Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Information and advice for kinship carers choosing a school for a child who has special educational needs or a disability.

Children in kinship care may have special educational needs, meaning you need to get extra support to help them thrive in mainstream school. A special school could be the best option for the child, depending on how complex their needs are.

Caring for a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is rewarding but can be challenging as you navigate getting the support you need. It’s important for you to understand what your family is entitled to so you can make the right choices when choosing a school for your child.

All schools have a dedicated special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) lead, who is responsible for co-ordinating SEND provision at the school. If you feel a child has special educational needs, it’s important to speak to the school SENCo about how best to assess these needs.

The SEND Code of Practice and SEN types

The SEND Code of Practice (GOV.UK) considers a child to have a special educational need or disability if they have:

  • a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age
  • a disability that prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.

Special educational needs fall into four main categories:

  • communication and interaction, such as autism
  • cognition and learning, such as dyslexia and dyspraxia
  • social, emotional and mental health, such as ADHD, depression and anxiety
  • sensory and/or physical needs, such as visual or hearing impairment, cerebral palsy

Rights for children with SEND

The SEND Code of Practice sets out guidelines for schools and educational settings to follow to make sure children with SEND get the best outcomes from education.

The Code says that:

  • children should have their needs registered on a SEND register
  • children with SEND should be taught alongside peers
  • schools should have a SEND lead as well as a responsible governor
  • staff should be trained to recognise and support SEND in order to achieve the best outcomes for children

Read the SEND guide for parents and carers on GOV.UK

Asking for an SEN assessment

If the child you care for has complex needs, they may be eligible for an education, health and care plan (EHC) in England. A school or a carer can request an EHC plan needs assessment to begin the process. An EHC plan may include financial help to pay for any adjustments or extra support your child needs at school. In Wales, a child in kinship care with SEND may be eligible for an Individual Development Plan (IDP).

Anyone, including carers and schools, can contact their local council’s children’s services about a young person who they believe has special educational needs (under Section 24 of the Children and Families Act 2014). Your council’s Local Offer should explain the services available for young people with special educational needs, including information about how carers can ask for a needs assessment for an EHC plan.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

How the process works

Carers have the right to request a needs assessment from the local authority for an EHC plan for a young person aged between 0 and 25 years old. To decide whether a young person meets the criteria for an EHC plan, a local authority will assess evidence of actions already taken by the school as part of its SEN support. The local children’s services will then make a decision about whether an EHC assessment is needed within 6 weeks of receiving the request from the carer or school.

It’s important to remember that a young person may have special education needs, even if they do not need an EHC plan. Carers should inform schools if they believe a young person in their care requires SEN support in any of the four areas listed above. Likewise, if a school believes a young person has special educational needs, they should inform and involve the carer of any decisions relating to their education.

Find out more about EHC plans (GOV.UK)

Find out more about individual development plans (Snap Cymru)

Reasonable adjustments

Schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure young people with special educational needs can access the curriculum and the other facilities or services. Reasonable adjustments are positive steps or interventions which the school can put into place to help the young person.

Examples of reasonable adjustments include:

  • developing strategies with the young person to enable them to self-calm like meditation
  • using speech to text technology to support writing – this could be an iPad, microphone or a dyslexia-friendly dictionary
  • routines or rewards used at home that could be effective in school

Good communication between carer and school is vital for sharing information about positive reasonable adjustments for a young person.

A school may implement an individual plan which details the reasonable adjustments put in place for a young person to enable them to access the curriculum. This plan should describe the special educational need of the individual pupil, explain how this need impacts on the education of the young person. It should also detail the support the young person will get to allow them to access the school’s facilities and services.

As a kinship carer, you should make sure the plan meets the needs of the young person as fully as possible.

Involving carers in SEN support

Kinship carers should always be involved in planning for the education of the young person in their care and in reviewing their progress. The SEN Code of Practice says that schools should meet with parents or carers at least three times a year. These meetings should be longer and more detailed than most parent-teacher meetings. Records should be kept of these meetings and the actions, support and any targets set should be shared with appropriate members of staff.

Reviewing a child’s progress

Outcomes for young people should be regularly set and reviewed, as should progress towards these outcomes, and the role of the school and the carer within the education of the young person should be made clear.

Carer’s views and the views of the young person should always be taken into account. Meeting with carers regularly will build the confidence carers have in the actions the school is taking and it will also enable the carer to inform the school of any changes in the pupil’s needs or circumstances.

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.