The SEN reforms

Information for families in England

On 1 September 2014 the government introduced changes to the way children and young people with special educational needs are supported. The changes were introduced through a new law - the Children and Families Act 2014 - which applies to England only.

  • Children and young people with SEN in mainstream education receive help through a system called SEN support.
    (This replaces early years/school action and early years/school action plus.)
  • Children and young people who need more help might have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment.
    (This replaces the statutory assessment.)
  • Children and young people are supported from birth to age 25, so there are changes to the way young people are supported in post-16 education.
    (The EHC plans replace Learning Difficulty Assessments (S139a))

Changing from the old system to the new

Although the law came into place on 1 September 2014, children with statements of special educational needs will be assessed for an EHC plan at different stages depending on where they live and their age.

By April 2018, all children must be transferred to the new system.

Read more information aboutwhen your child is likely to move from a statement to an EHC plan.

The SEND code of practice

The law is supported by a new SEND code of practice, which gives guidance to schools, colleges, local authorities and others on how they must carry out their duties under the new law. The code says that children and parents must be involved in any decision about their support.

You might find it useful to look at parts of the code of practice yourself: download the SEND code of practice. See our jargon buster for help with some of the new terminology.

The local offer

The Children and Families Act requires all local authorities to publish and maintain a "local offer". A local offer is a wide range of information about all the support and facilities that families can expect to find in their area for children and young people who have SEN.

For example, if your child still has statement of special education needs,

Find out more about in our local offer factsheet [PDF].

Education factsheets

We have made a series of factsheets to help families understand recent changes to the special education system in England. 

The Department for Education has produced a guide to the new SEN system for parents and carers.

Information for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

If you live in Wales, read our information about the statementing process.

We also support Northern Ireland and Scotland. Give our helpline a call on 0808 808 3555 for information and advice on any aspect of raising a disabled child, or call your local contact. Find out our details in the In your area section.

Call our helpline

Any questions about support at school? How to get an EHC plan? What kind of school is best for my child? Call our freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 and talk to one of our education advisers.