SEND Code of Practice: Caring for Special Educational Needs and Disabled People

children with disabilities working together

Every child should have the right to fair education.

Regardless of a child’s ability, they should still receive the same quality of care and teaching.

This is not only important in education but also wider society, as it ensures those with special needs or disabilities, feel included and equal.

In nurseries and schools, teachers should be aware of individual needs and should understand how to cater for them. This enables a child to develop and to feel confident in their own abilities.

During the Early Years Foundation Stage, instilling this confidence is crucial, as it sets the foundation for future learning.

What Is the SEND Code of Practice?

The SEND code of practice is statutory guidance for organisations that work with young adults and children with special needs and disabilities.

It ensures children and young people have access to a fair education regardless of their learning ability.

Whilst the code is not a legal document, it contains legal requirements and statutory guidelines set out in the Children and Family Act 2014, the Equality Act 2010, and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014.

The Department for Education (DfE) encourages nurseries and schools to follow this guidance to make sure their practices are diverse and inclusive.

Education professionals must follow the legal requirements without exception and should follow all statutory guidelines unless there is a strong reason not to.

Both mainstream and special schools must have regard to the code, and there is currently no distinction between primary and secondary education.

The code can be broken into 4 broad categories that young people usually fall under.

However, it can be difficult to define a specific category for each child as more than one category is usually applicable.

Communication and Interaction

This covers children and young people who have difficulty communicating with others and understanding language. This may be due to a specific condition including autism, a sensory processing disorder, or pragmatic difficulties.
children playing with numbers

Cognition and Learning

This includes children who have difficulty learning basic numeracy or literacy skills. If a child or young person has a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) they may have problems with more than one aspect of learning.

A specific learning difficulty includes conditions such as dyslexia (difficulties with reading and spelling), dysgraphia (problems with writing), dyspraxia (coordination) and dyscalculia (maths).

Children or young people with severe learning difficulties might also experience difficulties in acquiring basic skills in any area and this could negatively impact their physical development.

Social, Emotional, and Mental Health

This area of the code covers children who have problems managing their behaviour and emotions. They might experience low mood (depression or anxiety), self harming, problems of conduct (oppositional problems or aggression), eating disorders or substance misuse.

This also includes other disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attachment disorder, and anxiety disorder. In rare circumstances, children might also experience psychosis, schizophrenia, or bipolar.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have a combination of social, emotional and mental health issues.

Sensory and/or Physical Needs

This relates to children who have physical or sensory problems which hinders their ability to access the classroom setting and negatively impacts their learning experience.

Issues include visual or hearing impairment, cerebral palsy or congenital conditions, injury or disease.
children learning at school

Who Does the SEND Code of Practice Apply to?

The code applies to all children and young people from birth to 25 years of age.

It’s statutory for all schools who provide care for children and young people with special needs and disabilities.

It’s relevant for head teachers, nursery school owners, governing bodies, school staff, special educational needs (SEN) coordinators, early education providers, local authorities and health and social services.

A common issue when approaching the code, can be using the terms SEND and SEN interchangeably when referring to young children and adults.

SEND refers to children who have educational needs and a disability.

SEN refers to children who have educational needs but do not necessarily have a disability.

Why Is the SEND Code of Practice Important?

The education of every child is important and should never be overlooked.

Regardless of different social, physical, or mental difficulties, each child should receive the same quality of education and support.

This enables children and young people to feel secure in a learning environment and increases their engagement in a classroom setting. Children need to feel supported through their early years learning and beyond as this sets the basis for their future.

It’s important children with SEND are given the same consideration as other children and have access to the same opportunities.

In early years, it is the responsibility of nursery practitioners to ensure these needs are being met so that children have the best possible chance of progressing.

The statutory nature of the SEND code of practice ensures each organisation is aware of their legal responsibilities and can be held accountable if policies are not being followed.

What Are the Different Areas of the SEND Code of Practice?

The SEND code of practice is maintained and published by the Department for Education (DfE) and can be broken down into the following areas.

The Principles Underpinning the Code

This ensures SEND children have a voice. The code works to consider the views, feelings, and beliefs of children and their parents to make sure they’re needs are being heard and fulfilled.

It encourages children and young people to be actively involved in all decision making when possible. The code recognises the importance of supporting SEND children and their families to ensure they receive the best standard of educational care.

The principles facilitate early identification of any problems that need to be addressed to enable the child or young person to effectively develop.

Through a collaborative approach between education, health, and social care services, organisations can provide the best preparation for adulthood.

This includes independent living and employment.

The Provision of Impartial Information, Advice and Support

This section refers to the processes that local authorities must follow for SEND children they are responsible for.

This includes providing information and advice about a child’s needs or disabilities and covers topics such as healthcare, social care, and management of personal budgets.

All of these support services should be confidential and easily accessible. Whether children or young people choose to engage in person, over the phone, or through email, it’s key they know how to access these services and feel supported through a range of matters.

Local schools should be made aware of these different provisions.
two people shaking hands

Working Together Across Education, Health and Care for Joint Outcomes

This part of the code outlines the importance of local partners such as health care services working with schools to fulfil different requirements.

It’s a broad area and covers a range of needs. A collaborative approach will benefit schools by bringing together different services.

