Country information for UK (England) - Legislation and policy
The United Kingdom’s education system has a number of regional differences, with separate legislation for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This national page is for England.
The Children and Families Act 2014 imposes certain duties on local authorities (LAs), the administrative areas responsible for the provision of statutory education for England. For special educational needs (SEN), Part 3 of the Children and Families Act replaces duties for children with SEN under the Education Act 1996 and for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities under the Learning and Skills Act 2000. However, the previous legislation still applied to children with SEN statements until March 2018. It applied to young people with learning difficulties and disabilities until August 2016. The Children and Families Act also places duties with regard to children and young people with disabilities and SEN on other bodies, such as health commissioning bodies.
The Children and Families Act 2014 requires that LAs:
- identify children and young people (up to the age of 25) with SEN;
- where necessary, assess the child or young person’s education, health and care needs, taking account of educational, medical, psychological and other factors;
- where necessary, prepare a formal Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan for those needs and specify the provision which should be made to meet them.
LAs must – in consultation with others, including children, young people and parents – draw up and publish a ‘local offer’ setting out the education, health, care and other provision which is available to children and young people with disabilities and SEN from their areas. They have a qualified duty to place children and young people with EHC plans in mainstream schools or further education colleges, alongside children or young people of the same age without education, health and care needs, provided that the parents or the young people themselves want this and mainstream education for the child or young person is compatible with the provision of efficient education for others. If parents or young people want a particular school or college, whether mainstream or special, the requirements are that:
- the school or college is suitable for the child or young person’s age, ability, aptitude and special educational needs;
- the placement is compatible with the provision of efficient education for the children or young people with whom they will be educated;
- there is an efficient use of resources.
Children and young people with SEN but without EHC plans (or statements) are educated in mainstream schools or colleges. State-funded schools and further education colleges must do their best to make the provision a child or young person’s learning difficulties call for. State-funded schools must publish information about their SEN provision.
Under the Childcare Act 2006, LAs in England have a statutory duty to secure 570 hours per year of funded early education over no fewer than 38 weeks of the year for all three- and four-year-olds, whether or not they have special needs. This applies until they reach compulsory school age (the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday). Since September 2013, two-year-olds who meet eligibility criteria for free school meals or who are looked after by an LA have been entitled to a funded early education place. From September 2014, this entitlement was extended to two-year-old children from four further groups, including those from low-income families and those who have an EHC plan (or statement of SEN).
LAs have a duty to arrange sufficient childcare, as far as is reasonably practicable, for working parents, or parents who are studying for training for employment, for children aged 0–14 (or up to 18 for children with disabilities). LAs also have a duty to provide information, advice and assistance to parents.
The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on schools and LAs not to discriminate against pupils with disabilities: they must not treat them less favourably and must take reasonable steps to avoid putting these pupils at a substantial disadvantage, including providing auxiliary aids and services as part of the reasonable adjustments duty. Schools must prepare accessibility plans, showing how they will improve access to education for pupils with disabilities. Guidance on schools’ duties under the Equality Act is available from the Department for Education. The Equality and Human Rights Commission also provides technical guidance on schools’ and colleges’ duties under the Equality Act. The Children and Families Act requires LAs to provide parents, children and young people with disabilities and those with SEN with information, advice and guidance on SEN and disability. LAs must also make disagreement resolution services and mediation available to parents and young people. The Equality Act 2010 requires public bodies like schools and LAs to have regard to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity between different groups of people.
Last updated 27/03/2018