Five things schools need to know about the SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) reforms

The SEN Code of Practice is part of the changes in the Children and Families Act (2014).

The new approach to special educational needs provision aims to place pupils and families at the centre of planning and make teachers more accountable for their progress.

Pupils and families get their say

The new system puts the young person and their family at the centre of discussions about the support offered. The Government says that parents know their children best. Young people will also have new rights. When they reach 16, you should normally consult them directly – their views will take precedence over their parents' views.

Education, health and care plans replace statements

SEN statements and learning difficulty assessments (LDAs) have been replaced with education, health and care plans (EHCP). EHCPs are used to fund SEND provision for children and young people aged 0-25. Local Authorities and schools are working hard to transition current SEN statements into EHCPs. The deadline is March 2018 and many Local Authorities are not meeting their targets.  SEN statements will not automatically be transferred into a EHCP. Schools, parents and young people are equally allowed to apply for an EHCP. EHCPs should include what educational provision, health provision and social care (including respite placements) provision the child or young person needs. EHCPs should focus on outcomes and targets, which can be tracked and measured.

No more School Action and School Action Plus

School Action and School Action Plus were used to ‘code’ learners’ needs. Now there is a single school-based category for children who need extra specialist support (SEND Register). Many schools and Local Authorities are also using a ‘monitoring’ code, for children/young people who are identified as potentially needing SEND provision in the future, if early school intervention and quality first teaching doesn’t work. Extra interventions, provisions, strategies and personalised outcomes for SEND registered pupils should be clearly set out on any personalised learning plans or target sheets created to plan and track progress. School may also decide to create a personalised learning plan for pupils being ‘monitored’. Progress should be reviewed each term. Parents must be informed when pupils without an EHCP receive special support.

Optional personal budgets for young people

Under the new system, young people and parents of pupils with an EHCP can choose to hold a personal budget to buy in the support identified. The money will come from the high-needs funding block and will not normally affect the school's overall SEND budget. Parents and/or children and young people may decide to use some of the budget for services not provided by schools and local services. For example, parents may decide to use some of the budget for private tuition, private music lessons or special experiences. The decision to do this has to be agreed during EHCP review meetings.

Teachers responsible for the progress all pupils make.

The code makes teachers more accountable for the progress of all pupils, even those supported by specialist staff. As part of performance management, teachers are judged on how well they teach pupils with SEND. In partnership with the school’s Special Needs Coordinator and senior leadership team, teachers should be given the opportunity to develop their skills and know how to identify SEND and support pupils with different needs. Ask your school about what SEND training teachers have received recently and who provided the training can give parents an indication about the SEND related skills the teachers at their child’s school may have.

Local Offers and Local Councils

Local Authorities are obliged to publish what SEN services are available within the authority. How and how much detail they publish is not specified, which has often left parents bamboozled by the information/lack of information. Parents can contact Local Authorities directly if they would like any more information about the SEND services available in their area.

If you would like any more information about the services in your area, contact your local authority. You can also contact your local NDN centre to discuss any information about services that may benefit pupils with dyslexia and/or other learning difficulties.

To Assess or Not to Assess?

 'In the case of dyslexia, the efforts of at least 50 years of scientific research have removed any stigma which is attached, and rather than being an obstacle to progress, the label can offer hope to the child or adult who is affected, coupled with increased (rather than declining) motivation.'

Snowling, M.J. (2015) The Dyslexia Debate: Reasons to Label.  A response to Elliott, in The Psychology of Education Review., 39, 20-21.

An Older Man's Tale of Dyslexia

  As an adult it can be harder to accept that you may have Dyslexia.  It may be that being diagnosed can explain why you have struggled all your life but it can also cause a lot of emotional upset. One of those emotional feelings can be anger and frustration because it had never been picked up and you may have felt that you have wasted all those years!  This is certainly one of the many feelings that come out during conversations with adult students in our advice consultations.  The feeling of not being able to ever learn at ‘my age’ and frustration of not knowing what to do next can be very demoralising.  However this is definitely not the case! 

The eldest person I have taught was a 78 year old man that had never been able to read or write and had left it to his wife to do the ‘paperwork and bills’.  His wife eventually suffered from dementia and was unable to continue to do the paperwork.  His children helped but what they could not help with and that his wife enjoyed was being read to.  He came for a chat and decided that he wanted to be able to read a book to his wife.  He chose a children’s book that his wife had always read to the grandchildren.  We started the journey together and over a quite short period of time he was able to read the book with confidence and, how he liked to put it, with flow, meaning that he could read it without stopping or stuttering over words he had not read before.

