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Learn about governors' duty to provide education for children with SEND. We run through the rules set out in the Governance Handbook, Children and Families Act 2014, SEND Code of Practice and SEND Regulations 2014.

Governors' responsibilities

All governing boards have legal duties under the Children and Families Act 2014 in relation to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

In practice, your governing board can delegate these functions to a committee, an individual governor or the headteacher. However, it's still your board's responsibility to make sure that the functions are carried out. 

Governing boards must:

  • Co-operate with the local authority in reviewing the provision that is available locally and developing the local offer
  • Try their best to make sure that a child with SEND gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEND
  • Make sure that children and young people with SEND engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who don't have SEND
  • Inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child
  • Make sure that the school has arrangements in place to support pupils at school with medical conditions
  • Have a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEND
  • Record accurately and keep up to date the provision made for pupils with SEND
  • Make sure that their school has a qualified teacher designated as special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
  • Determine their approach to using their resources to support the progress of pupils with SEND

Your board must also publish information:

  • On their websites about the implementation of the board’s policy for pupils with SEND (the SEN information report)
  • About the arrangements for the admission of pupils with disabilities, the steps taken to prevent them being treated less favourably than others, the facilities provided to assist access, and their accessibility plans

These requirements are set out in the Governance Handbook (see pages 84-85).

Appoint a link governor for SEND

There should be an individual on the board or a committee with specific oversight for the school's arrangements for SEND (see the Governance Handbook, page 85).

Read about this role in more detail, and download our template role description.  

Report on SEND provision

Governing bodies of maintained schools, maintained nursery schools and academies must publish information about their SEN provision on their website. This is required under the SEND Regulations 2014

Information on SEND provision should be:

  • Easily accessible to parents and young people
  • Updated annually

This is set out in paragraphs 6.79 and 6.81 of the SEND Code of Practice

Read more about the requirements for the SEN information report.

Make sure there's an accessibility plan

As governors, you need to make sure your school creates, reviews and implements an 'accessibility plan' for pupils with disabilities, as required by the Equality Act 2010. The plan must aim to:

  • Increase how much pupils with disabilities can participate in the curriculum
  • Improve the physical environment of the school, so pupils with disabilities can take better advantage of the education, benefits, facilities and services the school provides
  • Improve the availability of accessible information to pupils with disabilities

See more information on what an accessibility plan should contain.

Your school also needs to:

  • Consider how it will provide adequate resources to implement the plan
  • Review the plan every 3 years

You should hold the senior leadership team to account for implementing the plan. 

Make sure a SENCO is appointed 

If you're on the governing board of a mainstream school, you must make sure that a member of staff is appointed as the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO).

The key rules set out on page 108 of the SEND Code of Practice are:

  • The SENCO must be a qualified teacher working at the school
  • A newly appointed SENCO who has not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for a total period of more than 12 months must achieve the National Award in SEN Co-ordination within 3 years of appointment

Your board should:

  • Make sure that the SENCO’s key responsibilities are outlined
  • Confirm that the SENCO has enough time and resources to carry out their role effectively
  • Monitor how effectively they are carried out – do this using our questions to ask about SEND

This is set out in paragraph 76 of the Governance Handbook

Although special schools are not required to have a designated SENCO, it's still a good idea for them to have a qualified teacher working in a role with responsibility for overseeing and co-ordinating the provision of SEN. Nasen recommended this to us. 

Make sure extra attention is paid to safeguarding 

Your governing board should make sure that your child protection policy reflects the extra safeguarding challenges that children with SEND can face. It should also reflect the greater barriers there can be to recognising abuse and neglect in children with SEND. These can include:

  • Assuming that indicators of possible abuse such as behaviour, mood and injury relate to the child’s condition without exploring any further
  • Being more vulnerable to peer group isolation or bullying
  • Potentially being more impacted by behaviours such as bullying
  • Communication barriers and finding it difficult to manage or report these challenges

Your board should also make sure that children with SEND are taught about safeguarding issues in an appropriate way that meets their needs, avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

This is laid out in paragraphs 198, 128 and 130 of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022.