The SEN Code of Practice explained


The government recently unveiled its proposed new SEN Code of Practice. Jane Friswell outlines the implications for state-maintained schools.

The publication of the SEN Code of Practice heralds further changes to SEN provision in state-maintained schools.

The principles underpinning the Code of Practice include the need to support the child or young person, and their parents, in order to facilitate their development and to help them achieve the best possible educational and developmental outcomes, preparing them effectively for adulthood.

Including young people and parents in all related decision-making is another underlying principle of the code, which makes clear that they must be provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions, and that there should be greater control for them over the support that they receive.

With SEN Statements being replaced by the new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), the role of local authorities, health and social care services and schools are to be firmly linked, with all services called upon to work together to assess needs and provide effective support.

The EHCPs will cover a person’s SEN provision from the age of 0 to 25 and parents of young people who have an EHCP, and the young people themselves, have a right to ask for a particular school or college to be named in the plan and for a personal budget for their support.

The main changes

The most significant change in the new code is that it will be a new single piece of statutory guidance on SEN that reflects the new 0 to 25 SEN system.

The new code is intended to be clearer and more concise, with information on the provisions set out in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. 

This includes: the Local Offer, personal budgets, joint commissioning, assessments and EHCPs.

SEN Support (also known as the “Single Category”) will replace School Action and School Action Plus as the new school-based category for additional support for children with SEN.

Social, mental and emotional health replaces behaviour, social and emotional as an area of need. 

Overall, quality first teaching and a graduated approach are embedded throughout the new code, which states that SEN provision goes beyond the differentiated approaches and learning arrangements normally provided as part of high-quality personalised teaching.

The code calls for the use of appropriate evidence-based interventions, and states that SEN support in schools is based on four types of action: plan, assess, do and review.

The Local Offer will also indicate how schools will access the assessment for EHCPs.

The Local Offer

Local authorities must produce a Local Offer, setting out in one place information about the provision they expect to be available for children and young people in their area who have SEN, including those who do not have EHCPs. 

This must include provision in the local authority’s area, but also outside the local area where the local authority expects it is likely to be used by the young people with SEN for whom they are responsible. 

A framework for this Local Offer is provided by the Special Educational Needs (Local Offer) Regulations, which state that the Local Offer should be collaborative, accessible, comprehensive and transparent.

School funding

In April, the government made changes to the way that all funding is provided to schools. The funding changes do not alter the legal responsibilities of schools and local authorities for children with SEN. 

Funding is based on the total number of pupils in the school, with the amount varying from one authority to another. 

In 2013, all secondary schools, including academies, are getting at least £3,000 for each pupil and all primary schools are getting at least £2,000 for each pupil. This is the core budget for each school and it is used to make general provision for all pupils in the school including pupils with SEN. 

Every school receives an additional amount of money to help make special educational provision to meet children’s SEN, known as the “notional SEN budget”. This is based on a formula which is agreed between schools and the local authority.

The formula usually gives additional funds to schools that have more children on free school meals (FSM) and a greater number of children who are below average in English and maths. This provides a good guide to how many children with SEN a school is likely to have. 

The government has recommended that schools should use this notional SEN budget to pay for up to £6,000 worth of special educational provision to meet a child’s SEN. If the school can show that a pupil with SEN needs more than £6,000 worth of special educational provision, it can ask the local authority to provide top-up funding to meet the cost of that provision.

Pupil Premium

The Pupil Premium was introduced to address the current underlying inequalities between children eligible for FSM and their peers.

The total funding available through the Pupil Premium has risen from £625 million in 2011/12 to £1,875 billion in 2013/14 with a further rise to £2.5 billion scheduled in 2014/15. 

This currently equates to £900 per eligible pupil, although this will rise to £1,300 per primary pupil in 2014/15 with the secondary Pupil Premium rising to £935.

The government has also announced that from April 2014, a new Pupil Premium Plus will allocate schools £1,900 for any child in care or who has been adopted.

Schools are free to decide how to spend the Premium; the money is not ring-fenced. However they will be held to account through performance tables, Ofsted inspection and online reports to parents detailing the amount received and how the money has been spent.

The role of schools

All schools now have a legal duty to publish information on their websites about the implementation of the governing body’s or the proprietor’s policy for pupils with SEN. They must ensure that there is a qualified teacher designated as SEN co-ordinator (SENCO), whose role it is to determine the strategic development of a SEN policy in the school. 

The school should also ensure that the SENCO has sufficient time and resources to carry out their role, including providing sufficient administrative support and time away from teaching to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities.

Underpinning the code is the need for schools to provide high-quality teaching which is differentiated and personalised. Ofsted inspectors are also required to report on the quality of education provided.

Schools must ensure that provision is effective; the code’s key message is ultimately that every teacher is responsible and accountable for all pupils in their class, wherever or with whoever the pupils are working with.

  • Jane Friswell is interim CEO of nasen, a UK professional association embracing all SEN. Visit

Further information
  • A complete summary of the Code is available at, along with a guide for SENCOs preparing for Ofsted.
  • For more on the draft SEN Code of Practice and related government consultation, visit
  • For more on the Pupil Premium Plus for looked-after children, see


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