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Guidance for Parents/Carers

Who is this guide for?

This guide is for parents and carers of children and young people aged 0-25 years who have special educational needs (SEN) or a disability.

What is it about?

This guide describes how the new system that supports children and young people with SEN or disabilities, and parents, is intended to work.

The new system starts from 1 September 2014. But local authorities (see Glossary) will need some time to move children and young people who were in the old system on to the new system. At the back of this guide, there is an Annex that explains what the rules are that local authorities will have to apply when changing to the new system.

This guide is written for parents. It covers:

  • What do SEN and disability mean?
  • The principles of the system that supports children and young people with SEN or disabilities
  • What the law is and what your rights are
  • How the system should work
  • What early years settings, schools, colleges and other educational providers must do, or should do, to support you and your child
  • What your local authority and other services (such as health and social services) must do, or should do, to support you and your child
  • What you can do if you disagree with, or want to challenge, decisions that are made by organisations providing support for your child

When should I use it?

You may find it helpful to use this guide if you think your child has SEN, or you’ve been told by someone - such as your child’s teacher - that they think he or she has SEN.

If you know that your child has SEN and you want to know more about how the system works and what to expect, you can use this guide to help you. You might want to use it in meetings with professionals, or to prepare for them. At the end of each chapter, the guide includes a page in case you want to write any notes. 

The guide is intended to provide some information covering the whole system. It is also divided into different sections so you can easily find the information you need. It aims to give you the key points, but can’t cover everything. At the end of each section there are signposts to where you can find out more information, and some questions you might want to consider asking professionals and others. Towards the back of the guide you can find a list of organisations and helplines who can offer you more help.

How has this guide been produced?

Although this is not a legal document, it is based on the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 and the Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014.

It is also based on the 0-25 Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2014 (0-25 SEND Code of Practice) which is statutory guidance (see Glossary). In writing this guide, the Department for Education worked with parents of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and organisations that represent and advise them. We also looked at other guidance that had been produced for parents of children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

This guide has been published by the Department for Education. The following organisations worked with the Department to produce it:

  • Contact a Family
  • The National Network of Parent Carer Forums
  • The National Parent Partnership Network
  • Special Needs Jungle


View the full Special Education Needs & Disability Guide