He went home and read this book to his wife every evening.  He said it was one of the nicest times of the day when she listened and he read! It just goes to show that you are never too old to learn.

New SEND Code of Practice (2015) & Education Health and Care Plan Summary

Over the past couple of years, schools and local authorities have been amended their old Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) policies and practices to meet the new requirements set out in the Children and Families Act (2014) and the SEND Code of Practice (2015)....

Find out more about the changes from your school SENCo and by checking out your local authority's SEND Local Offer.

After attending national conferences and meeting this week, NDN will be writing more about the SEND reforms next week as well as writing about the changes to the GCSE English requirements.

What does Dyslexia Awareness Week mean?

A nine year old student at one of our centres asked, "What is Dyslexia Awareness Week?" "Does it help me?"

When it was explained that it is an opportunities for organisations, charities, parents and schools etc to share information about dyslexia and help more people, the student then asked, "Why can't we have Dyslexia Awareness Week every week because everyone should know about dyslexia and how to help people?"

This is a very good questions! 

As Dyslexia Awareness Week draws to a close, it is our duty to continue sharing information and lobbying for extra support and funding to help people who are disadvantaged by the dyslexia related difficulties they are experiencing.

It is great that so many people with dyslexia are succeeding in education, workplaces and in life. #postivedyslexia2017.

It is great that people with a diagnosis of dyslexia can apply for  Disability Student Allowances and Access to Work grants. But is this enough?

What about children and young people from families who can't afford a dyslexia diagnostic assessment or dyslexia specialist tuition or who don't know where to find any help?

What about children and young people in areas that do not receive effective support through their Local Authority's SEND Local Offer when they are in need of it?

What about schools and other educational settings that have an increase in students with special educational needs, but no extra funding or access to resources?

What about young people and adults struggling to find work or hold down a job, who can't afford a dyslexia diagnostic assessment or dyslexia specialist support?

In times gone by, countless national projects could be found that helps make life a little fairer for those affected by the future let's all keep working together to ensure that there is more support and funding, not less. 

To get involved in helping those with dyslexia and any other learning difficulty, please get in touch at or email

An Adult's Tale...

‘It is how other people perceive you – that is the problem.’

This is a story about a lady who could not read or write but held a full time job and had an employer who believed in her.

J came to me 3 years ago, very shy and with no confidence.  Her line manager came with her and we had what for J was a very emotional chat about her dyslexia and how it had affected her.

J had never disclosed her dyslexia at interview and her initial feelings when she applied for jobs was that she had to work extra hard to prove her worth before letting them know.   Applying for her recent job she knew this time it would be different because it was working for a hospital and not in manufacturing where her previous jobs were.  This time she had to let them know and this is where she felt that it was how she would be perceived as a dyslexic and not as a person applying for a job.

J has always thought that being dyslexic was something to be ashamed off.  ‘I actually thought that my kids would be taken away from me because I could not read or write!’  ‘The problems started when they went to school and I could not help them read or write… How was I going to cope?’  I somehow managed and struggled through with the help from my husband and family.  My children are grown up now and are themselves dyslexic.

Taking this job in the hospital completely turned my life around.  I knew I could learn the job by using strategies I had developed but to do it efficiently?  I was so scared but wanted to do this. My manager completely understood and supported me so much.  Training was carried out in a big room and lots of information was given out.  I always had someone with me to help me, my manager made sure that this happened so I was not on my own.  They recognised the potential in me and believed in me.  I learnt how to use a smart phone and dictate information I needed to remember. 

Then I had an assessment and there my journey began.  I had a chat with Lisa and she explained what dyslexia was and what support she could give me.  I started and during the first session I had to copy my name down from a piece of paper I carried with me – that was how dyslexic I was.  I have been coming for tuition for 3 years now – I can read and write and do so many other things that I never ever believed was possible.  I feel like a different person now, I still get nervous but my confidence has grown as have my skills.  My employers have been incredible in their belief and support.

This is my story and I am still learning – it is never too late to begin you just need the confidence and determination to take the first steps.  With support you can do it!

Reasonable adjustments in the classroom for learners with dyslexia

Dyslexia is a recognised disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that education providers have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for learners whose dyslexia has a, “substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities." Substantial is defined as ‘more than trivial ‘.

This includes an education provider taking positive steps to ensure that disabled learners can fully participate in their course of study and any other facilities and services provided.

