Special educational needs and disability (SEND)


For children and young people identified as having special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) it can be difficult to get the support they need to do well. It can often take too long for their families to find out that their child needs extra help. The system of support available to children and young people with SEND is also very complex, with teachers, health workers and social care workers often working separately to meet the particular needs of a child or young person.

We are dealing with the problems that prevent children and young people with SEND from getting the support and services they need. We are making sure they have the same opportunities as everyone else and that they receive the necessary support to move smoothly into adulthood. We are introducing a more effective, transparent and accountable system of support for children and young people with SEND.


To improve the support system for children and young people with SEND and their families, we are:

  • introducing a co-ordinated assessment process to determine a child or young person’s needs across education, health and care
  • replacing statements of special needs and learning difficulty assessments with an education, health and care (EHC) plan for children and young people with complex needs
  • introducing the option of personal budgets for those with an EHC plan so they can choose which services are best for them and their family
  • making sure local commissioners work effectively together in the interest of children and young people with SEND and improving communication between different services

To improve educational provision for pupils with SEND, we are:

  • making sure all state-funded schools and colleges, including maintained schools, free schools and academies, are brought into the support system for children with SEND
  • introducing SEN support in nurseries, schools and colleges, which will replace School Action, School Action Plus and their equivalents
  • funding degree-level specialist training for teachers and talented support staff working with children with SEND
  • giving young people with SEND in further education and training similar rights and protections to those for children with SEND under 16

To help young people with SEND prepare for adulthood and life outside the education system, we are:

  • making sure that EHC plans from year 9 onwards consider the support a young person might need after school
  • putting in place supported internships, an employer-based study programme designed to help young people with SEND learn the skills they need for the workplace


On 10 December 2010, we asked parents, charities, teachers and local authorities to contribute to the government’s SEN green paper. The aim was to:

  • find ways to identify the needs of children and young people earlier
  • make it easier for families to receive the support they need
  • develop fairer and more transparent funding arrangements

The publication of the green paper ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability’ on 11 March 2011 marked the start of a period of consultation and testing of the proposals in local areas. On 21 September 2011 we introduced 20 schemes to test the reforms in 31 different local authorities.

As a result of the green paper consultation, we published the report ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability - progress and next steps’ in May 2012. The report set out the progress made on the SEND green paper proposals and outlined the next steps to follow.

We formally presented the policies outlined in the green paper as a bill to Parliament in February 2013. Parliament approved the changes set out in the SEND green paper in early 2014 and we will introduce the new system from September 2014.

Following a public consultation, we laid the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25’ before Parliament on 11 June 2014. The code received approval in July 2014 and came into force on 1 September 2014.

Who we’ve consulted

In September 2010 we published a green paper which set out the changes we intended to make to the SEND system. We sought views on this discussion document between 10 September and 15 October 2010 from all those with an interest in SEND.

We updated the paper and ran a further consultation from 9 March to 30 June 2011 which received 2,378 responses, including many from parents.

In March 2013, we published draft regulations and draft guidance to provide more detail about how the law will work in practice. We consulted on the SEND code of practice from 4 October 2013 to 9 December 2013. We also published a separate consultation for young people with SEND.

We then updated the regulations and the code and launched a consultation seeking final views from 16 April to 6 May 2014. We published our response to this consultation on 11 June 2014.

Bills and legislation

In February 2013, we presented the Children and Families Bill to Parliament for debate. The bill included our proposals to change the laws that govern the SEND system and outlined the new duties for all practitioners involved in providing services for children and young people with SEND.

In March 2014, the bill was approved and became the Children and Families Act 2014. The changes it introduced to the SEND system became law on 1 September 2014.

Who we’re working with

We are working with several organisations across the voluntary and community sectors. A full list of the organisations we’re working with is available.