The Role of SENCO: Legal Developments


The role of the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) has undergone significant changes in recent years, due in part to various legal developments in the education sphere. As the importance of providing adequate support to students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has grown, so too has the need for well-equipped SENCOs who are capable of navigating this complex landscape. This article will explore the major legal developments that have impacted the role of the SENCO and how these changes have shaped the field of special education needs today.

1. The Children and Families Act 2014

One of the most significant pieces of legislation affecting the role of SENCOs is the Children and Families Act 2014, which introduced key reforms to how special educational needs are identified and supported. Under this Act, local authorities are required to work together with health services, parents, and young people to create an education, health, and care (EHC) plan for each child with SEND. It is now the responsibility of SENCOs to work closely with relevant professionals when developing these EHC plans, ensuring they are tailored to individual student needs while also aligning with broader school policy.

2. The SEND Code of Practice 2014

Alongside the Children and Families Act, in 2014 a revised version of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice was introduced. This statutory guidance outlines best practices for identifying, assessing, supporting, and reviewing the progress of students with SEND in schools. One key element of this legislation is that SENCOs must be qualified teachers and undertake specific training relating to their coordinating role. Furthermore, it emphasizes a more collaborative approach – involving parents, teachers, support staff, external agencies – underpinned by regular reviews that draw upon a range of perspectives.

3. Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010, which consolidates previous anti-discrimination laws, also has implications for SENCOs and their work in special education. Under the Act, schools must not discriminate against or victimize students with disabilities and are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to allow equal access to educational opportunities. Furthermore, the Act places an emphasis on anticipating the needs of students with disabilities, which means SENCOs must be proactive in ensuring that appropriate support measures are put in place before problems arise.

4. Mental Health Green Paper

In response to growing concerns about the mental well-being of young people in education, a Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision was published in 2017. This document outlines a series of proposals aimed at improving mental health support across educational settings, particularly within mainstream schools. Among these proposals is an expectation that every school should appoint a designated mental health lead – often expected to be a SENCO – responsible for overseeing both preventative measures and support mechanisms for students facing mental health challenges.


Legal developments over the past decade have placed an increased emphasis on the role of the SENCO as a central figure overseeing SEND provision within schools. From EHC plan implementation to anti-discrimination practices and promoting mental well-being, SENCOs must balance a wide range of responsibilities while also navigating evolving legal frameworks. By understanding how these developments have shaped special educational needs support in schools today, we can better appreciate the importance of SENCOs and their ever-growing responsibilities within educational settings.

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