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SEND• 3 Min read

16th April 2019

The SEND Code of Practice: A Summary

What is the SEND Code of Practice?

The SEND Code of Practice is the official guide for teachers who work with children who have Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and focuses on a family-centred system of care and education which spans four broad areas of special educational needs and support:

  1. Communication and interaction
  2. Cognition and learning
  3. Social, emotional and mental health
  4. Sensory and/or physical needs

The SEND Code of Practice contains details of the legal requirements that education professionals must follow without exception, and statutory guidance that must be followed unless there is a good reason not to. Below, you will find our summary of the Code of Practice and some helpful links to help you ensure you’re meeting your legal duties and putting children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities at the heart of your SEND provision.

The SEND Code of Practice is maintained and published by the Department for Education (DfE) and both mainstream and special schools must have regard to the Code. The current version of the Code does not distinguish between primary and secondary school environments.

A summary of the four main areas of the Code of Practice

These areas are considered to be broad because SEND children’s learning difficulties may be difficult to define. They may be affected by one or more:

Communication and interaction

Children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. Sometimes this is due to conditions like pragmatic language impairment (PLI), autism or sensory processing disorder; but every child with SLCN is different.

Cognition and learning

Some children struggle with literacy or numeracy skills. This includes: dyslexia (challenges with reading and spelling), dyscalculia (difficulty with maths) and dyspraxia (a condition affecting physical coordination). Physical development can also be affected when children who have severe learning difficulties struggle with learning basic skills.

Social, mental and emotional health

Those with SEND can be at higher risk of mental health difficulties (and conversely, mental health difficulties may also be a cause of SEND). Some children need support regulating and managing their emotions. This can include issues like aggression (and general conduct), depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm. Others may have disorders such as anxiety disorder, bipolar, psychosis or schizophrenia. Disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attachment disorder can also bring social, mental and emotional challenges.

Sensory and/or physical needs

Children with sensory needs and/or disabilities can struggle to learn effectively in their educational environment. This can include: autism, cerebral palsy and visual or hearing impairment, among others. These children may require specialist equipment and ongoing support to allow them to access all the same learning opportunities as their classmates.

You can download the entire SEND Code of Practice here.

What does the SEND Code of Practice cover?

The SEND Code of Practice is broken into:

  • The principles underpinning the Code
  • The provision of impartial information, advice and support
  • Working together across education, health and care for joint outcomes
  • The local available provisions that your local authority must provide
  • Early Years providers; Schools
  • Further Education
  • Preparing for adulthood from the earliest years
  • Education Health and Care needs assessments and plans (EHC)
  • Children and young people in specific circumstances (i.e. social care needs, youth custody, and care leavers)
  • Resolving disagreements

The principles

The principles that the SEND Code of Practice works to ensure that SEND provision has regard to the views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person and their parents, the importance of the child or young person participating as fully as possible in decisions, and the need to support the child or young person and their parents to help them achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes.

These principles help with the early identification of the child’s needs and facilitate early intervention to give the best support possible, as well as collaboration between education, health and social care services. By following the principles, educational professionals ensure the most successful preparation for adulthood, including independent living and employment where possible.

Impartial information, advice and support

This section of the Code covers the provisions that local authorities must arrange for children with SEN or disabilities for whom they are responsible. This includes information and advice about matters relating to their SEN or disabilities, such as matters regarding health or social care and management of personal budgets. These provisions must also be made known to the local schools.

These support services should be impartial, confidential and accessible, and should have the capacity to handle face-to-face, telephone and electronic enquiries, and recognise the different needs of children, young people and their parents.

Find out how to become a SEND teacher here.

Working together across education, health and care

This chapter of the Code outlines the scope of joint commissioning arrangements and how local partners in health and care should work with schools to meet local needs and support better outcomes, covering services such as specialist support and therapies. This means that healthcare teams can work with schools to deliver medications, clinical treatments, speech and language therapy, assistive technology, mental health support, personal care, physiotherapy, specialist equipment, emergency provision, and whatever other care needs a child has while under a teacher’s care.

The Local Offer

This chapter explains the duties of local authorities to develop provisions for young people with SEN or disabilities. This includes the need to provide clear, comprehensive, accessible and up-to-date information about how to access the available provisions, and to directly involve disabled children and those with special needs in the development of these provisions. Local authorities have an obligation to include schools, colleges, health services and other institutions in their development of the Local Offer.

