‘A child or young person has special educational needs (SEN) if they have a learning difficulty or a disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.’

xiii. SEND Code of Practice

Each child learns in different ways and at slightly different speeds. Teaching is set up to allow for these differences and cater for varying needs. This is referred to as “Quality First Teaching” and includes ordinary classroom differentiation. On occasion this may not be sufficient to meet a child’s needs. At this point parents, carers or schools may think that she/he has special educational needs (SEN).

If a child or young person has SEN she/he may find it difficult to access classroom learning or opportunities available in an ordinary learning environment. She/he may need changes (known as adjustments) made that other children and young people don’t need, for example, more support in class or questions explained in a certain way.

Not everyone who has an adjustment made to help him/her access classroom learning has special educational needs. Sometimes it may be for other reasons, for example speaking English as an additional language.

Identifying whether a child or young person has special educational need happens gradually over time. Teachers will work with parents, children and young people to assess what the needs may be and will make different arrangements (known as interventions) to support the child or young person’s individual learning needs.  This is the 'do' stage. All interventions will be assessed to see if they have made a difference and will vary for each child or young person,  but they all should follow the cycle of:

Assess, Plan, Do, Review

Explanation of terms

Differentiation is a method of teaching.  It involves understanding where students are in their learning and how they learn.  Class teachers use this method to help them make sure tasks in class are broken down to meet the ways and speeds at which the class students are learning.


Next page: Assess, Plan, Do Review.


If you are a young person, parent or carer and you think you might need some further information, advice or support contact Supportive Parents, Bristol's SEND Information, Advice and Support service.


This page has information for residents in the City of Bristol.  Find out about what other Local Authorities do.

Last Update 1 December 2016 by Findability Team.