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The Children and Families Act 2014 provides the statutory basis for the system for identifying children and young people (age 0-25) in England with special educational needs (SEN), assessing their needs and making provision for them.

The statutory Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND): Code of practice, first published in 2014, sets out detailed information on the support available for children and young people aged 0 to 25 under the 2014 Act.

Broadly, there are two levels of support:

  • SEN Support, provided to a child or young person in their pre-school, school, or college
  • Education, Health, and Care Plans which provide a formal basis for support for children and young people who need more support than is available through SEN Support

How many school pupils have SEN?

In January 2024, there were around 1.7 million school pupils in England with identified SEN (18% of all pupils).

Of these pupils with identified SEN, around 1.2 million receive SEN Support, and around 0.4 million have Education, Health, and Care plans.

Review and improvement plan

In September 2019, five years after the introduction of the current system of support for children and young people with SEND, the government announced a major review of its effectiveness.

Following delays to the review during the pandemic, the government published a green paper consultation on reform to the system, SEND Review: right support, right place, right time, in March 2022.

The government published its SEND and alternative provision improvement plan in March 2023. This confirmed the government’s future plans following the green paper consultation.

Among other changes, the improvement plan proposes a unified system for SEND and alternative provision, driven by new national standards, as well as local SEND and alternative provision partnerships to commission provision.

A SEND and alternative provision roadmap was published alongside the plan, setting out timelines for key parts of the government’s proposals.

Education is a devolved policy area and this paper applies to England only.

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