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Information & advice

Glossary of SEND terms

There are lots of abbreviations used when talking about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. You can find an explanation of the most common ones in our glossary below.

SEND Glossary

Click on a term to find out more.

Access arrangements are special arrangements, or reasonable adjustments, which a small number of disabled students are entitled to in their public exams. The intention is that students can demonstrate their ability in an area without their disability being a barrier. Find out more.

The AWPU is the amount of money that every maintained school receives for each pupil that is on the school roll, whether or not they have SEN. The value of the AWPU varies from one local authority to another and according to the age of the pupils.

An AP teaches children and young people who are not able to attend a mainstream school. This could be because they have behavioural difficulties, a short or long-term illness or have been excluded.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014 local authorities must carry out a review of every Education Health and Care plan at least once every 12 months.

Area of Need is the name for the four broad categories used to describe a pupil’s SEND. They are:

  • communication and interaction
  • cognition and learning
  • social, emotional and mental health
  • sensory and physical

CAMHS are NHS services that assess and treat children and young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

The Children and Families Act 2014 became law on 1st September 2014. Part 3 of the Act sets out the law on SEND. The Act is supported by the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 Years.

A CCG was a group of NHS professionals who are responsible for planning and arranging the delivery of the healthcare provision for people in its area. CCGs were dissolved in July 2022 and their duties taken over by new NHS integrated care systems (ICSs).

A child is of compulsory school age from the beginning of the term following their 5th birthday until the last Friday of June in the year in which they become 16, provided that their 16th birthday falls before the start of the next school year.

A payment made directly to a parent or young person to purchase specific services. Under the Children and Families Act 2014 a Direct Payment may be made as part of a Personal Budget so that the parent or young person can buy certain services that are specified in their EHC plan.

Local authorities must provide independent disagreement resolution to help parents and young people resolve disputes with local authorities, schools and other settings about SEND duties and provision.

Early Help is the name of an assessment and offer of support of a family to help identify needs and offer intervention at an early stage.

The EYFS begins when children reach the age of three. Many children attend an early education setting soon after their third birthday. The foundation stage continues until the end of the reception year and is consistent with the National Curriculum. It prepares children for learning in Year 1 when programmes of study for Key Stage 1 are taught.

The ESFA is the government agency that funds education for learners between the ages of 3 and 19, and those with learning difficulties and disabilities between the ages of 3 and 25. The ESFA allocates funds to local authorities, which then provide the funding for maintained schools. The ESFA directly funds academies and free schools.

It was formed in 2017 from a merger of the Education Funding Agency and the Skills funding agency. You may still see references to the previous agencies in some materials.

The initial assessment carried out by the Local Authority, for deciding whether a child or young person needs an EHC plan.

Read our guide on EHC Needs Assessments.

An EHC plan describes the special educational needs that a child or young person has and the help that they will be given to meet them. It also includes the health and care provision that is needed. It is a legal document written by the local authority and is used for children and young people who have high support needs.

Read our guide on EHCPs.

ETOAS includes hospital school, online schooling or home tuition. Government guidance states that:

“Where full-time education would not be in the best interests of a particular child because of reasons relating to their physical or mental health, Local Authorities should provide part-time education on a basis they consider to be in the child’s best interests.”

Elective home education is a term used to describe a choice by parents to provide education for their children at home. A child who is EHE will not be on role at a school. Can be called Home Schooling.

The First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) is a legal body. The Tribunal hears appeals from parents of children with SEN, and young people with SEN, about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans.

The Tribunal also hears claims of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Read our guide on the Tribunal.

The SEND Code of Practice states that schools should follow a graduated approach when providing SEN Support. This is based on a cycle of:

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Do
  • Review

Find out more in our guide on SEND Support in Schools.

High needs funding is the funding that Local Authorities use to pay for special school places.

High needs top-up funding is additional funding paid directly by the Local Authority for some high needs pupils.

A document that schools can use to outline and monitor the support they provide to a child or young person. It is a non-statutory document meaning that schools can choose if and how they use it. They can also have different names such as; SEND Support Plans, Pupil Passports or One Page Profiles.

Find out more in our guide on SEND Support in Schools.

A school that is not maintained by a local authority. These schools can be mainstream (also called non-maintained, fee-paying or private schools) or specialist independent schools funded through an EHC plan (also called non-maintained specialist schools).

SENDIAS services provide information, advice and support to children and young people with SEN and their parents.

They provide impartial advice on the special educational needs system to help the children, their parents and young people to play an active and informed role in their education and care.

Although funded by local authorities, SENDIAS Services are run either at arm’s length from the local authority or by a voluntary organisation to ensure children, their parents and young people have confidence in them.

Kids provides a number of SENDIASS services.

A key stage is a stage of education. They are separated in age as follows:

  • Key Stage 1: 5-7 years old, school years 1 and 2
  • Key Stage 2: 7-11 years old, school years 3 – 6
  • Key Stage 3: 11 – 14 years old, school years 7 – 9
  • Key Stage 4: 14 – 16 years old, school years 10 – 11
  • Key Stage 5: 16 – 18 years old, school years 12 – 13

The term ‘looked after’ refers to children, under 18, who have been provided with care and accommodation by children’s services.

Local authorities are administrative offices that provide services within their local areas. There are 152 across England which are education authorities. The UK government website has more information about how local government works.

