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Getting additional support: Wales

Photo: A child has SEN if they need extra or specialised support to access their education

What does special educational needs (SEN) mean?

A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which means they need (or are likely to need) special educational provision to be made for them.

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

  • have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • have a disability which prevents them from using, or makes it harder them to use, facilities provided for others of the same age in a mainstream setting.

In other words, if a child has SEN it means that they need extra or specialised support to access their education.

For example, a deaf child may need speech and language therapy or a radio aid to hear the teacher. You can find more information in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice for Wales.


The Welsh Government is proposing to introduce a new system for supporting children and young people with SEN. SEN are called additional learning needs in the draft legislation.

The new system aims to support children and young people aged 0–25 with additional learning needs. One of the proposed changes is that statements of SEN and IEPs will both be replaced by Individual Development Plans (IDPs). IDPs will look more widely at a child’s needs.

The changes aren’t expected to be introduced until September 2020. Some LAs are already using IDPs, but families have the right to request a statement as, until new laws come into force, this is still the legal document which sets out your child’s support needs.

See our Campaigns page for updates on these reforms, or read about them in more detail in our factsheet, Additional Learning Needs Reform in Wales: Questions and answers or on the Welsh Government website.