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What is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001?

Updated: May 3, 2023


If you are a parent of a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), then you know just how challenging it can be to navigate the education system. You want your child to have the best possible education, but it can be difficult to know where to turn for help and support. That's where the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) comes in. This important piece of legislation ensures that your child has equal access to education, training, and employment opportunities, regardless of their needs.



What is SENDA?

SENDA is a piece of legislation that was passed by the UK government in 2001 to ensure that children and young people with SEND are not discriminated against in education. The act was introduced to build on the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, which made it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities in various areas of life, including education.


The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 is a law that requires schools, colleges, and universities to provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. The act applies to all educational establishments, including mainstream schools, special schools, further education colleges and universities.



The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 key points

SENDA includes a number of provisions aimed at improving access to education for children and young people with SEND.


1. Definition of disability: The act defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.


2. Reasonable adjustments: Educational establishments are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that children and young people with SEND can access education on an equal basis with their peers. This might include things like making physical adjustments to buildings, providing specialist equipment or resources, or providing additional support from teaching assistants.


3. Anti-discrimination: The act makes it illegal for educational establishments to discriminate against students with SEND. This includes direct discrimination – where a student is treated less favourably than others because of their disability – and indirect discrimination, where a provision, criterion, or practice puts students with disabilities at a disadvantage.


4. Accessibility plans: Educational establishments are required to prepare and publish accessibility plans, which outline how they will make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. The plan should set out specific actions that the establishment will take to improve access and include a timetable for implementation.


5. Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs): Every mainstream school must have a designated SENCO who is responsible for overseeing the provision of support for children with SEND. The SENCO should work closely with teachers, parents, and other professionals to ensure that the needs of the child are met.



The impact of SENDA on education

SENDA has helped to raise awareness of the needs of children and young people with SEND and has encouraged schools, colleges, and universities to become more inclusive.

The Act has certainly helped to raise awareness of the needs of children and young people with SEND. It has encouraged schools to identify and support students with disabilities, ensuring that they receive the necessary support to access education. This has led to a more inclusive education system. It's not perfect, but given that schools, colleges, and universities are now required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities – which has helped to improve access to education for many students – inclusivity is much more a “normal” part of schooling in the UK than it was previously..

Plus, the Act has improved the support that is available to students with SEND, with the requirement for every mainstream school to have a designated SENCO, who is responsible for overseeing the provision of support for children with SEND.


Find out more


Looking for personalized support to help your child succeed? Meet Julie, a specialist dyslexia teacher, and assessor, and am passionate about her vocation. Learn more about Julie and how she can make a difference in your child's education journey: Julie

Excellent caring teachers who work together with parents and students to put together the best supportive plan possible. Would highly recommend. Stephanie Sercombe
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