Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities

If your child has a disability, your local authority is responsible for identifying and meeting their special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Schools and local authorities must follow the guidance given in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice.

On this page you’ll find information, advice and the next steps to getting the right educational support for your child.

Information, advice and support services for parents

Local authorities should offer parents information, advice and support services (formerly known as parent partnership services) about SEND.

This service should be impartial, confidential and accessible, and be able to deal with face-to-face, telephone and email enquiries.

You can find your local information, advice and support service on the Council for Disabled Children website.

Statutory assessment and Education, Health and Care plans

If a mainstream school cannot meet your child’s special educational needs with support, you can apply for a statutory assessment. For most children, this will happen before they begin school.

For more information, or to apply for an assessment, visit the GOV.UK website.

Following your child’s assessment, the local authority may issue an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan). This legal document outlines your child's needs, what needs to happen to meet these needs, and the school or other educational setting responsible for the child. You can contribute to an EHC plan by:

  • Providing information
  • Naming other professionals who should be consulted
  • Discussing a draft of the statement with your local authority
  • Commenting on the draft plan.

Targets and reviews

EHC plans must be reviewed every year, and possibly more often if, for example, your child's needs are changing rapidly. Parents and professionals must be included in the review.

After each review the local authority decides whether any changes to the EHC plan are needed. From Year 9 (age 14) onwards, the annual review must develop a transition plan, which covers a child’s move from school to post-school provision.

Disagreements between parents and local authorities

If you disagree with local authority decisions you can use a disagreement resolution service or formally appeal to a SEND tribunal. You can appeal if the local authority:

  • Refuses to assess your child
  • Refuses to issue an EHC plan
  • Decides to stop maintaining the EHC plan.

You can also appeal if you disagree with the content of the EHC plan.

Choice of school

You have a right to state a preference for a particular school for your child, which could be a mainstream or a special school. Your child’s views will also be taken into account.

If you choose a maintained (state) school, the local authority must agree that the school is suitable. Children can only attend non-maintained (independent) schools or those run by other local authorities if their own authority agrees to fund them, or parents pay the costs.

You can educate your child at home if you wish, as long as the local authority agrees that your child’s special educational needs are being met. A local authority does not have any financial obligations towards children educated at home.

More information, including questions to think about when choosing a school or other educational setting, is available from GOV.UK.


Increasing numbers of children with special educational needs and disabilities are educated in mainstream schools with support.

Successful inclusion depends on your child’s needs, abilities, interests and personality, the resources provided (particularly staffing levels and training of staff) and the attitudes of staff and other pupils.

Guides on the SEND system

Sense has produced guides on the SEND system for parents, professionals and commissioners:

Get in touch

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