Health care providers can work with schools to provide clinical treatments, medications, mental health support, speech and language therapy, assistive technology, personal care, physiotherapy, specialist equipment, and other resources that cater for a child’s needs.

The Local Available Provisions

This covers the responsibility and duty of local authorities to provide provisions for children and young people with SEND.

These provisions should be accurate, accessible, and up-to-date. Local authorities should also encourage children to participate in the development of these provisions which increases their engagement.

Schools, health services, and social care need to be included in all of these provisions.

Early Years Providers

There is a separate section for EYFS to identify what actions these organisations should take to ensure the educational needs of children are being met.

This is regardless of whether or not they have a Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, which we’ll explain in more detail later in this post.

All children at EYFS are entitled to a high standard of education. It’s important they receive the necessary support and guidance at this stage as it puts them in good stead for future learning.

They will need to transition into compulsory education, so it’s important nursery school practitioners instill a sense of trust and worth early on.

Children with special needs and disabilities need to be confident in their own abilities, and be able to communicate their own views and feelings. These are important traits for their future, and even outside of a classroom environment.

Nurseries and schools must have procedures in place to support children with special needs or disabilities. They should understand the importance of early identification of different problems as this helps determine long term outcomes for the child.

It’s also crucial at this stage of learning that practitioners value the input of parents. After all, they know their child best.

This includes supporting any home learning and working collaboratively to achieve the best learning experience for the child. Furthermore, this might involve training parents and practitioners about different learning platforms which support child development.
children learning in school

Schools

Every school environment should prepare children for adulthood and strive to meet their educational requirements.

The school should encourage students to fulfil their potential so they can progress in life with all of the skills they need.

It is a requirement that schools address the requirements of pupils with special educational needs or a disability to cater their learning experience to suit. They should have a specific member of the governing body who oversees the arrangements for SEN and disability.

This individual will be the designated Special Education Needs Coordinator, or SENCO.

The identification of special needs should be built into the schools wider approach to learning and development. They should not delay in providing extra teaching or resources to any child they believe would benefit from increased support.

Further Education

This provides guidance to further education institutions to help them assess and provide support to those with SEN.

As an institution, they have a responsibility to secure the special education provisions that students require.

Students between the ages of 16 and 19 who attend further education should follow a clear study programme designed to help them achieve the best learning outcome.

The support provided at further education could include one-to-support, assistive technologies, interpreters, and accessible information such as symbol based materials. PECs is an example of this as it uses visual symbols to allow students to communicate with parents and teachers.

Appropriately qualified staff should be put in place to provide these services.

Preparing for Adulthood From the Earliest Years

All young children should feel inspired throughout their education and should be encouraged to achieve their goals.

Discussing long-term goals should start as early as possible in a child’s life as it gives them focus and a sense of direction. These discussions should focus on the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and should identify how they hope to achieve their goal.

Supporting a young person with SEN to achieve their goals can be life changing. It encourages them to be more independent and to secure employment.

All professionals working with children with SEN should share high aspirations for their child and should understand what action needs to be taken to help them achieve.

Whether the young person is transitioning to higher education, employment, or independent living, professionals should support them on their journey.

Once a child reaches year 9, they should be encouraged to participate in the community and engage in curricular and extra curricular activities. This increases their confidence and prepares them further for independent living.

Education Health and Care Needs Assessments and Plans (EHCP)

When a child requires additional support that goes beyond what a school, college, or nursery can provide, they may need a EHCP.

The aim of an EHC plan is to identify the child’s special educational, health, and social care needs. The plan also outlines how these different needs will be met to support the child’s learning and development.

Any child between the ages of 0 and 25 can have an EHC plan if their needs fall outside of what the educational setting can offer.

An EHC plan is a legally binding document and is enforceable through Judicial Review.
adult holding a childs hand

Children and Young People in Specific Circumstances

Children and young people with special needs and disabilities have a range of personal circumstances.

Some of these children might have been taken into care and are the responsibility of the local authority.

In this scenario, the local authority would act as a ‘parent’ and ensure the welfare of the child is being looked after.

They will be responsible for safeguarding the child and looking after their educational interests. Schools will work closely with local authorities to create an educational plan that supports social care criteria.

Resolving Disagreements

If parents or children are unhappy with the support they’re receiving or they are dissatisfied with elements of an EHC plan, they have the right to go to mediation.

If parents or young people choose to go to mediation over health and social elements of an EHC plan, the relevant Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and/or the local authority must also attend.

However, if parents or young people are only concerned with the health element of an EHC plan then the responsible health commissioning body must arrange the mediation.

Parents and young people can also appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) if they disagree with the decisions of their local authority, but they must consider mediation first.

The Tribunal will only consider cases relating to the SEN elements of an EHC plan and disability discrimination claims.

SEND Code of Practice: Caring for Special Educational Needs and Disabled People

Every child has the right to a fair education.

It is the responsibility of nurseries and schools to ensure the learning environment is inclusive and is appropriate for different levels of learning.

Regardless of physical or mental health issues, all children should be treated equally and given access to the same opportunities.

Every professional organisation that comes into contact with a SEND child should understand these requirements and provide a service that is equal and fair.

This ensures every child and young person has the best possible start in education and life as a whole, as they will feel encouraged, supported, and confident in their own abilities.

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