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Special Educational Needs

Special educational needs and disability (SEND) - a guide for parents and carers

On 1 September 2014 the new system that supports children and young people with SEN or disabilities came into force. Here we provide a brief synopsis, but for a copy of the full report please see the links at the bottom of this page.

Children and young people with SEN all have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help from that given to others.

Children and young people with SEN or disabilities will usually be able to get help from their early education setting, school or college. This is often where SEN are first identified. If they do identify that your child has SEN, your school or other setting must contact you and should discuss with you what support to offer your child. The setting must tell you if they are making special educational provision for your child.


Information, advice and support

All local authorities, by law, have to provide children and young people with SEN or disabilities, and their parents, with information and advice. These services provide factual, impartial and confidential information, advice and support. They will be able to offer this face to face, by telephone and online. You can find the contact details for all information, advice and support services at


The Local Offer

Every local authority must idenfity education, health and social care services in their local area provided for children, young people and families who have SEN or disabilities and include them in an information directory called the Local Offer.


SEN support

School action and school action plus no longer exist, they are replaced by a single graduated approach called SEN support.

The four stages of SEN support are:

  • Assess: your child's difficulties must be assessed so that the right support can be provided
  • Plan: your school or other setting needs to agree, with your involvement, the outcomes that the SEN support is intended to achieve
  • Do: the setting will put the planned support into place
  • Review: the support your child receives should be reviewed at the time agreed in the plan


Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans

Children and young people with more complex needs might instead need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. EHC plans replace statements of SEN and Learning Disability Assessments (LDAs). An EHC plan brings your child's education, health and social care needs into a single, legal document. You can ask your local authority for an EHC needs assessment if you think your child needs one. If your local authority decides not to carry out an assessment, they need to let you know their decision within six weeks of receiving a request for an assessment.

After your local authority has made its assessment, having involved you and your child fully in the process, it will then decide whether or not an EHC plan is necessary. If they decide that an EHC plan is not needed, they must tell you within 16 weeks of the date they received a request for an assessment.

If your local authority decides to proceed with an EHC plan, they should work closely with you and your child to make sure the plan takes full account of your views, wishes and feelings. A draft will be sent to you and you will be given 15 days to comment on the draft. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the request for an EHC needs assessment to issue the final plan to you. Your local authority has to review your child's EHC plan at least every 12 months.


Challenging or disagreeing with decisions

If you disagree with decisions made by professionals you can challenge them. Your local authority must make arrangements for both disagreement resolution and mediation services to be available. These services are independent of your local authority and can provide you with a quick and informal way of resolving disagreements.

The SEND Tribunal is a legal body. It hears appeals against decisions made by local authorities about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans. Before you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal you must have contacted a mediation adviser.


Transferring to the new system

Local authorities should transfer all children and young people who have a statement or receive support as a result of an LDA into the new system as quickly as they are able to, but this will take time to do properly. They must make sure that:

- all young people who receive support as a result of an LDA who need an EHC plan should have one by September 2016, and

- all children with statements who need an EHC plan will have one by April 2018


Your child's statement or LDA will remain in force until it is replaced with an EHC plan.



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