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Previously known as city academies, academies are independent, state funded all ability schools which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through the local authority.

Day-to-day running is the responsibility of the head teacher or principal but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain.


A difficulty that arises as a result of an illness, accident or similar incident that happens after birth.

Annual Review

An annual review is when a statement or Education Health Care Plan is reviewed to check that it is still suitable for the child and is meeting their needs.

All children with an existing statement will, in time, be transferred to an Educational Health and Care Plan and regular 12 monthly reviews will be remain part of this process. 

Asperger's Syndrome

An autistic spectrum disorder, characterised by difficulties with social interaction, social communication and inflexible thought patterns in an otherwise apparently intelligent and able child.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autistic spectrum disorders are characterised by difficulties with interacting and communicating.
The characteristics of autism can be described as the 'triad of impairment':

  • Socialisation - poor social skills;
  • Communication - difficulties with speech language and communication;
  • Imagination - rigid thought and resistance to change.

The commonly used terms 'autism' and 'asperger's syndrome' are autistic spectrum disorders.

Child Development Centres

Child Development Centres are usually located in specialist centres or hospitals. They have a number of professionals working within a single team who carry out a multi-disciplinary assessment of a child who is failing to develop normally.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists help parents and children who are experiencing emotional and/or behavioural difficulties.

Consultant Paediatrician

A Consultant Developmental Paediatrician is responsible for assessing and diagnosing children who are failing to develop normally. This is often done with other professionals, as part of a multi-disciplinary assessment.


Something that is present from birth, and which becomes more obvious as the child grows and matures.


Differentiation is the adjustment of the teaching methods and/or resources according to the learning needs of pupils. It can be aimed at the groups within the class or individuals. See also personalised learning.

Direct Payment

If your child has an Educational Health Care Plan you may be able to request that a payment from your local authority (LA) special needs budget is made directly to you to cover an aspect of your child’s special educational needs.  This would be done in consultation with the LA, educational setting and other professionals involved.


DfE stands for the Department for Education in England. It is the government department that is responsible for education in England.  Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own government educational departments.


A disorder that affects the co-ordination of movement. This can affect co-ordination of the speech organs (oral  dyspraxia) or other actions e.g. eating, dressing or writing.

Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

An EHCP is a legal document which describes your child's needs and what needs to be done to meet those needs by education, health and social care. It describes the amount and type of support your child will receive and how this will help them.  It will be reviewed at least once a year to check progress and make any changes necessary. EHCPs replace the statement of special educational needs.

Educational Psychologist

Educational Psychologists assess children’s skills for learning and the way that they learn

Expressive Difficulties

Children with expressive difficulties find it difficult to say what they want to through the use of language. For example a child might use the word 'table' instead of 'chair' while fully understanding the difference between the two, or use incorrect grammar such as 'I can't want play'.

Extended Schools

An extended school is one that provides a range of activities and services, often beyond the school day, to meet the needs of its pupils, their families and the wider community.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the phase of education for children from birth to 5 years old, including nursery and reception classes.  The EYFS curriculum sets standards for the learning, development and care of these children.  The EYFS has to be used by schools and all Ofsted-registered early years providers including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.

Free Schools

A  Free School is a non-profit making, independent, state-funded school which is free to attend but which is not controlled by a local authority.

General Practitioner (GP)

General Practitioners or GPs, also known as 'Family Doctors', provide healthcare as part of a general practice. GPs are usually the first point of contact for a family seeking medical advice.

Glue Ear

Glue ear (otitis media with effusion) is a common childhood condition. It produces thick, glue like fluid in the middle ear cavity. This may result in hearing loss which can have an impact on speech and language development.


Each school has a board of Governors that is responsible to parents, funders and the community for making sure the school provides a good quality education.

Graduated Approach

This is the approach the special education needs and disabilities (SEND) code of practice requires settings to use to support children with special educational needs. 

The graduated approach has four phases: assess, plan, do, review.  Settings will assess and identify a child’s strengths and areas of need, then they will clearly set out in a plan how they are going to support these identified needs together with a timescale.  Then the plan is put into action.   A review of the plan will take place in order to review progress. 

Health Visitors

Health Visitors are health care professionals. They have an overview of how a child should be developing and carry out checks at different stages  to make sure this is actually happening.  They come to the home to offer help, advice and support.

Independent School

An independent school is not funded by the state and is not part of the local authority's normal range of provision.

 Information Advice and Support Services (IASS)

Your local IASS offers information, advice and support for parents of children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and it will also be able to put you in touch with other local organisations.

Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

IPSEA is a volunteer-based organisation that offers free and independent advice to help get the right education for children and young people with special educational needs.

Key Stages (1, 2, 3 etc.)

The National Curriculum uses 'Key Stages' as a framework to explain when things should be taught to children and when they should be assessed. Key Stage 1 is 5-7 years, Key Stage 2 is 7-11 years, Key Stage 3 is 11-14 and Key Stage 4 is 14-16.

Language Provision/Unit/Department or Language Resource Base

A language unit/department or language resource is a specialised resource for children with speech and language difficulties, usually based in a mainstream school. These settings can vary in their entrance criteria and procedures.

Learning Mentors

Learning Mentors work with school pupils and college students to help them address barriers to learning and improve achievement. The work they do depends on the priorities of the school they work in but can include running after-school clubs, anti-bullying programmes or helping young people to revise.

Local Authority (LA)

Each part of the country has a LA. The LA is responsible for the education of all children living within the local authority’s area. In Scotland the equivalent of an LA is called an Education Authority or EA; in Northern Ireland it is a board. In many areas, LAs are combining with social services children's departments to become Children's Services. Children's Services will have the same responsibilities for educational provision for children with special educational needs as the LAs.

