - these include visual and hearing impairment and physical and mobility needs.

Education settings and SEN Support

Education settings are the main source of support for children and young people with SEN.

Teachers are trained to identify children and young people with SEN and will notice if your child is not making progress. They will discuss this with you and your child so that additional support and strategies can be put in place to help them. 

Education settings can also seek specialist advice, guidance and input from education outreach services.

If you believe your child has SEN you should speak to their teacher. You can also speak to the school's Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo). This is a specially trained teacher responsible for making sure children and young people with SEN are correctly supported. Children and young people with SEN should receive SEN support from their education setting to help them progress.

Education settings provide information on the support they give as part of their record on the Local Offer website.

Local Offer website

The Suffolk Local Offer website pulls together information about how children, young people and their families can access services and support from agencies in their local area including:

  • nurseries, schools and other education settings
  • charities and voluntary organisations
  • local clubs and leisure activities
  • health and social care agencies
  • support groups

If you need help finding information on the Local Offer website, call the Local Offer navigator on 0345 606 1490.

Additional and specialist support and advice

Suffolk County Council Education Outreach Services offer specialist advice and guidance to schools and education settings and where appropriate, will have direct involvement with a child. These services include the County Inclusion Support Services (CISS), the Dyslexia Outreach Team, SENDAT Outreach, Alternative Tuition Service, Sensory and Communication Service and Psychology and Therapeutic services. 

The majority of children and young people with special educational needs will have their needs met through SEN Support. Where a child does not make expected progress despite additional support and interventions, an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment may be appropriate. The Local Offer website has more information about how to a request EHC assessment, and frequently asked questions about the referral and assessment process.

SEND Family Services support children, young people and their families through a key working approach for all. There are seven locality-based teams that:

  • guide children, young people and their families through their education pathway and/or SEND journey
  • support children and young people who are at risk of exclusion or who have been permanently excluded
  • ensure that assessments, including education, health and care needs assessments, provide accurate information and clear advice and are delivered within timescales
  • monitor the progress of children and young people with SEND in achieving outcomes to prepare them for adulthood and offer support and guidance at transition points

Find out which locality team you need to contact on the SEND Family Services page on the Suffolk Local Offer website.

For further information about Inclusion Services and their teams, you can read the Inclusion Services brochure (PDF, 441KB).

Independent advice and support

The SENDIASS service provides impartial advice and information for parents, carers and children and young people (aged up to 25 years) in relation to special educational needs and disabilities. 

You can contact them by emailing sendiass@suffolk.gov.uk, calling 01473 265210 or visiting their Suffolk SENDIASS website.