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Legal Definition of SEN

The Children & Families Act 2014 defines Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in the following way

  1. A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her
  2. A child or a young person of compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
    • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
    • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions
  3. For children aged two and over, special educational provision is educational or training provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, mainstream post-16 institutions or by relevant early years providers. For a child under two years of age, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind
  4. A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition in paragraph 2 above when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them (Section 20 Children and Families Act 2014)
  5. Post-16 institutions often use the term learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD). The term SEND is used across the 0-25 age range and includes LDD
  6. A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.

Many children and young people who have SEN may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 – that is ‘…a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. This definition provides a relatively low threshold and includes more children than many realise: ‘long-term’ is defined as ‘a year or more’ and ‘substantial’ is defined as ‘more than minor or trivial’.

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