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SEN reforms

A summary of Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms

Education Health and Care Plans

From 1st September 2014, as part of the Children and Families Act, Statements of Special Educational Needs will be replaced by Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans in England.

The plans aim to improve:

  • joint work across education,
  • health and social care services and agencies with an assessment coordinator taking the lead;
  • participation in decision-making by children, young people and their families;
  • the focus on outcomes;
  • its scope by covering children from 0-25, including colleges, academies and free schools;
  • the distinction between statutory (must) and non-statutory (should) duties on schools, local authorities and joint commissioning.

For those who currently have a Statement there will be a transition period until April 2018 to move over to the new system.

The process will be similar to the current statement with a time limit of 20 weeks and will include education, health and social care needs up to the age of 25 if continuing in education. The decision must be made within six weeks.

The definition of SEN should not change.

An example of an EHC Plan can found here here.

Guidance on writing the EHC Plans can be found here.

SEN Support

School Action and School Action Plus are being replaced by a more general ‘SEN support’ with four stages: assess, plan, do and review. Your child’s difficulties must be assessed so that the right support can be provided, and there is still the option to bring in specialist advice from outside school.

The current format for Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is no longer required, but schools must make a record of targets and outcomes which should be reviewed at least yearly.

Teachers and SENCOs

The Code of Practice outlines the expectation that high quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils, is the first step in responding to pupils who have or may have SEN, and advises to make the quality of teaching for pupils with SEN a core part of the school’s performance management arrangements. This is in response to reports that many children with SEN have only been receiving teaching from their Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant.

The Children and Families Act also states that Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) must be qualified teachers. Where a person becomes a SENCO at a school and has not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than twelve months, they must complete a National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination.

Local Offer

Local Authorities (LAs) will need to publish their ‘local offer’ in September 2014, detailing what services and support are available. It should build on current existing regulations (i.e. statement on short breaks).

LAs have to publish comments made on the local offer to hold them to account.


Groups of councils across the country were announced as pathfinder champions for the Government’s Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms in May 2014, but this initiative has now closed. From 1st April 2015, there is a SEND Regional Network in each region, supported by the Delivering Better Outcomes Together consortium.

The Delivering Better Outcomes Together consortium is a partnership between Mott MacDonald, the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) and the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), with Mott MacDonald as the lead contractor. The consortium will provide a range of services to support Local Authorities and their partners with implementation of the SEND Reforms. Further information on the consortium and what each of the strands deliver can be found on the Council for Disabled Children website here

Joint work with the health sector

The majority of children with hemiplegia will have some connection to the health service and ensuring a more joined up approach is important. The Government’s focus on this area is in response to negative situations, with examples such as pupils with a medical condition being excluded from school trips and parents being called into school to give their child medicine.

However, there are concerns about how this joined up thinking will work in practice, particularly as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the NHS are relatively new themselves. Each local area has a Health and Wellbeing board which includes representatives from the local Healthwatch, each local CCG and the local authority directors for adult social services, children’s services and public health. The board’s job is to improve the health and wellbeing of the local population and reduce health inequalities. A Designated Health Officer (DHO) should be identified whose role is to ensure that the CCG is meeting its statutory responsibilities for SEN.

The Department for Education has released guidance for school staff on mental health and behaviour. This new advice links to existing advice on behaviour and discipline, which indicates that schools should consider whether continuing disruptive behaviour arises from unmet mental health needs.


In April 2013 the way that schools were funded changed. The amount of money schools received for supporting pupils with SEN did not change, although there has been some confusion with some schools telling parents that there was no longer enough money to meet their child’s needs.

To understand the changes to the funding there is a useful video on the Council for Disabled Children’s website. This explains the role of ‘notional SEN’ budget, which schools may receive based on a local formula, particularly if they have a high number of children on the pupil premium, eligible for free meals or with SEN.

You can also read a recent report by the Council for Disabled Children on the recent high needs funding consultation here.  

Personal Budgets

Young people and parents of children who have EHC plans will have the right to request a personal budget, which may contain elements of education, social care and health funding. The direct payments can be used by the family or someone on their behalf to secure particular provision in the plan. You can find out more about Personal Budgets from the Council for Disabled Children here.

Key organisations

The Department for Education: a guide for parents.

SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information and Advice Services, formerly Parent Partnership Services) offer advice and support to parents and carers of children and young people with SEN and Government funding has been made available to them to provide independent support during implementation of the SEN reforms -


The SEN Information Organisations Group, a group of organisations that offer services specialised in providing information to parents and carers of children and young people with SEN:

Contact a Family
Council for Disabled Children  

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