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Glossary of terms

Below we have listed many of the terms used in the SEND world, along with explanations of their meaning and their common abbreviations. If you would like any more terms to appear here, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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

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

Annual Review: A review of an Education Health Care (EHC) plan, which an education authority must undertake at least every 12 months.

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.

CAMHS: 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.

Caseworker: 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.

Compulsory school age: Broadly speaking, 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.

CYADS: Children and Young Adults Disabilities Service.

DfE: Department for Education.

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: This is a statutory service commissioned by local authorities to provide a quick and non-adversarial way of resolving disagreements between parents or young people and bodies responsible for providing education, whether the child or young person has an EHC plan or not, or health and social care in relation to EHC assessments and plans.

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

EHC plan: Education, Health and Care plan: An EHC plan details the education, health and social care support to be provided to a child or young person who has SEN or a disability. It is drawn up by the local authority after an EHC needs assessment of the child or young person has determined that an EHC plan is necessary.

Educational Psychologist: Helps in assessing your child’s special educational needs and giving advice to schools.

EBD: Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

FE college: Further Education college: A college offering continuing education to young people over the compulsory school age of 16.

Healthwatch England: An independent consumer champion, gathering and representing the views of the public about health and social care services in England.

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.

IS: Independent Supporter: An individual who is independent from the local authority and is trained to provide advice and support for families with children with SEND through the statutory assessment and EHC process.

Local Authority: The council.

Local Offer: Local authorities in England are required to set out in their Local Offer information about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEN or are disabled.

Maintained school: Schools in England that are maintained by a local authority.

Mediation: This is a statutory service commissioned by local authorities which is designed to help settle agreements between parents or young people and local authorities over EHC needs assessments and plans.

MLD: Moderate Learning Difficulties: A student 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.

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.

NHS Continuing Care: Support provided for children and young people under 18 who need a tailored package of care because of their disability, an accident or illness.

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.

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

Parent Carer Forum: A 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.

Personal Budget: An amount of money identified by the local authority to deliver provision set out in an EHC plan where the parent or young person is involved in securing that provision. The funds can be held directly by the parent or young person, or may be held and managed on their behalf by the local authority.

PMLD: Profound and multiple learning disability: 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.

Portage: Planned, home-based educational support for pre-school children with special educational needs. Local authorities usually provide Portage Services. The Portage service is named after the town of Portage, Wisconsin, USA. There is an active and extensive network of Portage Services in the UK.

PPS: Parent Partnership Service: See SEND IASS (renamed).

PRU: Pupil Referral Unit: A specially organised school which provides education for pupils who would otherwise not receive suitable education because of illness, exclusion or any other reason.

Respite Care (also known as Short Breaks): A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made.

SENARS: Special Educational Needs Assessment and Review Service

SENCO: Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator: The teacher with responsibility for the planning and monitoring of the special educational provision within your child's school.

SEN Code of Practice: A government document which provides practical advice to those carrying out their statutory duties to identify, assess and make provision for children's special educational needs.

SEND IASS: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information, Advice and Support Service: Provides information and support to parents/carers whose children have special educational needs.

SEN Provision: The additional or different help/support given to children with special educational needs, designed to help them access the National Curriculum.

Settings: See Early Years Settings.

Short Breaks: See Respite Care.

SLD: Severe Learning Disabilities

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

Speech and Language Therapy: 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 Assessment: A detailed assessment of a child's special educational needs, which informs the EHC plan.

Transition Plan: A plan drawn up after the Year 9 Annual Review of an EHC plan that draws together information from a range of individuals to plan for the young person's transition to adult life.

VI: Visual Impairment

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

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