The Local Offer, published by every local authority, tells you what support is available for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, and their families. It includes information about education, health and care provision. It also gives information about training, employment and independent living for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

This is a school that provides education for all children, whether or not they have special educational needs or disabilities.

Schools in England that are funded by a local authority including any community, foundation or voluntary school, community special or foundation special school.

A form of disagreement resolution for parents and young people considering appealing decisions about EHC Plans.

Every local authority must provide independent mediation to help parents and young people resolve disputes with local authorities about:

  • a decision not to carry out an EHC needs assessment
  • a decision not to draw up an EHC plan
  • the content of a final EHC plan or amended plan
  • a decision not to amend an EHC plan
  • a decision to cease to maintain an EHC plan.

Mediation must also be provided on the health and social care elements of an EHC plan.


The purpose of mediation advice is to give information about what mediation involves. Parents or young people who wish to register an appeal with the First Tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability) must first seek mediation advice. The advice must be factual and unbiased. After mediation advice has been given the parent or young person can choose whether they wish to go to mediation.

However, it is not necessary to seek mediation advice if the appeal is only about the name of the school, or college named on the plan, the type of provision specified in the plan or the fact that no school or other institution is named.

Visit Kids Mediation Service for more information.

The SEND Code of Practice says in Section i of the Introduction:

“…where the text uses the word ‘must’ it refers to a statutory requirement under primary legislation, regulations or case law.”

This means that wherever the term ‘must’ is used there is a legal duty to do what the Code says.

Outcomes describe the difference that will be made to a child or young person as a result of special educational and other provision. Must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART).

P Scales or P Levels are used to assess the progress of children between the ages of 5-14 who have SEND and whose abilities do not yet reach Key Stage Level 1 of the National Curriculum.

A Parent Carer Forum is a representative local group of parents and carers of disabled children who work with local authorities, education, health and other providers to make sure the services they plan and deliver meet the needs of disabled children and families. For more information on your areas Parent Carer Forum visit the National Network of Parent Carer Forums.

A Personal Budget is money set aside to fund support as part of an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) for a child or young person with special educational needs. It can include funds from Education, Health and Social Care.

For more information read our guide on Personal Budgets.

Portage is home-based educational support for pre-school children with special educational needs. Local authorities usually provide Portage services.

Maintained schools in England get extra funding from the government to help improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Schools get pupil premium funding based on the number of pupils they have in January each year who receive free school meals and / or are Looked After and previously Looked After.

Parental responsibility is defined under Section 3 (1) of the Children Act 1989 as meaning all the duties, rights, powers, responsibilities and authority which parents have with respect to their children and their children’s property.

A school which is specially organised to provide education for pupils who would otherwise not receive suitable education because of illness, exclusion or any other reason. Also called an alternative provision.

Reasonable adjustments are changes schools and other settings are required to make which could include: changes to physical features – for example, creating a ramp so that students can enter a classroom or providing extra support and aids (such as specialist teachers or equipment)

Resourced provision within mainstream schools are where pupils are either withdrawn to a resource for specialist input, or teachers from the resource deliver specialist help to the child within the classroom. A resource provision usually has a specialist focus such as hearing impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Section 41 Schools are schools included on the Secretary of State Approved List of independent educational institutions, independent special schools and post-16 institutions. You can find the list at

Special educational needs often referred to as ‘SEN’ or ‘SEND’ (Special educational needs and disabilities), is a term used to describe learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for a child to learn compared to children of the same age.

This is the statutory guidance that supports Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

It tells local authorities, early years settings, schools, colleges, heath and social care providers and others what they must and should do to identify, assess and provide for children and young people with SEN or disabilities.

The government website publishes:

A SENDCo is a qualified teacher in a school or maintained nursery school who has responsibility for co-ordinating SEND provision.

All schools must publish on their websites information about their policy and arrangements for supporting children with SEN. This must be kept up to date.

The SEND Team, which often have a name unique to the Local Authority, are the team responsible for the EHC assessments, plans, reviews and placements. You should be able to find the contact details for the SEND Team through the Local Offer.

Special education is any educational or training provision which is extra to or different from what is needed by other children or young people the same age. This covers many different things including communicating through sign language, having worksheets in a larger font, needing one-to-one or small group support.

Some children and young people may need extra help which is not special educational provision such as having medication at school. As this is not support with education or training it would not be classed as special educational provision.

Find out more in our guide on SEND Support in Schools.

A school which is specifically set up to provide education for pupils with SEND.

Should is a word that occurs frequently in the SEND Code of Practice.

Section I of the Introduction to the Code says:

“… where the text uses the word ‘should’ it means that the guidance contained in this Code must be considered and that those who must have regard to it will be expected to explain any departure from it.”

This means that wherever the term ‘should’ is used organisations must consider what the Code says. However, they may depart from it.

Sometimes a service that provides information, advice and support may be asked for help that it is not able to give directly.

When this happens the person seeking information, advice or support may signposted to other service providers. This means that they will be given information, including contact details, about other sources of help.

Under the Education Act 1996 local authorities issued Statements of Special Educational Need for children whose needs could not be met through the provision normally made by schools.

The Children and Families Act 2014 replaced Statements with EHC plans.

Statutory guidance is guidance that local authorities and other local bodies have a legal duty to follow.

Preparation for moves between phases of education or for adult life.