Every effort is made to provide for the differences of ability which exist even within a selective school. The school welcomes, and has expertise to support, able pupils with special educational needs. Legally, a child is defined as having special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty which needs special help. Although not mentioned in the 1996 Education Act, very able or gifted children can also be said to possess 'special' needs.
The school's More Able & Talented Policy attempts to define various special needs and in particular, states how the school will:
- provide support for the minority of pupils who find the academic demands and pace of work excessive;
- challenge and extend exceptionally able pupils;
- provide, as far as resources allow, for those suffering from physical, sensory or medical impairment.
The school has a More Able & Talented Policy in place and a member of staff is responsible for its implementation. The policy ensures that challenge exists for those pupils who are recognised as more able and/or talented. As such, the school offers a range of activities that stretch pupils, both as extension activities within the classroom and as extra-curricular activities. In May 2007, Southend High School for Boys was the first secondary school in Essex to obtain the Challenge Award for the quality of its provision for the more able and talented. The school has since been re-accredited twice, and has also been designated as a lead school for more able and talented provision; as such, it is working with other Borough secondary schools in this regard.