Jargon explained: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

The language of special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) can be difficult to understand. Below we have listed some of these commonly used terms, including explanations and abbreviations where applicable. If you would like to add any more terms, please email us at: local.offer@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

With thanks to the Central Bedfordshire Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) for its assistance in completing this page.

NHS jargon buster

You might also find the NHS acronym buster, from the NHS Confederation, helpful.



A state–funded school in England that is directly funded by the Department of Education (DfE). Academies are self-governing and independent of local authority control.


Refers to Attention Deficit Disorder.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Age weighted pupil unit (AWPU)

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 SEND. The value of the AWPU varies from one local authority to another and according to the age of the pupils. For primary age pupils, the minimum is £2000 per year. For pupils in Key Stages 3 and 4 the minimum is £3000.


Someone who helps another person (e.g. a child or their carer) to make decisions and have a voice.

Annual review

Under the Education Act 1996 local authorities had to carry out a review of every Statement of Special Educational Need at least once every 12 months

Under the Children and Families Act 2014 local authorities must carry out a review of every EHC plan at least once every 12 months and 6-monthly for children under 5 years old.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Assess, plan, do, review (ADPR)

Is listed in the graduated response guidance document and helps schools to ‘assess, plan, do, review’.


British Sign Language (BSL)

British Sign Language is a sign language used in the United Kingdom, and is the first or preferred language of some deaf people in the UK.



Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services: These services assess and treat children and young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

Care plan

A record of the health and/or social care services that are being provided to a child or young person to help them manage a disability or health condition.


A named officer of the local authority who will deal with your child's case and who will talk to you if you have an enquiry or concern.

Central Bedfordshire SENDIASS (SEND Information, Advice & Support Service)

This is a statutory service, working at arm’s length from the authority and offers a free confidential support service for parents and carers of children with special educational needs. 

Children and Families Act 2014

This law came into force on 1st September 2014. Part 3 of the Act sets out the new law on special educational needs and disability. The Act is supported by the SEND Regulations 2014 and the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 Years.

Child in need (CIN)

Under the Children Act 1989, disabled children are described as being ‘in need’. Social Services have the lead responsibility for assessments and for ensuring the provision of services. Other services have a duty to cooperate in supporting disabled children.

Child protection plan (CPP)

A child protection plan is a plan drawn up by the local authority (social services). It sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family and what support they will need.

Clinical commissioning group (CCG)

CCGs are groups of professionals that work together to commission health services, ensuring there is sufficient capacity contracted to deliver the necessary services to people. We work with Bedfordshire CCG.

Code of practice

A guide to tell local authorities what they need to do to work within the law and provide support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.


Equal partnership working between service providers, those in receipt of the service and their families.

Compulsory school age

Generally, a child from 5-16 years old. 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.

Children with disabilities team

A team of specialist social workers and occupational therapists who work with sick and disabled children and their families.



Acronym for Department for Education.


Acronym for Disability Living Allowance.

Direct payment(s)

A payment made directly to a parent/carer 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/carer or young person can buy certain services that are specified in their EHC plan. Direct payments can only be used for provision provided on the school or college premises if the school or college agree.

Disabled students allowance

Financial support for undergraduate or post-graduate students who have a disability or long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty which affects their ability to study. It can be used to pay for things such as special equipment, a note-taker or transport costs.

Disagreement resolution

Local authorities must provide independent disagreement resolution to help parents/carers and young people resolve disputes with local authorities, schools and other settings about SEND duties and provision. You can find more information on disagreement resolution in the SEND Code of Practice 11.6 to 11.10.


Early years action/action plus

This describes the additional or different support for children with SEND given by early years setting under the previous (2001) SEND Code of Practice. This support was for children/young people with SEND who did not have a Statement of Special Educational Need.

Early years settings

All pre-school education provision such as nursery classes and schools, day nurseries and play groups.

Emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD)

Refers to a child/young person who has emotional and/or behavioural difficulties.

Education Act 1996

Part IV of the Education Act 1996 was the legal framework for SEN. Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 now replaces this legislation. However, there is a transition period until 2018. This means, for example, that statements of special educational needs that were in place before 1 September 2014 will continue to have legal force until the child or young person transfers to an EHC plan.

Education funding agency (EFA)

The EFA 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 EFA allocates funds to local authorities, which then provide the funding for maintained schools. The EFA directly funds academies and free schools.

Educational psychologist (EP)

This professional will observe a child or young person, probably in school, and assess their learning and emotional needs. They will advise on the best approaches and provisions to support learning and development.

Education health and care (EHC) needs assessment

The assessment is a detailed look at the special educational needs that the child /young person has and what help he or she may need in order to learn. It is sometimes called a statutory assessment. You can find out more in the SEND Code of Practice 9.45 to 9.52.

Education health and care plan (EHC plan or EHCP)

An EHC plan describes the special educational needs that a child/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/ young people who have high support needs.

Early years foundation stage (EYFS)

The early years foundation stage. A statutory framework which covers children both in pre-school settings and in reception classes up to their fifth birthday


FE college

Further education college - a college offering continuing education to young people over the compulsory school age of 16.

