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Pupil Support
& Access
All Schools in England

Data Collection
by Type of Special
Ref: DfES/0536/2003
Status: Strongly recommended

Educational Need Date of Issue: September 2003

The guidance and descriptions aim to provide
support to schools and LEAs in recording
pupils’ needs in the Pupil Level Annual Schools
Census (PLASC).

A copy of this document is available from our

Publication Centre, tel: 0845 60 222 60, e-
mail: dfes@prolog.uk.com and at:

For further information please e-mail:

Collecting information about types
of Special Educational Need

In order to help planning and policy

initiatives and interventions on pupils with
development, we need more information different types of SEN. The descriptions below
about the numbers of pupils in the countryare withintended to help schools and LEAs prepare
different types of special educational needfor this data collection. Draft descriptions were
(SEN). From January 2004 we will be sent to a sample of schools, LEAs and
voluntary organisations for consultation and
collecting this information as part of the Pupil
Level Annual Schools Census (PLASC). The have since been amended in the light of the
data will be used to help planning, to studycomments received. We would like to thank all
trends and to monitor the outcomes of those who contributed to the consultation.

Areas of need
The main areas of difficulty or need are set out in the SEN Code of Practice,
Chapter 7. They are Cognition and Learning; Behaviour, Emotional and Social
Development; Communication and Interaction; Sensory and/or PhysicalNeeds.
To give us more detailed
? information we have sub-divided some of the broad areas
into the categories used by Ofsted. These are:

A Cognition
Profound and Learning
and Multiple NeedsDifficulty (PMLD)
Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD)
? Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD)
? Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD)

B Speech, Language
Behaviour, andand
Emotional Communication Needs (SLCN)
Social Development Needs
? Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulty (BESD)

C Communication and Interaction Needs

? Visual Impairment (VI)
? Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

D Sensory and/or Physical Needs


? Hearing Impairment (HI)

? Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI)
? Physical Disability (PD)

Other (OTH)
How to decide Pupils at Early Years Action or School Action
should be recorded as having SEN but it is
We are aware that many pupils have more than not necessary to record their type of SEN.
one type of difficulty. We are therefore asking
you to record information on pupils' greatest or
primary need and, where appropriate, their
Pupils whose needs are being met through
secondary need.
normal differentiation and the flexibilities of the
National Curriculum, as set out in the National
Curriculum Inclusion statement entitled
“Inclusion: Providing effective learning
If the pupil has a statement, their needs will have
been formally assessed and will be described in opportunities for all children”, should be
Part 2 of the statement. The type or types of recorded as N - no special educational need.
need recorded should reflect this. Some children
whose needs are being met at Early Years Action
Plus or at School Action Plus will also have had
assessments by educational psychologists, Under-attainment may be an indicator of SEN
specialist teachers and others. Again, this but poor performance may be due to other
information will help you to decide which type factors such as problems in the child’s home or
or types of SEN to record. family circumstances or poor school attendance
(see SEN Code of Practice, 7.38-7.45).

Lack of competence in the English language

In addition, the short descriptions that follow are
intended to help you to decide which types of is not a special educational need. At the same
special educational needs are the most time, some pupils with English as an additional
appropriate to record. If they are not sufficientlanguage will also have learning difficulties.
to help you to decide, we would recommend that A medical diagnosis or disability is also not
necessarily a special educational need, unless
you talk to your school’s Educational Psychologist
or Specialist Support Teacher. special educational provision is needed to
access the curriculum.

A number of voluntary organisations have more

detailed descriptions and information about
particular types of special need. We have Publications
included a list of useful websites and guidance.
Copies of Department for Education and
Skills publications can be obtained from:
DfES Publications
Who to record PO Box 5050
You need only to record the type/s of need for Sherwood Park
pupils where special educational provision is
being made at Early Years Action Plus, School NG15 0DJ
Action Plus or through a Statement of SEN. Tel: 0845 60 222 60 e-
This means that they have educational provision mail: dfes@prolog.uk.com
which is additional to, or different from, the
educational provision made generally for
children of their age and support has been Please quote the reference number of the
sought from external services (see SEN Code publication you require.
of Practice, Chapters 4, 5, & 6).
For copies of the SEN Code of Practice,
please quote ref: DfES 581/2001

Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD)

A fine motor skills are hard to learn and difficult to

retain and generalise. Pupils may have poor
Pupils with specific learning difficulties have abalance and co-ordination and may be hesitant
particular difficulty in learning to read, write, spell
in many actions (running, skipping, hopping,
or manipulate numbers so that their performance holding a pencil, doing jigsaws, etc).
in these areas is below their performance in other Their articulation may also be immature and
areas. Pupils may also have problems with short- their language late to develop. They may also
term memory, with organisational skills and with have poor awareness of body position and poor
co-ordination. Pupils with specific learning social skills.
Pupils should coveronly
the whole ability range
be recorded and if
as SpLD thetheir
severity of their impairment varies widely.
difficulties are significant and persistent,
despite appropriate learning opportunities and
if additional educational provision is being Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD)
made to help them to access the curriculum.
Pupils with moderate learning difficulties will have
attainments significantly below expected levels in
most areas of the curriculum, despite appropriate
interventions. Their needs will not be able to be
met by normal differentiation and the
flexibilities of the National Curriculum.

Specific learning difficulties include:

They should only be recorded as MLD if
Dyslexia additional educational provision is being made
to help them to access the curriculum.
Pupils with dyslexia have a marked and
persistent difficulty in learning to read, write
and spell, despite progress in other areas.
Pupils may have poor reading comprehension, Pupils with moderate learning difficulties have
handwriting and punctuation. They may alsomuch greater difficulty than their peers in
acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills
have difficulties in concentration and organisation
and in remembering sequences of words. and in understanding concepts. They may also
They may mispronounce common words or have associated speech and language delay, low
reverse letters and sounds in words. self-esteem, low levels of concentration and
under-developed social skills.

Dyscalculia Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD)

Pupils with dyscalculia have difficulty in acquiring
Pupils with severe learning difficulties have
mathematical skills. Pupils may have difficultysignificant intellectual or cognitive impairments.
understanding simple number concepts, lack This an has a major effect on their ability to
intuitive grasp of numbers and have problemsparticipate in the school curriculum without
learning number facts and procedures. support. They may also have difficulties in
mobility and co-ordination, communication and
perception and the acquisition of self-help skills.
Dyspraxia Pupils with severe learning difficulties will need
Pupils with dyspraxia are affected by an
support in all areas of the curriculum. They may
impairment or immaturity of the organisation of
also require teaching of self-help, independence
movement, often appearing clumsy. Gross and 3
and social skills. Some pupils may use sign and
physical disabilities, sensory impairment or a
symbols but most will be able to hold simple severe medical condition. Pupils require a high
conversations. Their attainments may be within
level of adult support, both for their learning
the upper P scale range (P4-P8) for much of needs
their and also for their personal care.
Further information about P scales can be
school careers (that is below level 1 of the They are likely to need sensory stimulation and
found in Supporting the Target Setting
National Curriculum). a curriculum broken down into very small steps.
Process, DfES Guidance March 2001.
Some pupils communicate by gesture, eye
Ref: DfEE 0065/2001
pointing or symbols, others by very simple
language. Their attainments are likely to remain
in the early P scale range (P1-P4) throughout
their school careers (that is below level 1 of the
National Curriculum).

Profound and Multiple Learning

Difficulty (PMLD) Further information about P scales can be
Pupils with profound and multiple learning found in Supporting the Target Setting
difficulties have complex learning needs. In Process, DfES Guidance March 2001.
addition to very severe learning difficulties, pupils Ref: DfEE 0065/2001
have other significant difficulties, such as

Behavioural, Emotional and Social They are often off task and have a very short

Difficulty (BESD) concentration span. Their self-esteem is low
BEHAVIOUR, EMOTIONAL and SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT NEEDS and they find it hard to accept praise or to take
responsibility for their behaviour.

Some pupils may not be able to function at all in

group situations and exhibit persistent and
Pupils with behavioural, emotional and social frequent violent behaviour which requires
difficulties cover the full range of ability and a physical intervention.
continuum of severity. Their behaviours present
a barrier to learning and persist despite the
implementation of an effective school behaviour
policy and personal/social curriculum.

