What Is A SEN School | Compass Schools

What is a SEN school?

What is a SEN school?

Often referred to as ‘special schools’ by parents and people who have less knowledge of special needs, Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools are schools that provide specialist education for children with special needs or disabilities. These schools are fully equipped to support any child with any given disability. A SEN school is, in essence, a school that educates children whose needs cannot be met in a mainstream education setting.

Each school is different, specialising in different areas, with each being chosen specifically for the child’s needs and requirements. Every school will have its own curriculum tailored to the needs of the pupils that attend – depending on the type of SEN the child has.

Who are SEN schools for?

Parents and local authorities may decide a SEN school is the best place for a child to be if they have any form of educational needs, or their needs cannot be met in a mainstream setting. Not all children with SEN will have to go to a specialist school, so knowing the types of SEN schools will be very valuable.

What are the types of SEN school?

For some children, a SEN setting may be the best place for them to grow, develop and learn, while also being supported by specialists in a safe environment. Given that every disability is different, it is important to know the different types of SEN schools available:

  • Cognition and learning – according to the SEND Code of Practice, cognition and learning is support required when a child or young person learns at a slower pace than their peers.
  • Communication and interaction – A child with speech, language and communication needs may have trouble communicating with others. Every child is different, and they may have difficulty in one or more of the areas within this category.
  • Social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) – a child may experience SEMH difficulties in several different ways and these can present themselves completely differently, depending on the child and their circumstances.
  • Sensory and physical needs – some children may need extra support because they have a disability which prevents them from being able to attend a mainstream school for physical or sensory reasons. These can include vision impairments, hearing impairments or a multi-sensory impairment.



How does someone qualify for SEN support?

For a child to ‘qualify’ for SEN support, they will need to obtain an education, health, and care plan (EHC plan). An EHC plan is available to children and young people who need more support than is otherwise available, through trained SEN support. EHC plans aim to outline any areas where a child or young person needs specialist support (including educational, health and social needs they may have).

Specific people have a right to ask their local authority to conduct an EHC plan for a child or young person (of 25 years and younger). These include the child’s parents or guardian, the young person themselves (if they are over the age of 16) and a person on behalf of a school setting.


Does a child have to go to a SEN school to be given SEN support?

A child with an EHC plan does not necessarily have to go to a specialised SEN school to receive SEN support. Every school in the UK, by law, must have a SEN coordinator (SENCo). The job of the SENCo is to ensure every child who is considered to have SEN has a strategy in place to help them reach their full potential within the school setting and help them to reach their expected goals before leaving that level of education. Each SENCo will have a different approach, but it is important to establish a relationship with them right from the beginning, to work together to best support the child in question.


If you think your child needs SEN support, it is always worth chatting to their existing school. By doing this, they may be able to help you with regards to which SEN school might be the best place for them, or whether there can be something in place where they are currently attending.


Further resources

Taking a read through the SEND Code of Practice is a good idea if you are considering keeping your SEN child in mainstream education.

If you are still unsure on the process of obtaining a EHC plan for a child, you can get more information here.

Sense are a charity that offer support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.