First-tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability)

The First-tier Tribunal (special educational needs and disability) is a legal body. The tribunal hears appeals from parents/carers of children and young people with SEND, about EHC needs assessment and EHC plans.


Hearing impairment (HI)

Refers to a child or young person who has a hearing impairment.


Independent school

A school that is not maintained by a local authority and is registered under the Education Act 1996. Independent schools will be approved by the Secretary of State as being suitable for the admission of children with EHC plans.

Independent supporter

An independent supporter is a person recruited to help families going through an EHC needs assessment and the process of developing an EHC plan or the transfer from a statement to an EHC plan. This person is independent of the local authority and will receive training, including legal training, to enable him or her to provide this support.


Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)

This finds out what a local area is like, who lives there and what services they need.



Someone who provides children/young people and parents/carers with a single point of contact to help make sure the support they receive is co-ordinated. A keyworker could be provided directly by a local authority or local health organisation, a school or college, or from a voluntary or private sector body.

Key stages

Key stages are the different stages of education that a child passes through:

  • Early Years Foundation Stage – age 0-5 (early years setting, nursery and reception)
  • Key Stage One – age 5-7 (years 1 and 2)
  • Key Stage Two – age 7-11 (years 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  • Key Stage Three – age 11-14 (years 7, 8 and 9)
  • Key Stage Four – age 14-16 (years 10 and 11)
  • Key Stage Five – age 16-18 (Sixth form)

Learning difficulties (LD)

Refers to a child or young person who has a learning difficulty/difficulties.

Learning difficulty assessment (LDA)

Learning difficulty assessments set out what additional learning support a young person needed when continuing their education into some form of post-16 education or training.

From 1 September 2014, learning difficulty assessments were replaced by EHC plans.

Local authority/authorities (LA)

Local authorities (councils) are administrative offices that provide services with their local areas.  Find out more about local government.

Local Offer

The Local Offer, published by every local authority, tells you what support is available for children/ 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.

Local transition plan

Every local authority must publish a plan that explains when and how statements of special educational need will be transferred to the new system, as well as information for young people in further education and training who receive support as a result of a learning difficulties assessment.

Looked after child (LAC)

The definition of looked-after children (children in care) is found in the Children Act 1989. A child is looked after by a local authority if a court has granted a care order to place a child in care, or a council’s children’s services department has cared for the child for more than 24 hours. On reaching the age of 18 (adulthood), children cease to be considered looked-after by a council.


Mainstream school

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

Maintained school

Schools in England that are maintained by a local authority.


Mediation is a type of disagreement resolution. Every local authority must provide independent mediation to help parents/carers and young people resolve disputes

with local authorities about:

  • a decision not to carry out an education, health and care (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. You can find more information on mediation in the SEND code of practice; 10.117 to 10.120.

Mediation advice

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

Mild learning difficulties

A child/young person with mild learning difficulties is usually able to hold a conversation, and communicate most of their needs and wishes.

Moderate learning difficulties (MLD)

A child/young person with moderate learning difficulties is understood to display significant delay in reaching developmental milestones and may have much greater difficulty than their peers in acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills. They may also have associated speech and language delay, low levels of concentration and under-developed social, emotional and personal skills.


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 all the organisations listed in Section iv of the Introduction to the Code have a legal duty to do what the Code says.


National curriculum

This sets out clear, full and statutory entitlement to learning for all pupils, determining what should be taught and setting attainment targets for learning.


Refers to young people that are Not in Education, Training or Employment.

NHS Continuing Healthcare

A package of care that is arranged and funded solely by the NHS for individuals aged 18 and over who are not in hospital but have complex ongoing healthcare needs.

NHS England

An independent body which aims to improve health outcomes for people in England by driving up the quality of care.

Non-maintained special school

Schools in England approved by the Secretary of State as special schools which are not maintained by the state but charge fees on a non-profit-making basis. Most non-maintained special schools are run by major charities or charitable trusts.


Occupational Therapist (OT)

A professional who is trained to give advice on equipment, adaptations and activities to support the learning/social development of people with physical, emotional or behavioural difficulties.


Office for Standards in Education: a government department taking responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England.


Section 9.66 of the SEND code of practice says: An outcome can be defined as the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention. It should be personal and not expressed from a service perspective; it should be something that those involved have control and influence over, and while it does not always have to be formal or accredited, it should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART). When an outcome is focused on education or training, it will describe what the expected benefit will be to the individual as a result of the education or training intervention provided.


Personal Budget

A Personal Budget is money set aside to fund support as part of an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) for a child/young person with special educational needs. It can include funds from Education, Health and Social Care. Parents/carers or children/young people with an EHC plan can choose whether or not they wish to have a Personal Budget.

Personal health budgets

Money that people can use to spend on things to help them improve their health condition.

Preparation for adulthood (PfA)

Our preparation for adulthood team is part of adult social care and works in partnership with a range of local services and agencies including children’s services, education, health and housing services to provide information, advice and support to help disabled young people (aged 14-25) to develop and prepare for life as they become an adult.

Profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD)

This diagnosis is used when a child has more than one disability, with the most significant being a learning disability. Many children diagnosed with PMLD will also have a sensory or physical disability, complex health needs, or mental health difficulties.


Something that is provided for somebody, sometimes the law tells organisations what they must provide.


Reasonable Adjustments

Reasonable adjustments are changes schools and other settings are required to make to enable full access to the curriculum and school life. These could include: changes to physical features, additional equipment or providing additional support.


What someone should get if something goes wrong and it is the fault of an organisation.

Respite care (also known as short breaks)

Identified package of support to give parent/carers a break from caring. Short breaks can be overnight care for the child/young person with disabilities, activities or a carer. Families may also be receiving support from the Children with Disabilities Service. 


School action/action plus

This describes the additional or different support for children with SEND given by schools under the previous (2001) SEND Code of Practice. This support was for children with SEND who did not have a Statement of Special Educational Need.

Schools' forum

Every local authority has a schools' forum. It is made up of representatives from schools and academies, and some representation from other bodies, such as nursery and 14-19 education providers. The role of the schools' forum includes looking at the local formula used to fund schools and SEND provision.

Section 139A Learning Difficulty Assessment

Learning difficulty assessments set out what additional learning support a young person needed when continuing their education into some form of post-16 education or training. From 1 September 2014, learning difficulty assessments were replaced by EHC plans.


Special educational needs (and/or disability): a child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made.

SEND information report

All schools must publish on their websites information about their policy and arrangements for supporting children/young people with SEND. This must be kept up to date. The information that has to be included can be found in Section 6.79 of the SEND Code of Practice.

SEND support

SEND support includes any help for children/young people with SEND that is additional to or different from the support generally made for other children of the same age. The purpose of SEND support is to help children/young people achieve the outcomes or learning objectives that have been set for them by the school. Schools should involve parents/carers in this process. SEND support replaces early years action/action plus and school action/action plus.

SEND tribunal

An independent body which hears appeals against decisions made by the local authority on statutory assessments and education and health care (EHC) plans.

SEND Pathfinder

SEND Pathfinders were set up in 2011 to test out the reforms the government was proposing to introduce as part of the Children and Families Act 2014. 

SEND reforms 2014

The SEND reforms aimed to deliver a simpler, joined up, person centred system for the provision of education, health and social care for children and young people from age 0 - 25 with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

SEND support team

This is the team that receives the education, health and care (EHC) Needs Assessment requests, processes them, makes the decisions on outcomes and writes the EHC plans.

Severe learning disabilities (SLD)

Refers to a child or young person who has severe learning disabilities.

Short breaks

Short breaks are opportunities for children and young people with disabilities to spend time away from their primary carers, and provide opportunities for their parents and carers to have a break from caring responsibilities, thereby contributing to their personal and social development.

In Central Bedfordshire, short breaks can include day, evening, overnight, weekend or holiday activities that take place within the home of the child or young person, in the home of an approved carer, a residential or a community setting.

We also provide direct payments which families and carers can use instead of a short breaks service to set up their own short break. Direct payments can be provided for part or all of a personal budget.


‘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 meansthat 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 all the organisations listed in Section iv of the Introduction to the Code 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 be signposted to other service providers. This means that they will be given information, including contact details, about other sources of help.

Speech, language and/or communication (SLCN)

Refers to a child or young person who has speech, language and/or communication needs.

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)

Refers to a child or young person who has social, emotional and/or mental health needs.

Special educational needs coordinator (SENCO)

A SENCO is a qualified teacher in a school or maintained nursery school who has responsibility for coordinating SEND provision. Early years settings that are part of group provision arrangements are expected to identify an individual to perform the role of SENCO.

Special school

A school that is organised to make special educational provision for pupils with SEN and available for children with Statements of Educational Needs/EHC plans.

Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT or SLT)

Speech and language therapy is a health care profession, the role and aim of which is to enable children, young people and adults with speech, language and communications difficulties to reach their maximum communication potential.

Statutory guidance

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


TAC meeting

Refers to a ‘team around the child’ meeting - which bring together relevant practitioners and/or parent(s) to address the needs of the child or young person. The team works together to plan coordinated support from agencies to address problems in a holistic way. Parents should have an active role in the TAC meetings, if the young person is agreeable and their contribution should always be recognised as they have a central role in meeting the needs of the child or young person.


Medical treatments that help a disabled person to manage the symptoms of their condition, for example physiotherapy, speech therapy.


A period of change for your child or young person that could be starting primary school, leaving secondary school to go to college, or changing from children’s services to adult services.


A place where you can go to talk about decisions that you don’t agree with. A group of people who are not involved will listen to all the people involved in the argument and help make a decision.


Universal service

A service that is available to everyone, without assessment.


Visual impairment (VI)

Refers to a child or young person with a visual impairment.

Voluntary organisations

Charities and other small organisations who don’t make a profit and work for a specific issue or group of people.


Young person

A person over compulsory school age (the end of the academic year in which they turn 16).

Youth Support Service (YSS)

The Youth Support Service works to ensure the needs and wishes of young people are heard, represented and they are supported to navigate their pathways to personal, social and economic success.