The law does not say what is ‘reasonable’; this allows for flexibility. However, the following adjustments are seen as ‘reasonable’ in a range of education settings:

For all learners:

  • Clarify or simplify written instructions
  • Highlight key information.
  • Break complex information into smaller steps to aid processing and motivation.
  • Ask learners to repeat verbal instructions back to you to embed their understanding and support their weak working memory.
  • Put additional time in place to support speed of processing. This may include extra time to answer questions, complete written work or read text.
  • Provide additional practice to reinforce learning.
  • Use assistive technologies in the classroom to support written output and/or reading skills.
  • Differentiate written text to include more images or diagrams.
  • Encourage the use of coloured overlays to support visual stress.
  • Print hand-outs/workbooks on coloured paper to reduce the contrast of black on white. If unsure of best colour, use yellow/cream.
  • Write keywords or new/technical vocabulary on the smart/white board to support spelling difficulties.
  • Pair peers of different ability levels to review notes, read aloud to each other, write stories, or read maths problems for students with reading difficulties to solve.
  • Seek advice or support from a specialist teacher.

For younger learners:

  • Use pen grips to support handwriting
  • Use adapted keyboards and computer software

For older learners:

  •  Provide a copy of lecture notes in advance
  • Actively encourage learners to use the calendar on their smart phones to remind them of key dates/deadlines etc.

Education providers can find more information about reasonable adjustments from their local authority's SEND team/Local Offer and also by contacting organisations such as National Dyslexia Network.  


SEND Pupils and Quality First Teaching

All teachers need to be aware of the following from the SEND Code of Practice (2014), the Equality Act (2010) and the Mental Capacity Act (2005):

• Does the child have a learning difficulty, that causes a significantly greater difficulty when learning than their peers? A key consideration, but not the sole consideration in this is whether the child is making expected progress; or

• Does the child have a disability that prevents or hinders them from making use of the facilities in the setting and reduces inclusion into all activities provided by the setting?

• Does the learning difficulty or disability call for special educational provision, that is provision that is additional to or different from the provision normally made available?

Where a setting identifies a child as having SEN, they must work in partnership with parents to establish the support the child needs. Where a setting makes special educational provision for a child with SEN they should inform the parents and a maintained nursery school must inform the parents. All settings should adopt a graduated approach with four stages of action: assess, plan, do and review.

The first stage is for the class teacher to adapt teaching/ resources, planning to ensure that the child can make progress. This should then be reviewed to check that a pupil is making progress. If the child is not then it may be necessary to put the child on the SEN register and put a support plan in place which will include interventions above and beyond what the child will be getting in class.

‘Quality First’ adaptations in the classroom could include the following:

·         Delegation of time from an extra adult to reinforce learning

·         Resources such as I pad, lap top, writing frames, pencil grips(depending on the need of the child)

·         Multi- sensory approaches used as much as possible to reinforce learning

·         Instructions to be explicit and short

·         Directed questioning

·         Simple criteria to follow to achieve learning focus

·         Peer/ group work where appropriate

·         Extended time for tasks or reduction of the same task

If you would like any further information please contact National Dyslexia Network for free advice.


Early Identification

The Benefits of Early Identification – Under 7s

The four-year-old who can't quite learn about letters becomes the seven-year-old who can't match sounds to letters ,the thirteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud, the sixteen-old-year who thinks they are not ‘clever’ enough to achieve GCSEs and the twenty-one-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly and doubts they are ‘good enough’ to apply for their dream job. This negative thread is something that can persist throughout a person's life and is an experience many of our adult learners share.

But, with early intervention, this scenario doesn’t need to happen.

Early identification and early intervention are recommended in the Children and Families Act (2014) and SEND Code of Practice (2014).

Through modern techniques, it is possible to reliably identify boys and girls at high risk of experiencing literacy difficulties before they fall behind; specialist help is available all over the UK. Labelling a child with dyslexia at a young age may alarm some parents and schools but this should not be a reason for disregarding language and literacy tendencies that may lead to difficulties later in life. Additional support will never hinder a child, but it can be harder to close the gap if identification is left too late.

In line with recent reliable research, this is what we believe to be the most sensible approach to identifying young at-risk children before they experience reading and spelling failures:

1.       Observe your child’s language development; be on the alert for problems in rhyming, pronunciation, peculiar word choices and word finding.

2.       Observe your child’s ability to connect print to language; notice if he is beginning to name individual letters and see symbols in books and familiar signs.

3.       Know your family history. Be alert to problems in speaking, reading, writing, and spelling, telling the time, learning times tables, memory and organisation. Some families who report dyslexic tendencies seem to have an abundance of family members who have pursued creative, sporty, caring and manual jobs. Somewhat less frequent, but still impressive, are the large number of families sprinkled with great writers, entrepreneurs, and jurists who are dyslexic.

Once difficulties are identified, an assessment of needs can be carried out by various service providers.  In the first instance ask school and then referrals can be made to a Speech Therapist, Educational Psychologist, Dyslexia Specialist assessor, GP,  Paediatric doctor, Parent Partnership  or SEND local authority as required . It is worth pursuing all lines of referral, but be aware that the services available, and the cost of these services, may vary between local authorities.

During the process of early identification it is important to also focus on strengths as well as weaknesses. Strengths can be developed more easily, counteracting weaknesses and helping the child to have a more positive image; over emphasis on weaknesses may affect a child’s self-confidence and demotivate them. It is important to speak to your child openly and positively about what they are experiencing and show them how motivation, resilience and having a positive, calm attitude can support their learning and reduce stress.

Taking time to collect evidence of your child’s difficulties will help the various agencies to determine your child’s true learning needs and be able to provide the most effective strategies and resources; it is always better for parents and schools to choose evidence-based programmes. Through all your research you may become an expert!

Do not be afraid to ask for the support of a dyslexia specialist teacher or psychologist if necessary; a formal diagnostic assessment may be required. Do get in touch with NDN to speak to one of our specialist teachers or assessors. Our initial advice is free. There are also other organisations specialising in dyslexia but ensure they have postgraduate qualifications and are fully registered with PATOSS, Dyslexia Guild or British Dyslexia Association.



What are CATs? (Cognitive Ability Tests)

What are CATs?

Many secondary schools use Cognitive Abilities Tests (CATs) to test general intelligence and to stream children into sets.

They are designed to assess a pupil’s ability in three different areas:

1.        verbal (thinking with words);

2.        quantitative (thinking with numbers);

3.        non-verbal (thinking with shapes and space).

Many secondary schools don’t like to judge Year 7 pupil’s attainment on entry to school solely their Year 6 SATs result. This is due to concerns surrounding ‘over-coach’ for the tests, resulting in artificially high results.

CATs are used to give a snapshot of a child's potential, what they could achieve and how they learn best. The results can help teachers to set the right learning pace for each pupil, monitor their progress and identify areas where they might need extra support.

The tests are designed to be taken without any revision or preparation so they can assess a child’s potential in his or her ability to reason. CATs are not testing children's knowledge and understanding as a maths or English exam might, so they can't ‘learn’ how to answer the questions. Though many parents feel familiarity with the format and style of the test would improve their child’s performance. Past CATs papers are not available for parents to buy from any official assessment body.

The result will be given in SAS (Standardised Age Scores) so they take into account a pupil’s age. The average SAS is 100. The scores can be used to calculate predicted academic levels and can also be used to predict the outcome of GCSEs. If there is a wide variation between the scores in different aspects of the test, this may flag up a child who is experiencing difficulties in one area and can lead to a diagnosis, such as dyslexia. Extra support can then be put in place to help the child with or without a formal diagnosis.


Questions to Ask at Parents' Evening

Questions to Ask at Parents’ Evenings

Are you concerned about your child’s learning at school? Is your child struggling? We have put together a list of questions which should help you to get more information from your meetings with teachers.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Can you explain to me the difficulties my child is experiencing?
  • How are these difficulties affecting my child’s self-esteem and confidence- as reflected in the classroom?
  • What are you doing to help with this?
  • Could they be dyslexic or have some other specific learning difficulty?
  • Have you screened my child for these? (This tells them whether your child may be at risk of difficulties, but is not a diagnosis.)
  • Can I have my child diagnostically assessed for dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties?

If a diagnostic assessment not available through school, then contact the National Dyslexia Network for a FREE ADVICE SESSION to discuss diagnostic assessments by Educational Psychologists and Specialist Teacher Assessors. Many Parents find this very helpful, as it puts them in control of knowing specifically what their child needs. It can also be comforting to the individual to know there is a reason to why all of their hard work is not paying off.

Other Questions

  • How are you helping my child with these difficulties?
  • How effective has this help been?
  • What effect has this lack of success with these activities had on my child?
  • If these have not been successful, would you agree it’s time for something different, rather than more of the same?
  • Are the groups run by a Specialist Teacher of Specific Learning Difficulties?

Hopefully they are, otherwise, they will be ‘more of the same’- which your child has failed at previously.

  • Has my child been considered and assessed for access arrangements for their work in the primary/secondary classroom and for tests and exams?

If you would like to discuss any of these questions or answers you’ve been given, please book a 30-minute FREE ADVICE SESSION with a highly qualified and experienced professional.                                 

