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SEND and the law


National documents and guidance setting out statutory duties and recommendations related to policy and practice for children and young people with SEND.

Children and Families Act 2014: Legislation which sets out government reforms to give greater protection to vulnerable children and young people; Part 3 sets out regulations to identify and meet the needs of pupils with SEND.

DfE Special educational needs and disability code of practice 0-25 years (January 2015):  Guidance sets out statutory duties and guidance for policies and procedures for children and young people with SEND.  It reflects the regulations set out in Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014. Local Authorities, early years settings, schools and academies and further education and sixth form colleges must follow this guidance. The guidance also applies to:

  • Independent mainstream and specialist schools
  • Clinical commissioning groups (CCG) and NHS Trusts
  • Youth Offending Teams

Other legislation which links to identification and support for children and young people with SEN includes:


Equality Act 2010: Protects children, young people and adults against discrimination, harassment and victimisation in relation to housing, education, clubs, the provision of services and work.

All education settings must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that children and young people with SEND are not put at a substantial disadvantage. They must make sure that there is no discrimination and that children and young people with SEND are able to join in all curriculum and other activities available for everyone.

Related guidance includes:

  • Equality Act 2010 and Schools: Non-statutory advice from the Department for Education to help schools to understand how the Equality Act affects them and how to fulfil their duties under the Act.
    Chapter 4 covers issues related to Disability.
  • Reasonable Adjustments for Disabled Pupils Guidance for Schools in England(2015): Guidance produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to help school leaders and education authorities understand and comply with the reasonable adjustment duty. It will also help disabled pupils and their parents understand the duties.
  • The Council for Disabled Children: Guidance to help parents understand what schools and other education settings should be doing to address inequality and ensure they do not discriminate against disabled children and young people.  It provides a short guide as to what teachers need to know and what schools need to do to address inequalities and ensure they do not discriminate against disabled pupils. Included are examples illustrating practices that can be considered discrimination, ways to help schools to avoid discrimination, checkpoints for particular duties and additional information.

Supporting Pupils at school with medical conditions (December 2016): Statutory guidance setting out arrangements schools should have in place to ensure that children with medical conditions, in terms of both physical and mental health, are properly supported so that they can play a full and active role in school life, remain healthy and achieve their academic potential.

Parents of children with medical conditions can be concerned that their child’s health will deteriorate when they attend school. This is because pupils with long-term and complex medical conditions may require ongoing support, medicines or care while at school to help them manage their condition and keep them well. Others may require monitoring and interventions in emergency circumstances. Children’s health needs may change over time, in ways that cannot always be predicted, sometimes resulting in extended absences. It is therefore important that parents feel confident that schools will provide effective support for their child’s medical condition and that pupils feel safe.

Working together to safeguard children. (March 2015): Guidance which outlines Local Authorities responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children and young people.

Whilst local authorities play a lead role, safeguarding children and protecting them from harm is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play.

 Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment; 
  • preventing impairment of children's health or development;
  • ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; 
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Keeping children safe in education : Provides further guidelines for schools and colleges, setting out their legal duties and how they must comply in order to keep children safe.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 : Legislation on procedures that that should be in place where young people may not have the mental capacity to do make decisions for themselves.  

Young people over 16 have the right to participate in decisions about the provision that is made for them. If they wish, they are able to ask for help from their family or others to help them plan what is needed.

Some young people may not have the mental capacity to do this. This might be because their special education needs make it difficult for them communicate their views, understand information and implications regarding any decisions and/or because they are unable to retain key information important to help them with decision making. These young people may require parents or another representative to make a decision on his or her behalf.  The Mental Capacity Act provides guidance on how to manage these situations.

Care England have produced an easy read guide to make sure that people have the support they need to make as many decisions as possible or to ensure that for people who need family, friends or paid support staff to make decisions for them, their best interests are always paramount.

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