SEND School Groups

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

We are continually striving to improve our provision for SEND students at the Zoo. This includes the sessions available for SEND school groups to ensure we meet the diverse needs of all our learners. Our sessions can meet the needs of many different levels of learners with a variety needs, whether they are mild or complex learning difficulties or physical, emotional and behavioural needs.
Please ensure you provide any relevant information to our education team when discussing sessions to ensure we can provide suitable learning pitched at the appropriate level for your group.

Click on a topic, or scroll down the page for more information:


We have a number of resources designed to help you plan your visit and enjoying your day.
Click on each item to open the pdf in a new window.

  • Accessibility Map
  • Visual Social Story
  • A Long Sensory Exploration Trail around the entire zoo
  • A Short Sensory Exploration Trail around the Familiar Friends farm section of the zoo
  • Please see our  Access Page for more details and information.

    Classroom Accessibility

    Most of our classrooms are accessible to wheelchair users. When booking, please inform us if you have wheelchair users in your group. If there are multiple wheelchair users we may need to assign you to a specific classroom or modify activities to better suit your needs.

    Explore! Session for SEND Groups

    This session uses a variety of animal artefacts (including furs, feathers, and reptile scales) to allow students to explore and touch. Depending on the level of the group, the session can focus on:

    • Basic exploration or textures, shapes, etc. (active or coactive)
    • Matching games (e.g. matching colours or images to objects)
    • Describing objects (e.g. matching descriptive words and/or symbols with the objects)
    • Sorting objects (e.g. creating groups of furry objects, scaly objects, etc.)

    This session is tailored for students working from their P-levels upwards. This session is very flexible lasting up to 45 minutes depending on the needs and levels of the pupils.
    No live animals are used in this session.
    Please note this session is for a maximum of 30 students.

    Click to show P-Level Curriculum links

    Other Sessions

    If the ‘Explore Session’, as described above, does not suit your needs, please have a look at the full range of sessions we offer. All of our mainstream sessions are available for SEND groups working at a NC level. Details on all the available sessions can be found from the ‘Education Tab’ of the website under the relevant age ranges. If you are interested in booking any of these, please contact the education department to discuss your groups’ specific needs and ensure the teaching sessions are appropriate for your group. Where possible, we can adapt and modify some of the sessions to better suit your needs.

    Booking a Session for your SEND School Group.

    Please contact our education department at 01206332511, or 01206332512 or via email at education@colchesterzoo.org to discuss potential sessions or book a session for your group. If you are just visiting the zoo on a general visit, and you do not want an educational session, please complete our online booking form (click to open in new window).


    Adult carers are admitted free of charge at a 1:1 ratio for any pupils with physical or emotional disabilities, are the subjects of SEND statements or EHCPs, or can provide other evidence of specific needs. Please note that you must declare the need for these carers on the day of your visit based on the pupils who attend on the day.

    You may be asked for verification of the need for carers at entry. A letter on school letterhead is acceptable proof.

    If you require a higher ratio of carers, please contact us at education@colchesterzoo.org

    Meeting Animals Up Close

    Please note that none of our sessions include live animals. If you would like your group to stroke or hold animals this can be done at anytime throughout the day by dropping in to the Discovery Centre, or at set times (see the sign at the building for details) at the Sensation Station. There are also animals visitors can stroke or feed at the ‘Familiar Friends’ Farm section of the zoo (see specific signs at the animals for which animals this is allowed with). These activities are all drop-in and cannot be pre-booked.


5.00pm close or dusk if earlier
Last admission to zoo grounds at 4.00pm

Click here for further closing times


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