Local Offer

This is where your local authority (LA) shows what they offer in their area to support children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The information will cover the areas of education, health and social care support and services for children and young people aged between 0 and 25.

Maintained School

A maintained school is a school that is part of the local authority’s (LA) normal range of provision. All state schools are 'maintained' schools.

Music Therapists

Music therapists are trained musicians who have had further training to qualify as therapists. They use the experience of making music creatively to establish communication and create a relationship with the child without the need for language, and to support and develop the child's emotional well-being.

National Curriculum

The National Curriculum is a framework of subjects and standards given by government to primary and secondary schools to ensure that children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.

Other types of school like academies and private schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum.

Non-maintained School

A not-for-profit school which may charges fees. Most non-maintained special schools are run by charities or charitable trusts. Places at these schools can be paid for by local authorities.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists (OT) help children who have difficulties with practical everyday activities such as dressing, eating and playing with toys etc.  OT also provides a child with the sensory and motor experiences required to develop foundation skills and achieve success.


OFSTED stands for the Office for Standards in Education. OFSTED is the inspectorate for children and learners in England and they oversee the quality of the provision of education and care through inspection and regulation. They inspect childcare providers, schools, colleges, children's services, teacher training and youth work.

Personalised Budget

 This is the amount of money the local authority estimate will cover the cost of your child’s education health and care plan (EHCP).

Personalised Learning

Personalised learning is about tailoring education to meet individual needs, interests and aptitudes to ensure that every pupil achieves and reaches the highest standards possible, no matter what their background or circumstances or level of ability.

Person Centred Planning

Person Centred Planning (PCP) is an approach used for life planning for an individual.
The individual is consulted and their views and aspirations are included in decision- making. 


A system of teaching reading and spelling that focuses on individual sounds rather than whole words.

Phonological Difficulties

A child with phonological difficulties finds it difficult to select and use the correct sounds necessary for speech.


Physiotherapists help children who have difficulties with movement (eg: walking, kicking a ball). The physiotherapist will assess the child's movements and identify what the physical problems may be and then devise a treatment plan.

Play Therapists

Play therapists use play as a way of assessing and working with a child. They may provide ideas for parents to use with their children to promote play as well as speech, language and communication.

Pragmatic Difficulties

A pragmatic difficulty is a difficulty with understanding the rules of the social use of language. A child with pragmatic difficulties may have difficulty understanding the meaning of other people's language and behaviour, and may have problems using appropriate language for the social setting.

Receptive Difficulties

A child with receptive difficulties has problems understanding spoken or written language.

SENCO (sometimes called an Inclusion Co-ordinator)

A special educational needs co-ordinator or SENCo is a teacher who has the responsibility for special educational needs provision within their school. They work with the other teachers and professionals to support children with special educational needs such as children with speech, language and communication needs.

SEND Code of Practice

The Code of Practice gives practical guidance on how to identify, assess and support children with special educational needs. All early education settings, state schools and local authorities must take account of this Code when they are dealing with children who have special educational needs.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST)

The SENDIST is an independent body which will hear a parent's case if they disagree with their local authority about the child's statement or education, health and care plan or about an education, health, care assessment.

Special School

A school where the environment has been adapted specifically for children with moderate to severe learning difficulties or emotional and behavioural difficulties or speech, language and communication difficulties.

Specialist Schools

Many secondary schools are now ‘specialist schools' and focus on a particular area of the curriculum, for example some schools are sports colleges or specialise in performing arts. All specialist schools have to teach the full range of subjects taught in other schools.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Children with special educational needs have significantly greater difficulty in learning than most children of the same age or have a disability. These children may need extra or different help from that given to other children of the same age.

Specific Language Impairment

Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is a term used to describe language difficulties that are not caused by any known neurological, sensory, intellectual, or emotional deficit. It can affect the development of any aspect of language: e.g. vocabulary, grammar, and discourse skills. SLI is a disorder with long-term impact; it's not just a matter of late language acquisition or something that children can grow out of. Children with SLI are considered to have speech language and communication needs (SLCN) as their main or primary difficulty.

Speech and Language Delay

A child with a speech and language delay develops speech and language following the normal pattern, but at a slower rate or later than usual. He or she uses language in the way that a younger child would do.

Speech and Language Disorder

Children’s speech and language development follows a typical pattern and any child whose speech and or language does not follow this typical pattern may have a speech and language disorder.

Speech and Language Therapists

Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are specialists in speech, language and communication difficulties. SLTs work to assess, diagnose and develop a programme of care to maximise the communication potential of the people under their care/referred to them. SLTs also work to support people with swallowing, eating and drinking difficulties too.

Speech, Language and Communication Needs

Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) is a term used to refer to the specific problems some children and young people experience when acquiring language. See also Speech and Language disorder.

Statement of Special Educational Needs

A statement is a document which sets out a child’s special educational needs and any additional help that they should receive. The aim of the statement is to make sure that they get the right support to enable them to make progress in school.

Since 2014 no new Statements have been issued and those children or young people with an existing statement will be transferred to an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).  The Government has set out a timetable for achieving this transition and all children or young people with an existing statement will have been transferred to the new system by 2018.

Statutory Assessment Tests or Tasks (SATs)

SATs are tests that all children have to take at the end of school years 2 and 6. These are formal exams that are marked externally and the results from each school are published for parents to see.

Teaching Assistants

All schools now employ teaching assistants to support whole classes, small groups or individual pupils. Teaching assistants may have other job titles, such as a learning support assistant (LSA) or special support assistant (SSA) particularly if they support a child with special needs.


Transition is when a child moves from one educational setting to another, such as from primary school to secondary school, or from education into adult life.

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