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The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (2001) applies to any setting or school that receives Government funding.  The Code of Practice states that children have SEN if they have a learning difficulty that calls for special educational provision to be made for them.  Children have a learning difficulty if they have any of the following:

A significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age;

A disability that prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the local authority.


  • Are under compulsory school age and fall within the definitions above or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them.

The SEN Code of Practice sets out five fundamental principles that support inclusive education. These principles are:

  • A child with special educational needs should have  his or her needs met
  1. The special educational needs of children will normally be met in mainstream schools or settings
  2. The views of the child should be sought and taken into account
  3. Parents/Carers have a vital role to play in supporting their child’s education
  4. Children with special educational needs should be offered full access to a broad, balanced and relevant education, including an appropriate curriculum for the Early Years Foundation Stage and the National Curriculum.
  5. No-one should assume that all children will progress at the same rate.  Each child is an individual, with individual strengths and needs.  A judgement has to be made in each case as to what it is reasonable to expect that particular child to achieve.


Graduated Response

The Code of Practice suggests a ‘graduated response’ in order to meet children’s needs. The stages are as follows:

Early Years Action/School Action This is the first stage within the graduated response and is used when practitioners are taking additional or different action in order to enable a child to learn more effectively.  Strategies used to support the child to make progress are recorded on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Play Plan (IPP).  Staff, the setting SENCo and parents/carers monitor and review the progress made by the child on a regular basis.  In Non-Maintained Private, Voluntary and Independent settings, your Birth to Five Service Early Years Consultant may become involved. Support may include helping practitioners to draw up/ review the IEP or IPP for a child.

hand print web smallFlowchart to illustrate process.


Early Years Action Plus/School Action Plus This is the second stage of the graduated response and is used when, following a period of time at Early Years Action/School Action, there continue to be concerns regarding a child’s development and progress.  At this stage, other professionals from outside the school/setting will be contacted with the agreement of parents/carers.  Other professionals may include a Speech & Language Therapist; Community Paediatrician; Physiotherapist; Occupational Therapist; Educational Psychologist and Sensory Impaired Service Teacher.  IEPs or IPPs continue to be used and reviewed regularly, with those professionals involved providing ideas and strategies to support a child.

hand print web smallFlowchart to illustrate process.


Statutory Assessment The Code of Practice suggests that very few children will require a statement of 'Special Educational Needs' as the majority of children’s needs should be met through Action and Action Plus.  A statement of SEN is a legally binding document that sets out the support that is needed to meet a child’s needs.