Early years providers

The SEN Code of Practice has a separate section for Early Years providers which sets out the action these institutions should take to meet their duties in identifying and supporting children with special educational needs, whether or not they have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

All children at Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) are entitled to an education that enabled them to achieve the best possible educational outcomes and become confident young children with a growing ability to communicate their own views and become ready to transition into compulsory education. There must be arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities and should also include an approach to identifying and responding to SEN, as the benefits of early identification are widely recognised to improve long-term outcomes for children.

In particular, it is important that practitioners listen and understand when parents express concerns about their child’s development, as parents know their child best. The support provided by the EYFS provider can include specialist support from health visitors, educational psychologists, or speech and language therapists, as well as training for teachers and parents in using early learning programmes to promote development.


All children and young people at school are entitled to an education which is appropriate to their needs and promoted high standards and the fulfilment of potential, enabling them to achieve their best and make a successful transition to adulthood. Every school is required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils they support and should have a member of the governing body with specific oversight of the school’s arrangements for SEN and disability. (This person will be the designated Special Education Needs Co-Ordinator, or SENCO.)

The identification of special needs should be built into the overall approach to monitoring the progress and development of all pupils. Schools should not delay in putting in place extra teaching or other rigorous interventions designed to secure better progress, where required. The pupil’s response to such support can help identify their particular needs.

Schools may be required to involve specialists when deciding how to support children with special needs, to do this quickly and effectively, they should work closely with the local authority and other providers.

Further education

The guidance and statutory duties on further education colleges helps these institutions to identify, assess and provide support for young people with SEN. These further education institutions have a duty to use their best endeavours to secure the special educational provision that the young people attending require. All students ages 16-19 at further education colleges should follow a coherent study programme which enables them to achieve the best possible outcomes in adult life.

The support required might include assistive technology, personal care, specialist tuition, interpreters, one-to-one learning support, accessible information such as symbol-based materials (PECS, for example) or independent living training. Colleges should ensure that the agreed support is put in place with the appropriately qualified staff to provide it.

Preparing for adulthood from the earliest years

High aspirations are crucial to the success of all pupils, and discussions about longer term goals should start as early as possible – focusing on the child’s strengths and capabilities and the outcomes they want to achieve as they transition to adult life. Supporting a young person with SEN to achieve greater independence and employability can be life transforming. All professionals working with the young person should share these high aspirations and have a good understanding of what support the young person will need – whether they’re transitioning to higher education, employment, and/or independent living.

From Year 9 onwards, young people with SEN should be encouraged to participate in the community and aim for employment and independent living through the curriculum and extra-curricular provision. Schools and teachers should seek partnerships with employment services, business and other organisations to help children understand what is available to them and what is possible for them to achieve.

What is an Education Health and Care Plan (EHC)?

The purpose of an EHC plan is to make special educational provision to meet the needs of the child or young person, and to secure the best possible outcomes for them. The local authority must conduct an assessment of education, health and care needs when it considers that it is necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person.

Children and young people in specific circumstances

Some children with SEN will also be accommodated or have been taken into care by a local authority. The local authority will act as a ‘corporate parent’ and must safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, including promoting their educational achievement. Schools will work with the local authority to create an education plan for the child which fits with their specific social care needs in this instance.

Further reading:

The National SEND Conference

The National SEND conference allows you to come together with colleagues and peers from schools across the country. By attending the conference, you will learn about the latest SEND advice, practical guidance and best practice, along with new, evidence-based interventions. This information is delivered via interactive Q&As, panel discussions, workshops and breakout rooms. 

You will also have a chance to network with others in your area of work through three streams of tailored content (primary or secondary school, local authority or social care). And there are resources available online so that you can plan your day before you arrive and apply what you have learnt after the event. 

Working in SEND changes lives. You can too.

Teachers and support staff who work with Engage have spent over 700,000 hours in more than 3,400 vacancies in SEND schools, changing lives and meeting the various and often complex needs of SEND pupils.

Whether you have years of SEND experience, or you’re just starting out, find out how you can have an impact by registering today. Your own personal SEND consultant will work with you hand in hand to find your dream job in a SEND vacancy.

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If you would like a new role teaching in a SEND setting on a permanent, long-term, or short-term basis, full or part-time, our expert SEND team will be able to find the perfect role for you at one of our fantastic partner schools.

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