The SENDiT Blog

What Is SEN? How Is SEN Identified? Why is an Effective ‘Cause for Concern’ Protocol Critical?

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Why Does This Question Matter?


The aim of the Special Educational Provision (SEP) put in place to support the child or young person with identified SEN is to provide them with the best possible preparation for adulthood. So, it definitely matters. Early identification also matters.


‘Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. These arrangements should include a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEN. The benefits of early identification are widely recognised – identifying need at the earliest point, and then making effective provision, improves long-term outcomes for children.’
Code of Practice. 5.4, p.79

How Do Schools Identify SEN?


A school’s Cause for Concern protocol will introduce the child or young persons to the SENCO, with full support from the family and young person themselves, and in later blogs I will look at what happens next.


Educators seek to provide high quality teaching within an inclusive environment that meets each child or young person’s personalised requirements. The teaching and leadership team will be monitoring this across the setting. And again, we would all agree the purpose of the education experience for all students is to contribute to the best possible preparation for adulthood for all students.


As teachers, tutors, heads of year and subject leads conduct their everyday assessments and interactions with their students they may become concerned that a child/young person – in spite of their best endeavours as quality educators –  is making little or no progress across the whole spectrum of human development; or in a number of specific areas.  The SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years (the ‘CoP’) provides an ideal framework to guide teaching staff to record the difference and difficulties they are observing, and to evidence what strategies they have put in place to date, and the impact of these steps.


Each child or young person’s profile of difficulties and differences, and lack of progress will be unique and requires a personalised perspective and conversations with families.  It is not just about reading ages or academic progress points. The CoP details ‘Broad areas of need’ on pages 97-98. These areas are:


   • Cognition and learning
   • Communication and interaction
   • Social, emotional, and mental health
   • Sensory and/or physical needs


Some local Authorities have also added a fifth area across all key stages -  ‘Independence and self-help’ or ‘Independent Living Skills’.  From my experience this fifth area can have incredibly positive impact on personalised planning linked to the Preparation for Adulthood agenda.


The move to involve the SENCo is a critical decision point, and getting this right has significant consequences for all. And this requires an explicit shared understanding of the SENCo’s role and responsibilities.  


Our platform SENDit had been designed to provide a digital operational system for SEN systems including a specific screening feature for teaching staff to initiate and contribute effectively to a cause for concern alert.


Is SEN the Same as ‘Underachieving’ Academically?

Short answer, no.

It is more complex than this ….. A child or young person with or without identified SEN may be underachieving. In both cases the school team will address this situation with targeted intervention. So, what I am saying here is that a child or young person can have difficulties/differences but may not be identified as having ‘Special Educational Needs’.  


Students with and without identified SEN can and will access intervention sessions when appropriate for their individual circumstances. Each day in every school and college teaching staff plan and deliver short-term interventions to address  issues they have identified for individual students. These include additional maths sessions (to address gaps or reinforce key skills); fine motor groups to address handwriting concerns; and interventions to develop a child or young person’s confidence and self-esteem.


The question to consider is when this intervention is classified as SEP – Specialist Educational Provision.


Next Time


In my blog I will look more closely at what ‘SEP’ entails and how it links to the SENCo’s role and responsibilities.

Relevant Legislation


Children and Families Act 2014, Section 20


When a child or young person has special educational needs:


(1) A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.


(2) A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
(a )has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
(b )has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.