The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice 0 to 25 years: Explained

15th January 2021

Who is the SEND Code of Practice for?

The SEND Code of Practice is statutory guidance, which came into force in September 2014. It sets out the duties, policies and procedures following on from legislation set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. Local Authorities (Education and Social Care), headteachers, early years providers, SENCO’s, NHS Trusts, First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and others as listed in the Code, must have regard to this guidance; they cannot ignore it.

The Code of Practice is an in-depth document, which provides statutory guidance on matters including, but not limited to, identification of needs, the special educational provision in schools/Further Education/preparing for adulthood, EHCP Plans, reviews and appeals to the First-Tier Tribunal. It can be an overwhelming amount of information but it is an invaluable read for parents and for anyone working with those who have special educational needs and/or a disability; for some, it is a statutory duty!

What do parents need to know about the Special Educational Needs SEND Code of Practice?

When a decision is made by a school, or others as listed in the SEND Code of Practice, about children and young people with special educational needs and/or a disability, it is the Code that must be considered because it relates to legislation – the law. Those making decisions must fulfil their statutory duties.

As a parent, it is helpful for you to know that the Code of Practice defines special educational needs in four broad areas of need and support:

  • Communication and Interaction

Children can often find understanding language and communicating difficult. This could be because of a difficulty with language or a condition such as autism, auditory processing disorder, speech/language disorder or delay, or pragmatic language difficulty.  Children can find social communication difficult and the skills needed to manage a social situation.

  • Cognition and learning

A child or young person may have a specific learning difficulty and experience problems with reading and spelling (dyslexia), mathematics (dyscalculia), coordination (dyspraxia) or writing (dysgraphia). Other difficulties may occur, for example, working memory, attention, organisation skills, problem solving, comprehension etc.

Those children with more severe learning difficulties may also experience difficulty learning basic skills, which may then lead to affect their overall development.

  • Social, emotional and mental health

Some children may have difficulties managing their behaviour and/or emotions. This can include self harming, low mood, problems of conduct, substance abuse or eating disorders. Some young people/children may have recognised disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attachment disorder, or anxiety disorder.

Other children may find it difficult to interact socially with others, not yet developed the necessary social skills, cues and understanding to work or play alongside others, to manage social situations, to take turns, to listen effectively to others, to pick up on social cues, to understand literal language, sarcasm or implied meaning.

  • Sensory and/or physical needs

Children with disabilities that affect the ability to access the environment or learn. This could include visual or hearing impairment, sensory processing disorder, physical disability, congenital conditions or a disability such as cerebral palsy.

*Just a note – these all often overlap, and autism can mean a child has a sensory need, a learning need, social, emotional and mental health needs. It is rarely the case that a child falls under one category and any one difficulty can fall under several categories – so, dyspraxia, as an example, can be considered a cognition and learning need, as well as a physical need and then has an impact on social and social-emotional development.

As a parent, it is useful for you to be aware of the responsibilities placed specifically on schools by the SEND Code of Practice. Some of these are as follows:

  • Schools should identify needs at the earliest opportunity and then respond by providing appropriate special educational provision, doing everything they can to meet the identified needs.
  • Schools should not delay in providing additional support, teaching or other interventions if adequate progress is not being made by the child or young person. Planning and reviewing should be built into the delivery of the provision.
  • Special educational provision in schools should include assessment of the child or young person’s needs and their progress; schools should access external agencies and professionals for more specialist assessment.
  • Where a child or young person has not made the expected the progress then the school could request an Education, Health and Care needs assessment; parents also have the right to make this request at any time, even if the school does not agree it’s necessary.
  • Parents, children and young people should be included as fully as possible in the decision-making process. To enable this to happen, local authorities must provide the necessary information, advice and support. All professionals should listen to concerns raised by parents; parents know their children best.
  • Mainstream maintained schools and academies must appoint a designated teacher as a SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) who would be the key contact for a parent of a child or young person with special educational needs and/or a disability.
  • Schools must publish their SEN Information Report on their website.
  • There should be collaboration between education, health and social care services to identify need and to provide support for those needs
  • School should be working to support children and young people to progress into adulthood to achieve higher education and/or employment, independent living, participate in their community and in society and to be as healthy as possible in adult life. Successful adulthood!

It is important to know that your child or the young person does not have to be in school for their special educational needs to be identified. Whether your child is 2 years old or unable to attend school for a medical reason – attendance at school is not a requirement for their needs to be identified.

There is much more in the SEND Code of Practice, from early years through to 25 year old’s; from the education, health and care needs assessments to Personal Budgets and choices of schools. The above is just a snapshot and the complete SEND Code of Practice can be found here