SEND (England)

15.5% of children and young people in England have a special educational need and disability (SEND). SEND is a broad concept that is defined as children and young people who have a significant difficulty with their learning and need additional support from the school.

Schools have legal duties towards children and young people with SEND set out in the Children and Families Act 2014; statutory guidance for schools on meeting the needs of children with SEND can be found in the SEND code of practice.

The code of practice identifies four areas of need with SEND:

Studies suggest that children who are experiencing or have been diagnosed with a mental health concern and/or disabilities are more likely to also have SEND.

Legislative responsibilities

  • Make reasonable adjustments to avoid children and young people with disabilities being disadvantaged, including providing extra support, aids and services.
  • Not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise children and young people with disabilities through school practice.
  • Eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations between disabled and non-disabled children and young people.

The SEND code of practice sets out that schools have a duty to:  

  • Use their best endeavours to meet the special educational needs of all children and young people in their school, including where children have social, emotional and mental health needs.
  • Adopt a graduated approach to making sure every pupil gets the support they need, with four key stages of action: assess, plan, do, and review and readjust where necessary. A graduated approach also means not just focusing on those with the most severe needs (who may be eligible for an education, health and care plan) but also those with less complex and emerging needs.

Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must:

  • Make reasonable adjustments to avoid children and young people with disabilities being disadvantaged, including providing extra support, aids and services.
  • Not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise children and young people with disabilities through school practice.
  • Eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations between disabled and non-disabled children and young people.

Other SEND code of practice responsibilities

The code of practice also sets out that:

  • All staff should identify in advance (‘anticipate’) what a child needs to participate and learn.
  • All staff share responsibility for ensuring children and young people are not disadvantaged in their learning:
    • with class teachers being at the heart of whole-school communication, ongoing review and adjustments
    • with guidance, support, monitoring and leadership provided from the SENCO.
  • Children and young people with complex needs might require an education, health and care plan (EHC) to be drawn up by the local authority, with personalised adjustments and support clearly identified to help the child learn and achieve effectively.
  • Schools should work collaboratively with parents and pupils.
  • SEND approaches should also improve transitions between year groups, between early years’ settings and primary school and between primary school and secondary school. See NASEN’s SEND gateway for a range of resources to support children and young people’s transitions.

Find out more about special educational needs

MindEd is a free educational e-learning resource for professionals on children and young people’s mental health. Resources can be used for individual professional training as well as prompting wider staff discussion. These sessions aim to help staff better understand special educational needs:

What schools and further education settings can do

  • Create a whole-school environment emphasising inclusion and cooperation.
  • Have high aspirations for all children and young people.
  • Deliver social and emotional skills programmes which aim to build resilience:
    • With a learning plan, or Individual Education Plan (IEP), that builds skills step-by-step to improve success and gives children and young people a chance to test skills out and receive encouragement and feedback.
    • Develop children and young people’s understanding of difference and ensure all pupils value difference in others.
  • Inclusiveness can be developed through good quality PSHE sessions promoting relationships and diversity.
  • Support children and young people with SEND to feel accepted and to belong.
  • Tackle bullying and discrimination.
  • See children and young people as a whole rather than focusing just on their disability or illness.
  • Be alert to early signs of escalating risk to mental health and mobilise protective factors to prevent further escalation.
  • Through adapted PSHE resources. Scope has developed some useful lesson plans and circle time activities to support inclusivity.
  • Provide children and young people with extra support, if needed (e.g. through pastoral care/school counselling, school nurses or through referral to community-based support.

More information on children with special educational needs and disability

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