Pupils should only be recorded as BESD

if additional educational provision is beingOther pupils may display similar signs of low
made to help them to access the curriculum. esteem, under achievement and inappropriate
social interaction, but without outwardly
challenging behavioural outbursts. They will be
At the milder end of the continuum, pupils maywithdrawn, quiet and find it difficult to
have difficulties with social interaction and findcommunicate.
it difficult to work in a group or cope in
unstructured time. They may have poor Pupils with attention deficit disorder or attention
concentration, temper outbursts and be deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) should
verbally aggressive to peers and adults. be recorded in this group if additional
educational arrangements are being made to
Other pupils may provoke peers and be support them. Pupils with ADD may have
confrontational or openly defiant and sometimes
reduced attention and impulsivity. Pupils with
physically aggressive towards peers4 and adults.
ADHD may also show signs of hyperactivity.

Speech, Language and Communication Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Needs (SLCN) Autistic spectrum disorder is a relatively new
term which recognises that there are a number of
Pupils with speech, language and communica-
tion needs cover the whole ability range. sub-groups within the spectrum of autism. Pupils
autistic spectrum disorder find
social behaviour it difficult
- which to:
their ability to interact with children and adults
They should only be recorded as SLCN if
additional educational provision is being understand
? and use non-verbal and verbal
think and behave flexibly - which may be
made to help them to access the curriculum. shown in restricted, obsessional or repetitive

Pupils with speech, language and communica-

tion needs may have difficulty in understanding ?
and/or making others understand information
conveyed through spoken language.
Their acquisition of speech and their oral
language skills may be significantly behind their
peers. Their speech may be poor or unintelligi-
Pupils with ASD cover the full range of ability
ble. Pupils with speech difficulties may
and the severity of their impairment varies widely.
experience problems in articulation and the
Some pupils also have learning disabilities or
production of speech sounds. They may have
other difficulties, making diagnosis difficult.
a severe stammer.

Pupils should only be recorded as ASD if

additional educational provision is being made
to help
Pupils with language impairments find it hard to them to access the curriculum.
understand and/or use words in context. They
may use words incorrectly with inappropriate
grammatical patterns, have a reduced Pupils with autistic spectrum disorders may
vocabulary or find it hard to recall words and have a difficulty in understanding the communi-
express ideas. They may also hear or see a cation of others and in developing effective
word but not be able to understand its meaning communication themselves. Many are delayed
Pupils find it difficult to understand the social
or have trouble getting others to understand inbehaviour
learning to speak and some never develop
of others. They are literal thinkers
what they are trying to say. meaningful speech.
and fail to understand the social context.
They can experience high levels of stress and
anxiety in settings that don't meet their needs
or when routines are changed. This can lead
to inappropriate behaviour.
Please note that pupils whose first language
is NOT English should not be recorded as
SLCN unless they also have a special
educational need in this area.

Some pupils with autistic spectrum disorders Pupils with Asperger's syndrome should be
have a different perception of sounds, sights, recorded in this category. These pupils share
smell, touch and taste and this affects their the same triad of impairments but have higher
response to these sensations. They may haveintellectual abilities and their language
unusual sleep and behaviour patterns. development is different from the majority of
pupils with autism.

Young pupils may not play with toys in a

conventional and imaginative way but instead Further information about ASD can be
use toys rigidly or repetitively e.g. watching found in Autistic Spectrum Disorders -
moving parts of machinery for long periods Good Practice Guidance, DfES & DH, 2002.
with intense concentration. They find it hard to Ref: DfES/597/2002.
generalise skills and have difficulty adapting to
new situations and often prefer routine.

Visual impairment refers to a range of difficulties

from minor impairment through to blindness.
Pupils with visual impairments cover the whole
ability range. For educational purposes, a pupil
is considered (VI)impaired if they
to be visually Hearing Impairment (HI)
require adaptations to their environment or Pupils with a hearing impairment range from
specific differentiation of learning materials in those with a mild hearing loss to those who
order to access the curriculum. are profoundly deaf. They cover the whole
ability range.

