What are Special Educational Needs?

Children and young persons have Special Educational Needs (SEN) if they have a learning difficulty or disability, which calls for provision for special educational needs to be made for them.

Learning difficulty is said to be present if a child or young person:

a) has significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of those of his/her age; or
b) suffers from a disability which either prevents or hinders him/her from making effective use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided in schools managed by his/her local authority.


Children and young persons are not regarded as having a learning difficulty solely because the language in which they are taught is different from that which has, at any time, been spoken in their home.


Therefore SEN could mean that a pupil has:

Learning difficulties – in acquiring basic skills in school
Emotional & social behavioural difficulties – making friends or relating to adults or behaving properly in school
Specific learning difficulties – with reading, writing, numbers work or understanding information
Sensory or physical needs – such as hearing or visual impairment, which might affect them in school
Communication problems – in expressing himself or herself and/or understanding what others are saying
Medical or health conditions – which may slow down a pupil’s progress and/or involves treatment that affects his or her education.