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Article published 9th June 2008

Often, the first a parent hears of his or her child not coping as well as expected is when the teacher suggests placing the child on the special needs register. This can cause great alarm and upset, but it shouldn’t.

Placing a child on the register doesn’t mean the school thinks your child is stupid or naughty; indeed sometimes children on the special needs register are also on the register of gifted and talented children.

The aim of the special needs register is to highlight those children who need extra help or additional support and ensure their progress is carefully monitored.

A school's obligations

The Disability Discrimination Act states that schools and colleges must provide appropriate help so that children with special needs are on a ‘level playing field’ with their peers.

How a school can help

They may adapt the curriculum. The national curriculum, provides guidance in developing a more inclusive curriculum. This is based on the principles of setting suitable learning challenges for all pupils, responding to their diverse learning needs and helping to overcome barriers to learning.

Someone with dyspraxia who writes very slowly may need extra help and support to enable them to access learning.

Bring in extra help. A child may benefit from the skills and expertise of an occupational therapist; qualify for extra time in exams; get help with typing tuition and be permitted to use a laptop in class.

Adapt the learning environment. The learning environment and styles of teaching can make a real difference. key to any intervention should be that they help create a ‘level playing field’.

Place a child on the special needs register when they are not making the progress expected, despite the apparent best efforts of the school.

Why place a child on the SEN register?

Placing a child on the register takes place after strategies such as varying teaching styles, differentiating work, or adapting the learning environment have not had a noticeable impact.

Placing a child on the register allows appropriate help or interventions to be sought. 

In many cases an individual education plan (IEP) will be drawn up to assist in the monitoring, recording and reporting of targets and progress. This should inform the child, the teachers and those who support the child and parents of specific and measurable targets of success criteria - it may also reference teaching strategies and pupil strengths.

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