Finding Dyslexia Tuition or an Assessment

At the National Dyslexia Network -NDN (not-for-profit organisation) we encounter many parents who are confused about the learning needs of their child. Some having been told their child is doing fine, but the parents knowing they are capable of far more. Others knowing there is a problem, but thinking their child is too young to have the issues assessed or hoping they will grow out of them. If this sounds like you- then read on.

Often it can prove very helpful to take advantage of our FREE ADVICE SESSIONS. The opportunity to express your worries, to not just a highly qualified professional but also very experienced too (the directors for NDN are former Dyslexia Action Area Managers.)


There are a variety of assessments and making sure you have the one to suit your needs is important. Our Educational Psychologists and Specialist Teacher Assessors are happy to carry out diagnostic assessments on children as young as 6 years and 6 months. For younger children, it is not possible to rule out other causes, so we are able to offer an assessment which highlights their strengths and weaknesses and provides a set of individual recommendations for taking them forward. This is also available to older children and adults, but does not provide a diagnosis.

An assessment enables us to use a child’s strengths to help them to nurture their weaknesses.


When considering specialist tuition, the following information may be useful:

·         How much experience has the teacher of teaching learners with specific learning difficulties within very small groups (2 or 3) or individually, since they were trained?

·         Teaching qualifications with dates.

·         Specialist dyslexia teacher training is essential. You are advised to check for which level[s] they are accredited and have experience. One of the following qualifications would be advisable:

·         A SpLD (Specific Learning Difficulties) Certificate qualification for either primary, secondary or adult levels.  SpLD Certificate holders are qualified for teaching, and may assess for the purposes of establishing a teaching programme only;

·         To provide specialist teaching and diagnostic assessment, the qualification should be a Level 7 SpLD Diploma including specialist training in diagnostic assessment accredited by SASC (the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee, ) and accredited for AMBDA;

·         Specialists should be regularly updating their specialist knowledge through continuing professional development.

·         Ask about his/her current teaching post(s) if any and note relevance for your child.

·         Teachers with specialist training may hold professional membership of PATOSS, Dyslexia Guild, ADSHE or the BDA.

Book your FREE ADVICE SESSION so you know, what will help your child.



Exam ACCess Arrangements (EAA) – 8th September 2017

Exam ACCess Arrangements (EAA) – 8th September 2017

Think you or your child should have support for upcoming exams? The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) publish a definitive guide every August about what and how, exam access arrangements (EAA) are put in place. The guide is generally for England and Wales.

EAA can be applied for if a candidate has a persistent and significant difficulty and/or substantial long term impairment. Within the JCQ regulations, a candidate can be assessed for and granted EAA without a diagnosis of dyslexia. EAA are to ensure that a candidate is not disadvantaged.

Two pieces of information must be in place to support an application:

1.       The EAA requested must reflect the candidate’s normal way of working and evidence of this must be held on file. For example, EAA should be put in place for internal tests and mock examinations prior to the main examination and this evidence should be recorded.

2.       Recent statistical evidence recorded via an assessment by a qualified practitioner and/or medical evidence, where appropriate.

The changes to the JCQ regulations for 2017/18 are minimal. However, one notable change is that,

“In exceptional circumstances 25% extra time may be awarded to a candidate where the assessment confirms that the candidate has at least two low average standardised scores (85-89) which relate to two different areas of speed of working.”


“Where there is a cluster of scores (at least three, relating to three different areas of speed of working) just within the average range (90 to 94), in rare and very exceptional circumstances 25% extra time may be awarded.” However, this candidate must also have a report undertaken by a specialist diagnostic assessor confirming a significant learning difficulty or disability.

Although EAA, particularly extra time, for candidates whose assessment scores were above 84 were always available, if applied for on a case by case basis, the current regulations clearly state what is acceptable regarding assessment scores.

Whilst the regulations are comprehensive, a reasonable adjustment may be unique to that individual and may not be included in the list of available EAA. This does not mean it cannot be applied for.

Finally, for assessors the content of ‘at least 100 hours relating to individual specialist assessment’ has been clarified to include lecture, seminar and tutorial time, study time, assessment time and time spent completing assignments.

For more information speak to your school/educational setting and get in touch with National Dyslexia Network.



NDN has launched its new blog today!

What can readers expect?

Regular blogs that include:

  • Information for parents, children, adults, schools and workplaces.
  • Useful links
  • New research
  • Real life stories
  • Funding opportunities
  • New policies
  • How to apply for support, exam access arrangements, disability student allowance, SEND education and healthcare plans
  • Tuition and tutors
  • Useful interventions and programmes
  • Great ideas shared by teachers, parents, learners and employers.

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