For educational purposes, pupils are regarded

as having a hearing impairment if they require
hearing aids, adaptations to their environment
and/or particular teaching strategies in order
Pupils should only be recorded as HI if
to access the concepts and language of
additional educational provision is being
the curriculum.
Pupils should only be included if additional
made to help them to access the curriculum.
educational provision is being made to help
them to access the curriculum. Pupils whose
vision is corrected by spectacles should not be
recorded as VI.

Pupils who are blind or have very limited useful

sight require tactile methods of learning, such asA number of pupils with a hearing impairment
Braille and 3-D representations, together with also have an additional disability or learning
making optimal use of their hearing. Partially difficulty.
sighted pupils also need differentiated materials
and may use enlarged print or a mix of learning
methods. Hearing loss may be because of conductive or
sensori-neural problems and can be measured
on a decibel scale. Four categories are generally
used: mild, moderate, severe and profound. In the same way, a medical diagnosis does not
Some pupils with a significant loss communicate
necessarily mean that a pupil has SEN. It
through sign instead of, or as well as, speech.
depends on the impact the condition has on their
educational needs. (See SEN Code of Practice,
7.64 ref: DfES 581/2001).
Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI)
Pupils with multi-sensory impairment have a
combination of visual and hearing difficulties.
They are sometimes referred to as deafblindPupils
but should only be recorded as PD if
may have some residual sight and/or hearing. additional educational provision is being
made to help them to access the curriculum.
Many also have additional disabilities but their
complex needs mean that it may be difficult to
ascertain their intellectual abilities.
There are a number of medical conditions
associated with physical disability which can
impact on mobility. These include cerebral palsy,
heart disease, spina bifida and hydrocephalus,
Pupils should only be recorded as MSI if muscular
their dystrophy. Pupils with physical
sensory impairment is their greatest need.
disabilities may also have sensory impairments,
neurological problems or learning difficulties.
Pupils with multi-sensory impairment have much
greater difficulties in accessing the curriculum
and the environment than those with a single
sensory impairment. They have difficulties in Some pupils are mobile but have significant
perception, communication and in the acquisitionfine motor difficulties which require support.
of information. Incidental learning is limited. Others may need augmentative or alternative
The combination can result in high anxiety and communication aids.
multi-sensory deprivation. Pupils need teaching
approaches which make good use of their
residual hearing and vision, together with their
other senses. They may need alternative means
of communication. Other (OTH)
This category should only be used for very
unusual special educational needs which
are substantially different from any of the
types of need described. Pupils should
Physical Disability (PD) only be recorded if additional educational
There is a wide range of physical disabilities and provision is being made to help them to
pupils cover the whole ability range. Some access the curriculum.
pupils are able to access the curriculum and
learn effectively without additional educational
provision. They have a disability but do not have
a special educational need. For others, the
impact on their education may be severe.

Useful Websites
• Action blind people: • National Institute for Clinical Excellence
www.afbp.org (NICE): www.nice.org.uk

• Association for all speech impaired children • Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID):
(AFASIC): www.rnid.org.uk
• Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB):
• Association for Spina Bifida and
Hydrocephalus (ASHAH):
www.asbah.org • SENSE:

• British Association for Teachers of the Deaf

www.batod.org.uk www.scope.org.uk

• World Health Organisation:

• British Dyslexia Association: www.who.int/en
• Autistic Spectrum Disorder - Good Practice
• British Deaf Association: Guidance (DfES 597/20002):
www.bda.org.uk www.dfes.gov.uk/sen

• Contact a family:
• Disability Code of Practice for Schools:
• www.cafamily.org.uk
Dyslexia Institute: www.drc.org.uk
• Down's Syndrome Association:
www.dsa-uk.com • Promoting Children’s Mental Health within
•Early Codeand
of Practice
(DfES 0112/2001):

• Dyspraxia foundation:

• ICAN (helping children communicate): • SEN Specialist Standards (91/12-99):

• www.ican.org.uk
National Autistic Society: www.teach-tta.gov.uk
• MENCAP: • Supporting the Target Setting Process:
www.mencap.org.uk Guidance for effective
target setting for pupils with special
educational needs (DfEE 0065/2001):

• National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS):

© Crown copyright 2003
Produced by the Department for Education and Skills.
Extracts from this document may be reproduced for
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