Policies and Legislation
Each school's SEND Information Report can be found on the school’s web-site. Early years providers must have a published SEND Policy. The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) Framework and the SEND code of Practice include information and expectations on how providers should identify and support children and young people with SEND.
As a SENCO in England you will need to be aware of the key legislation and guidance which underpins your work.
Key Legislation: The Children and Families Act (2014)
Part 3 of The Children and Families Act (2014) provides the legal framework for many of the systems and processes for supporting children and young people with SEND. Learn more about Part 3 of the Act here (external site). This legislation provides the legal framework for a range of regulations and guidance, in particular the Special Educational Needs Regulations (2014) and Code of Practice (2014 and updated 2015). It also links closely with the Equality Act (2010). The Act sets out duties on local authorities, education settings and other partners.
Key principles of the Children and Families Act (2014)
- Taking into account the views of children, young people and their families
- Enabling children, young people and their parents to participate in the decision making
- Collaborating with partners in education, health and social care to provide support
- Identifying the needs of children and young people
- Making high quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people
- Focusing on inclusive practices and removing barriers to learning
- Helping children and young people to prepare for adulthood.
These principles are underpinned by legal duties placed on local authorities, schools/settings and others and will guide you as you work in partnership with children, young people and families.
The Children and Families Act (2014) – Duties for the Local Authority (LA)
- a duty to identify all the children and young people in its area who may have SEND or a disability
- to have regard to the views, wishes and feelings of the child, parent/carers and young person
- to develop and publish a ‘Local Offer’ that sets out the services and provision it expects to be available both inside and outside the LA’s area for children and young people with SEND and a disability.
The Children and Families Act (2014) – Duties for educational settings to inform the child's parent/carers
In addition to supporting the duties of the Local Authority, schools and early years settings also have legal duties, including:
- to prepare a report containing SEND Information
- to use its best endeavours to secure that the special educational provision called for by the pupil’s or student’s special educational needs is made
- to designate a member of staff at the education setting (to be known as the “SEND co-ordinator”) as having responsibility for coordinating the provision for pupils with special educational needs
- must inform the child’s parent/carers or the young person that special educational provision is being made for the child or young person.
The Children and Families Act (2014) – The SENCO
The Act states that ‘the SENCO has an important role to play with the headteacher and governing body, in determining the strategic development of SEND policy and provision...’
The Act does not require the SENCO to be a member of the Leadership Team, but it implies that the SENCO should be. It states that SENCOs
‘...will be most effective in that role if they are part of the school leadership team.’
Whole School SEND (WSS) have written a useful guide on the effective deployment of SENCos for both SENCOs and their line managers. Access the guide by WSS here (external site).
Key Guidance: The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years (2014, updated 2015)
The SEND Code of Practice provides statutory guidance on the duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND Regulations. It applies to all maintained settings, academies and free schools in England. You can read the SEND Code of Practice here (external site).
- It provides a guide to the legislation that enables you to understand the assessment and identification of need and the procedures that should be in place to enable children and young people to reach their full potential and be included in their setting.
- It identifies all teachers as teachers of learners with SEND. This means that all teachers and practitioners are responsible and accountable for the progress of the children and young people with SEND. This means that it is not entirely the responsibility of the SENCO. However, the SENCO has an important role to play in this.
- Governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools and the proprietors of academy schools (including free schools) must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as SENCO for the school.
Where a SENCO appointed after 1st September 2008 has not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, they must achieve the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination within 3 years of appointment. The SENCO has day-to-day responsibility for the operation of SEND policy and coordination of specific provision made to support individual pupils with SEN, including those who have EHC plans.
The Equality Act (2010)
The Equality Act 2010 brought together a range of previous acts including: the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Learn more about the Equality Act 2010 here (external site).
The Equality Act (2010) – Key principles
- Schools/settings have a responsibility not to discriminate
- Provision for disabled pupils is closely connected with the regime for children and young people with special educational needs
- Schools are allowed to treat disabled pupils more favourably than non-disabled pupils, and in some cases are required to do so, by making reasonable adjustments to put them on a more level footing with pupils without disabilities
- Direct discrimination or failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person cannot be defended as justified.
Under this act, the term ‘schools’ applies to:
- local-authority-maintained schools
- academies and free schools
- local authorities
- non-maintained special schools
- independent schools
The principles are underpinned by legal duties placed on public bodies including schools.
The Equality Act (2010): Duties for schools and further education settings
This legislation outlines particular duties for schools. These include:
- to publish information to demonstrate how they are complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty
- to prepare and publish equality objectives
It is up to schools to decide how they publish the information, so long as it is accessible to members of the school community and the public who want to see it. The Act suggests an ‘equalities page’ on the school website.
Settings should prepare and implement accessibility plans. This is the responsibility of the leadership team of the setting but the SENCO will make a contribution.
Where something that a school does places a pupil with a disability at a disadvantage compared to other pupils then the school must take reasonable steps to try and avoid that disadvantage. The SENCO will have a role in ensuring that this is enacted.
Schools will be expected to provide an auxiliary aid or service for a pupil with a disability when it would be reasonable to do so. The SENCO may find that they are involved in liaising with suppliers or specialists to ensure that this happens.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
The UK ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991. Visit the UNICEF webiste to learn more (external site). Aspects of the convention are particularly relevant for children and young people with SEND. These are important to consider when ensuring that you are consulting children, young people and their families in an authentic and meaningful way.
Working Together To Safeguard Children (2018)
There are some important areas of this Working Together to Safeguard children and young people (2018) legislation which link to the SENCO role, including:
- anyone working with children and young people should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; take their views seriously; and work with them and their families collaboratively when deciding how to support their needs. Special provision should be put in place to support dialogue with children and young people who have communication difficulties
- practitioners should be alert to the potential need for early help for a child who is disabled and has specific additional needs or who has special educational needs (whether or not they have an Education, Health and Care Plan)
- this legislation identifies the SENCO as someone who may undertake the Lead Practitioner role in an Early Help case