Legal guidance teaching in SEND schools

Key legal guidance in SEND School Settings

Schools for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are designed to teach these children and young people between the ages of 4 and 19 years of age to reach their educational potential.

SEND school settings

SEND schools are designed to cater for the specific learning needs of children with physical disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), visual impairments, or speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN) and other medical or genetic conditions.

The curriculum in a SEND school differs from that of mainstream schools, with a more holistic approach to teaching which considers the different abilities of each pupil. SEND pupils need support with their learning, interaction with others, communication, cognition, sensory and physical needs.

Much of the teaching in a SEND school is done through creative activities, play and sensory input. Therefore, to work in a school of this nature, you will need an innovative approach to teaching and an ability to adapt your methods to suit the specific needs of each child.

All staff within a SEND school setting are experienced and trained in the specialist needs of children with additional learning needs and/or physical disabilities. These roles include:

  • Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants
  • Early Educational Practitioners
  • Class Teachers
  • Head Teachers
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinators (SENDCO)
  • Governors
  • Inclusion Managers

Children with additional needs often require extra support from specialists provided by the local authority and various health departments. Appointments with these specialists often happen at the child’s school and these include:

  • Educational Psychologists
  • Specialist Teachers
  • Locality or Area SENDCO
  • Disability Social Workers
  • Speech and Language Therapists (SALT)
  • Occupational Therapists (OT)
  • Physiotherapists
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

SEND code of practice

SEND schools are guided and regulated by multiple government policies which promote the necessity to meet the special educational needs of a child with physical and/or learning disabilities.

The aim of the UK government’s Special Education Needs Code of Practice is to promote a consistent approach to meeting the educational needs of SEND children. It lays out the framework of how to:

  • Identify a child with additional needs.
  • Involve pupils in the decision-making process.
  • Develop partnerships with the parents and other agencies, such as the school, Local Education Authority, health and social services and voluntary organisations.

Other regulations that govern the SEND school setting include the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, which established the legal rights for disabled people and legislated that it is against the law for facilities, services, and goods providers to discriminate against disabled people by treating them any less favourably.

The later publication of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 fortified these rights and included the services offered by education providers.

The Children Act 1989, places a general duty of care on all children’s services authorities to safeguard the welfare of children, promote the upbringing of children by their families and the provision of a range of services appropriate to the child’s needs.

SEND School Teachers’ pay and conditions

The latest Department for Education (DfE) School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Guidance Document, published on 1st September 2021, applies to all permanent teaching staff working in government-maintained schools in England. This document lays out the framework for salary entitlements and allowances, general safeguarding, and professional responsibilities.

In England, salaries for SEND Teachers start from a minimum of £25,714, rising to £41,604 at the upper end of the pay scale. Part 4, Section 21 of this DfE document details Special Educational Needs (SEN) Teacher allowances, which is an additional payment of between £2,270 - £4,479 per annum to SEN classroom Teachers.

Actions to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keeping SEND children safe

Delivering high-quality, face-to-face education is a priority, as being out of schools can cause significant harm to pupils’ life chances, mental and physical health, and educational achievements. Although SEND schools had to adjust during the pandemic to reduce the risk to staff and pupils from the COVID-19 outbreak, these restrictions have now been lifted.

There are still certain targeted interventions in place to help reduce the risks to staff and pupils in SEND school settings:

  • Risk assessments must be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure compliance with the health and safety laws and managing risks.
  • School attendance is mandatory for all pupils.
  • If a pupil is required to self-isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19, these absences must be recorded in accordance with relevant legislation.
  • Remote home education should be offered for those who are unable to attend classes in their educational setting.
  • The government have announced several programmes to support pupils who need to catch up on missed education, you can find more details here
  • Where a pupil has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, the local authority must provide the provisions specified in this plan.
  • Visiting specialists, therapists and health professionals should provide their services as usual.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are now available for 12 to 17-year-olds to help reduce their need to have time off school.
  • Twice-weekly home testing is voluntary, requiring parental consent and, for pupils with SEND, some adjustments may be required.
  • Face coverings are recommended when pupils are using home to school transport.
  • Staff are no longer required to socially distance in schools and the shielding programme has ended. Those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) may choose to take extra precautions.

Keeping SEND children safe

Staff working with vulnerable children should be aware that this group are potentially more at risk. Evidence shows children with SEND are three times more likely to be abused compared with their non-disabled peers. They may be more vulnerable because they have additional communication needs, they may be dependent on adults for intimate care, are isolated from others, or they do not understand that what is happening to them is abuse.

The Department for Education (DfE) stipulates that all schools must safeguard the children they teach and promote their welfare. Click here for the latest version of the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance.

All staff working in a SEND school setting should:

  • Challenge inappropriate physical or verbal behaviours, as dismissing or tolerating such behaviours risks normalising them.
  • Make clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable and is not an inevitable part of growing up.
  • Recognise the additional online risks, such as online bullying, grooming and radicalisation.
  • Have the knowledge and capability to support SEND children to stay safe.

All staff who work with children and young people with SEND should remain aware of how their additional needs could mean they are more vulnerable to abuse and less able to speak out if something isn’t right.

To help keep vulnerable children safe at school, the right policies and procedures should be in place and adhered to. All teaching professionals should be aware of the relevant legal guidance and regulations, which are set out so that those with responsibility for supporting children with SEND know what to do if there are any concerns for their safety.

Where next?  

Click here for a teaching toolkit for educators working with SEND pupils.

For safeguarding children with SEND training, click here.

Click here for a free safeguarding self-assessment tool provided by the NSPCC.


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