Special Educational Need (SEN) and The Code of Practice (CoP)


What is the SEND Code of Practice?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years gives statutory guidance to schools, colleges and early years settings about how your child's special educational needs should be identified and assessed.

The SEND Code of Practice provides statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations and applies to England. It relates to children and young people with (SEN) and disabled children and young people.

The Code of Practice sets out who must have regard and follow the guidance. This not only refers to educational settings and local authorities but also to health services such as the NHS and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

The Code sets out its principles clearly:

  • the participation of children, their parents and young people in decision making
  • the early identification of children and young people’s needs and early intervention to support them
  • greater choice and control for young people and parents over support
  • collaboration between education, health and social care services to provide support
  • high quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people with SEN
  • a focus on inclusive practice and removing barriers to learning
  • successful preparation for adulthood, including independent living and employment

Definition of SEN – what the code says.

The term 'special educational need' (SEN) has a legal definition, referring to “children or young people who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age.”

Children have a special educational need if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for them. This definition is based on these two key phrases that are part of the full legal description of special needs.

Learning Difficulty means:

  • have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age; or
  • have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post 16 institutions.

A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition above when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them.

The Local Authority (LA) Responsibility

Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 places legal duties on LA’s to identify and assess the special educational needs of (SEN) children and young people for whom they are responsible. LA’s became responsible for a child/young person in their area when they became aware that the child/young person has or may have SEN. They must then ensure that those children and young people receive a level of support which will help them achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes.

The Local Authority has the responsibility to provide “suitable education”.

“Suitable education” is defined as "efficient education suitable to the age, ability, aptitude and to any special educational needs", the child or young person may have.

More specifically they have the duty to:

  • identify and assess children with SEN for whom they are responsible
  • ensure the child, young person and parents or carers are fully included in the EHC needs assessment process
  • make and maintain an EHC Plan
  • arrange SEN provision
  • have regard to the Code of Practice

School’s Duty (Mainstream)

Every school is required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils that they support.

Schools must:

  • use their best endeavours to make sure a child with SEN gets the support they need – this mean doing everything they can to meet the children and young people’s SEN
  • ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN
  • designate a teacher to be responsible for coordinating the SEN provision – the SENCO
  • inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child
  • prepare a SEN information report which details their arrangements for provision enabling access to facilities for disabled children
  • appoint a member of the governing body with specific oversight for SEN

For the vast majority of children with SEN, a mainstream setting will meet all their special educational needs. Some children will require additional help from SEN services or other agencies external to the school. A very small minority of children will have SEN of a severity or complexity that requires the local authority to determine and arrange the special educational provision their learning difficulties call for.

Special educational provision:

For children of two or more, special educational provision is educational or training provision that is in addition or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, and mainstream post-16 institutions or by relevant early years providers

For a child under 2 years of age, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind.

Special educational provision takes many different forms.

The SEN Code of Practice recommends that schools adopt a graduated approach to match provision to children's SEN so that, where necessary, increasingly available specialist expertise can respond to a child's individual needs if they do not make adequate progress.

It also provides guidance on carrying out an EHC needs assessment of a child's SEN and of making and maintaining an EHC plan for children and young people with severe and complex needs; carrying out annual reviews of EHC plans and planning for young people with SEN to make the transition to college, training and employment. 

The Code of Practice is available online:

Code of Practice

The Department for Education have also written the following guide for parents and carers:

Guide for Parents

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