What are Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

Some children and young people need more support than others to achieve their full learning potential.

They may need extra help if they have difficulty with, for example: Pencils in pot

  • Reading
  • Understanding
  • Talking
  • Managing their emotions or behaviour
  • Developing physical skills. 

A child who needs a lot of extra help in any of these areas has special educational needs (SEN).

Educational settings (schools, nurseries and colleges) have a legal duty to support children and young people with additional needs and disabilities and to treat them fairly.


What is an EHC Plan?

An education, health and care (EHC) plan is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than their school or other setting can provide. Writing in a text book

EHC plans identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.

They replaced statements of Special Educational Need and Section 139 Learning Disability Assessments on 1 September 2014.

You can ask Reading Borough Council to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHC plan.

A young person can request an assessment themselves if they’re aged 16 to 25.

A request can also be made by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends.

If they decide to carry out an assessment you may be asked for: 

  • any reports from your child’s school, nursery or childminder
  • doctors’ assessments of your child
  • a letter from you about your child’s needs

The local authority will tell you within 16 weeks whether an EHC plan is going to be made for your child.

Creating an EHC plan

  1. Your local authority will create a draft EHC plan and send you a copy.
  2. You have 15 days to comment, including if you want to ask that your child goes to a specialist needs school or specialist college.
  3. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the date of the assessment to give you the final EHC plan.

Disagreeing with a decision

You can challenge your local authority about:

  • their decision to not carry out an assessment
  • their decision to not create an EHC plan
  • the special educational support in the EHC plan
  • the school named in the EHC plan

If you can’t resolve the problem with your local authority, you can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.


Personal budgets

You may be able to get a personal budget for your child if they have an EHC plan or have been told that they need one.

It allows you to have a say in how to spend the money on support for your child.

There are three ways you can use your personal budget. You can have:

  • direct payments made into your account - you buy and manage services yourself
  • an arrangement with your local authority or school where they hold the money for you but you still decide how to spend it (sometimes called ‘notional arrangements’)
  • third-party arrangements - you choose someone else to manage the money for you

You can have a combination of all three options.


Independent support for children of all ages

Independent supporters can help you and your child through the new SEN assessment process, including:

  • replacing a statement of special educational needs with a new EHC plan
  • moving a child from a learning difficulty assessment (LDA) to an EHC plan.

You can get impartial information, advice and support through Reading IASS for SEND. 

Reading Mencap Family Advisers can support you at school or local authority meetings.

National charities like IPSEA (Independent Parental Special Education Advice), Contact, Cerebra and SOSSEN also provide information and advice.


Getting help

Reading Information, Advice and Support Service for SEND (IASS for SEND)

The Hamilton Centre, Hamilton Road, Reading, RG1 5SG 

Tel: 0118 9237 3421


IPSEA (Independent Parental Special Educational Advice) 

Email or phone 01799 582 030 to book an appointment to speak to an adviser.



This active charity produces a range of indispensible guides.

Free Helpline: 0808 8083555 Email:



This charity publishes many helpful guides for parents of disabled children across a 

range of areas.

Email: Tel: 01267 244200



They operate a friendly impartial telephone helpline for parents about SEN.

Tel: 020 8358 3731


Reading Mencap Family Advisers can also help.  

Please ring 0118 9662518 during office hours 9.30am to 1.30pm Monday to Friday.


Local Offer

The Local Offer is a guide to the services in Reading available for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities aged from birth to 25. 

You can access information about the Local Offer through the Reading Services Guide. Local Offer puts services all in one place, including information on education, health and social care, leisure and more. You can also find information about holiday clubs, short breaks, activities, support services, childcare and news.


Further Education, Training and Employment 

Reading College can provide a range of support for learners with disabilities. 

This includes support for students with autistic spectrum disorders, ADHD, students with mobility difficulties, hearing impairments, visual impairments and speech impairments. They also work with students with long-term medical conditions and mental health difficulties. 

Adviza - Independent Support 

Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm & at other times by special arrangement 

Adviza Berkshire provides information, advice and guidance to 13 to 19-year-olds (and up to 25 with learning difficulties or disabilities) to help them progress successfully into education, employment and training. Adviza Berkshire works in Reading and West Berkshire. For more information contact Adviza on 0118 402 7177 or email

Adviza - Lucky Break Mentoring 

Are you worried or unsure about what to do when you leave education? 

If so then a mentor could help you! 

A mentor can: 

  • Help you think about your future options 
  • Help you apply for jobs, apprenticeships or courses Let you know about any local opportunities 
  • Be someone to listen and talk to 

Interested? Call, text or e-mail Kat on 07747476820  


Disabled Students' Allowances

You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) to cover some of the extra costs you have because of a disability, mental health problem or long-term illness. 

You can get the allowances on top of other student finance. You won’t need to repayDSAs. 

How much you get depends on your individual needs - not your household income. 

WhatDSAscan pay for 

You can get help with the costs of: 

  • specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability
  • non-medical helpers
  • extra travel because of your disability
  • other disability-related costs of studying

You may get a new computer if you don’t already have one, or your current one doesn’t meet the required specification. More information will be provided to you if you’re assessed as needing a new computer. 

You’ll need to pay the first £200, which is the minimum cost that any student is likely to incur when buying a computer. 


You can apply if you are doing:  

  • a full-time course that lasts at least one year (including a distance-learning course) 
  • a part-time course that lasts at least one year and doesn't take more than twice as long to complete as an equivalent full-time course (this can include an Open University or other distance-learning course) 

To apply for financial help through Disabled Students' Allowances, both you and your course must be eligible. It's worth checking this before you make your application.  

Disabled Students' Allowances - how to apply  

There are two different ways of applying for Disabled Students' Allowances. Which one you use will depend on whether or not you are:  

  • doing a full-time higher education course 
  • studying part time or doing a postgraduate course 

Most universities and colleges have a Disability Advisor. They can help with your application and give you advice about other sources of funding.  

Download a guide to DSAs 2017/18


Into HE 2018 guide now available

A newly updated Into Higher Education guide, published by Disability Rights UK, aims to answer common questions such as if colleges or universities will be accessible, how to choose a course and the responsibilities of education providers under the Equality Act.

It also covers the student finance system and has information on tuition fees, repayment methods and the support that will be in place for 2018 entry.