The definition of special educational needs and disabilities

A child or young person has special educational needs (SEN) if they have:

  • a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her

A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if they have:

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

For children aged 2 years or more, special educational provision is:

  • educational or training provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, mainstream post-16 institutions or by early years providers

Children and young people who have SEN do not necessarily have a disability. And some disabled children and young people do not have special educational needs. There is, however, overlap between the two groups.

A child or young person has a disability if they have:

  • a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long term effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities

Schools have duties under the Equality Act 2010 towards disabled children and young people. They must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage.