UK (England) background information


How the official decision of special educational needs (SEN) in the country relates to the agreed EASIE operational definition

Operational definition

An official decision leads to a child/learner being recognised as eligible for additional educational support to meet their learning needs.

Criteria for an official decision of SEN

  • There has been an educational assessment procedure involving a multi-disciplinary team
  • The multi-disciplinary team includes members from within and external to the child’s/learner’s (pre)school
  • There is a legal document which describes the support the child/learner is eligible to receive and which is used as the basis for planning
  • The official decision is subject to a formal, regular review process

Educational assessment procedure in the country

An Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment is an assessment of a child or young person’s education, health and care needs. Following a request for an assessment, where a local area agrees that the individual may have SEN, an assessment is undertaken. This involves accessing advice and information from education, health and social care professionals, as well as (critically) from the parent and the child/young person. The assessment is usually completed in 20 weeks.

How the multi-disciplinary team is comprised in the country

Each local area (there are 152 local authorities) organises its multi-disciplinary teams according to local arrangements – there is no national template. However, the SEN legislation requires all the agencies to work together and co-operate with each other in undertaking SEN assessments, in order to reach a holistic view of the child/learner.

The legal document used in the country to outline the support that the child/learner is eligible to receive

An Education Health and Care (EHC) plan is the legal document. The EHC plan is for children and young people aged from 0 up to 25 who need more support than is available through normally provided SEN support. EHC plans identify education, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs. They also highlight the intended outcomes and focus on preparing for adulthood.

How the document is used as the basis for planning in the country

In drawing up the first EHC plan, local authorities work with families to agree how to best meet the child’s/learner’s needs – the provision and the placement that will be made. The next section (‘The formal, regular review process in the country’) looks at how it is reviewed.

More widely, local authorities are able to use their EHC plans for a range of purposes, including commissioning local SEN services and planning sufficiency of school and college places.

The formal, regular review process in the country

At least once a year, the EHC plan must be reviewed to see if it:

  • is still required;
  • needs updating (amending).

The meeting is usually held in a school. Where required, an EHC plan can remain in place up to the age of 25 years.


Proxy indicator for the 80% benchmark used for the country’s data collection

The EASIE work uses an 80% benchmark of inclusive education. This is defined as:

An inclusive setting refers to education where the child/learner with SEN follows education in mainstream classes alongside their mainstream peers for most – 80% or more – of the school week.

Proxy indicator used

Placement in a mainstream class implies over 80% or more.

Details on what the country proxy is

All children/learners placed in mainstream schools are regarded as following mainstream education with their mainstream peers for 100% of the school week.

There are also placements for some children/learners in ‘resourced provision’. This means they are in mainstream classes for at least 50% of the school week and receive occasional support from a specialist centre. This is regarded as meeting the 80% benchmark.

The final category is children/learners placed in units in mainstream schools. These placements are not regarded as meeting the 80% benchmark, as they spend the majority of the week in a specialist centre in the mainstream school.

Why this proxy was used

The policy intention of resourced provision is to provide fully inclusive education with specialised support in mainstream schools. Those children/learners are full members of the school.

Difficulties in using the proxy

No difficulties.

Specific country issues in applying the proxy indicator



Detailed description of what ‘out of formal education’ means within the country

The 2011 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) defines ‘formal education’ as follows:

[…] education that is institutionalised, intentional and planned through public organizations and recognised private bodies and, – in their totality – constitute the formal education system of a country. Formal education programmes are thus recognised as such by the relevant national education or equivalent authorities, e.g. any other institution in cooperation with the national or sub-national educational authorities. Formal education consists mostly of initial education […] Vocational education, special needs education and some parts of adult education are often recognised as being part of the formal education system. Qualifications from formal education are by definition recognised and, therefore, are within the scope of ISCED. Institutionalised education occurs when an organization provides structured educational arrangements, such as student-teacher relationships and/or interactions, that are specially designed for education and learning.

(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011, International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011, p. 11).

Do the country definitions of formal, non-formal and informal education differ from the ISCED definitions?

No, the UK (England) uses the same definitions as ISCED.

How specific cases – such as home-educated children/learners – are considered

All parents have a legal right to educate their child at home. This extends to those who have SEN. Where the child has an EHC plan, the local authority must be satisfied that the parents can make the necessary provision for their child before agreeing to this arrangement. The local authority must review the EHC plan at least once a year.

Children/learners who are considered out of formal education (meaning those not in formal education as defined by ISCED)

This refers to:

  • children/learners who are being educated at home;
  • young people aged 16 to 19 who are not in employment, education or training.

How the population of children/learners who are out of formal education is defined

As in previous question.


Provision of data on private sector education

The data collection covers all sectors of education, including numbers for the child/learner population in the private sector.

Private sector education in the country

The private sector is generally regarded to be schools that are independent and that charge for attendance.

There are some independent schools that specialise in SEN: independent special schools.

There is also a small group of non-maintained special schools (NMSS) approved by the Secretary of State for Education under Section 342 of the Education Act 1996 as independent special schools. To become approved, NMSS have to:

  • be non-profit making;
  • have demonstrated that they operate to a level at least equivalent to state-maintained special schools;
  • have their day-to-day running controlled by a governing body, the articles and instruments of which will be agreed by the Secretary of State.

Child/learner population counted for each relevant question

Numbers of placements of children and young people with EHC plans in independent and non-maintained special schools.

Specific issues with providing data on private sector education and how these have been overcome in the data collection

There are no specific issues with this data.


ISCED level age ranges

The following are the most common (pre)school entrance ages and (pre)school leaving ages for the different ISCED levels:

Age range in the country at ISCED level 02 (pre-primary): 2 to 5

Age range in the country at ISCED level 1: 5 to 11

Age range in the country at ISCED level 2: 11 to 16

Age range in the country at ISCED level 3: 16 to 19


2012/2013 and 2014/2015 data background information

This country updated its background information for the 2016/2017 dataset. A PDF of the background information for the 2012/2013 and 2014/2015 datasets is available.

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