Special Educational Needs and Disability SEND

Advice on SEND support for your child.

SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) program is a legal framework that provides support and services to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The system was introduced in 2014 under the Children and Families Act.

SEND aims to ensure that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities receive the necessary support to achieve their potential and participate fully in society. The system requires local authorities, schools, and other educational institutions to provide support and accommodations.

Under the SEND system, children and young people with SEND have the right to receive an education that is appropriate to their needs, to be included in mainstream education wherever possible, and to have their views and opinions taken into account in decisions that affect them. There is a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to a child’s needs. This duty applies to all child educational settings (nurseries, schools, further education colleges etc.)

The SEND and EHCP systems provide parents and carers with a range of rights, including the right to request an EHCP (Educational Health and Care Plan) assessment for their child, to have their views and preferences taken into account, and to appeal decisions made about their child’s education.

Step 1: Educational Setting Identification/Recognition of Needs.

The SEND system is based on pupil need and does not require a formal diagnosis. An SEND is someone who either has an SEN (Special Educational Need) or a disability. A special educational need is:

“A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability [SEN] if he or she:

  • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions”

The code of practice gives further clarification:

“Many children and young people who have SEN may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 – that is ‘…a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day
activities’. This definition provides a relatively low threshold and includes more children than many realise: ‘long-term’ is defined as ‘a year or more’ and ‘substantial’ is defined as ‘more than minor or trivial’”

ADHD is a formally recognised disability and a diagnosis means a school should automatically add the pupil to their SEND register under Disability.

It is important to note that a pupil does not need to be failing at school to require SEND support. If their Special Education Need or Disability means the pupil is not fulfilling their potential then the school has an obligation to act. From the code of practice:

“All children and young people are entitled to an appropriate education, one that is appropriate to their needs, promotes high standards and the fulfilment of potential. This should enable them to:

  • achieve their best
  • become confident individuals living fulfilling lives, and
  • make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training.”


How a formal diagnosis can help.

  • Assists in a school in refining and specifying the support put in place.
  • Helps a school who are not acknowledging a need acknowledge it.
  • Requires a school to add a pupil to the SEND register.

Step 2: Meeting Needs.

The way in which schools meet the SEND needs of pupils can vary depending on the individual needs of each pupil, but generally, the process involves the following steps:

  1. Identification: The first step is for the school to identify pupils who may have SEND. This could involve discussions with parents and carers, assessments by teachers, and advice from external professionals such as educational psychologists or speech and language therapists.
  2. Assessment: Once a pupil has been identified as having SEND, the school must assess their needs and identify any barriers to learning. This could involve further assessments by external professionals and gathering information from parents, carers, and other agencies.
  3. Planning: Based on the assessment, the school will develop a plan to support the pupil’s needs. This could include adaptations to the curriculum, additional support from a teaching assistant or specialist teacher, or the provision of specialist equipment or technology.
  4. Implementation: The plan is then put into action, with regular reviews to ensure that it is meeting the pupil’s needs. The school will work closely with the pupil, their parents or carers, and any external professionals involved in their care.
  5. Review: The plan is regularly reviewed to ensure that it is still meeting the pupil’s needs. Any necessary adjustments are made, and progress is monitored to ensure that the pupil is making appropriate progress.

In addition to these steps, schools are also required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that pupils with SEND are not at a disadvantage compared to their peers. This could include physical adaptations to the school building, or adjustments to teaching methods or materials.

Step 3: Review and Get Additional Help if Needed.

Schools have a legal duty to review and evaluate their special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provisions on a regular basis to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their pupils. The review process of SEND provisions in UK schools generally involves the following steps:

  • Ongoing monitoring: The school should monitor the progress of all pupils with SEND on an ongoing basis, through regular assessments and progress reviews. This should enable the school to identify any changes in a pupil’s needs and to make any necessary adjustments to their support.
  • Self-evaluation: Schools are required to undertake a self-evaluation of their SEND provisions on a regular basis, typically annually. This involves a review of the school’s policies and procedures for SEND, as well as an evaluation of the effectiveness of the support provided to pupils with SEND. The aim is to identify any areas for improvement and to make any necessary changes.

Step 4: If the SEND provision isn’t enough.

The Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is the specific process for when the SEND provision isn’t having the required impact for the child and more support and resources are required. It is a requirement of the EHCP process that the SEND provision be exhausted and aims to pick up where it leaves off. To learn more about the EHCP process our page is here.


Step 5: Appealing SEND Decisions

In the UK, parents and carers have the right to appeal decisions made about their child’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in schools. The appeal process for SEND in schools typically involves the following steps:

  1. Mediation: Before making an appeal, parents or carers can request mediation with the local authority. This is a process where an independent mediator helps to resolve the dispute between the parent and the local authority.
  2. Appeal to the SEND Tribunal: If mediation does not resolve the dispute, parents or carers can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. The appeal must be made within two months of the decision being appealed.
  3. Case management: Once the appeal has been made, the case is allocated to a tribunal caseworker who will manage the case. The caseworker will contact the parties involved to set a date for the hearing.
  4. The hearing: The hearing will take place before a panel of three members of the SEND Tribunal. The panel will hear evidence from both the parent and the local authority and will make a decision based on the evidence presented. The hearing is usually held in person but can also be conducted remotely.
  5. The decision: The tribunal panel will issue a written decision within 10 working days of the hearing. The decision is final and binding, and both the parent and the local authority must comply with it.