Every child and young person has the right to an effective education. Every local authority has a legal duty to make sure that each child fulfils their educational potential.

The information in this section is about aspects of education that you may have to deal with at some point of your child or young persons educational journey, such as transport, admissions, exclusion and Education, Health and Care plans.

To see more information about how Devon are responding to these duties, take a look at Devon’s SEND local offer.

Special Educational Needs Support

Most children and young people with special educational needs or a disability (SEND) go to a mainstream nursery, school or college and are supported by their staff, resources and funds. Teachers and other professionals regularly review how a child or young person is getting on and support them to learn, develop and feel safe. This is called special educational needs support or SEN support.

All schools and all school and academy sixth forms, sixth form colleges, further education colleges and 16-19 academies have funding for children with SEND. Early years settings such as nurseries can also get extra money to support a child with SEND.

SEN support in nurseries, schools and colleges is based around the specific needs of each child or young person. The staff, equipment, resources and support that help your child has are decided using something called the graduated response. This is an ‘assess, plan, do, and review’ cycle. That means if your child has special educational needs, the school or college should:

  • assess what support they need
  • plan the support
  • do the support and then
  • review how well it’s working

Information about your child’s needs, support and goals should be written down in a plan and that should be used by staff and updated regularly. Schools and colleges use all kinds of plans, so your child’s plan may look different from one for a child from a different school. What’s important is that your child has a clearly written plan which lists all their needs, support and goals. For most children and young people with SEND the support the school gives works and they make progress.

But sometimes the support for a child isn’t enough or isn’t right. Your child may not make the progress that’s expected and start to fall behind other children their age. Or you may find that their difficulties in school get worse not better and behaviour at school or home becomes more challenging.

If things aren’t going well for your child and they’re not making progress, your first step is to ask for a review of their nursery, school or college plan. At that review you can talk about the support they’re getting, what may need to change and how you’ll know if any new support is working. You can ask whether your child needs more support or whether some of their needs aren’t clear.

If reviewing your child’s plan and making changes to their support doesn’t make a difference, you can ask whether a needs assessment for an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan should be the next step.

For more information please look at our leaflet: Special educational needs support in school

Early Help

When a child, young person or family need something extra, Early Help is the initial response offered by all services in Devon in contact with children, young people and families.

Early help is about understanding and addressing extra needs and preventing situations from getting more difficult for children and young people.  The aim of Early Help is to build on people’s capacity and resources to manage their own dilemmas, resolve their own difficulties and prevent problems in the future. Early Help isn’t a team of people – it’s the way that everyone works together to support the needs of families.

If your child or young person needs the support of more than one service, from education and care or health, the way these work together is called Early Help .

For more information about how Early Help have a look at Devon Children and Family Partnership.

Exam Support

If your child has SEND, they may be able to have extra support when sitting tests and exams. This includes SATS, GCSEs and A Levels. This extra support is sometimes called access arrangements.

Access arrangements are about making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to exam conditions so that a child or young person with special educational needs is not at a disadvantage compared with others. The rules are different depending on the type of exam. This extra support aims to meet the needs of a child without affecting the value of the exam.

The school must apply to have some exam support or tell the testing agency about their plans in the months before the exam or test takes place. For some tests the support can be arranged by the school with very little notice. Exam support can include things like extra time, having an adult write for your child or rest breaks.

Well before any exams or test is due to happen, ask your child’s teacher or SENCO about whether and how your child will be supported.

You can find out more about exam support, including the kind of support available, in our factsheet.


If your child is of compulsory school age they’re entitled to free school transport if they live further away than the statutory walking distance to the nearest school with places, that provides education appropriate to their age, ability and aptitude.

The statutory walking distance is over:

  • two miles from home to school for children of primary school age
  • three miles from home to school for children of secondary school age

Your child or young person isn’t automatically entitled to free school transport if they have SEND or have an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan.  The normal criteria still apply. If your child’s EHC plan says that their needs can be met at a mainstream school, the normal eligibility criteria apply, unless they can’t walk the specified distance for their age because of a disability or health condition. If your child goes to a school that has been named as parental preference, which isn’t the nearest suitable school, or the designated school for their home address, then the local authority aren’t obliged to provide transport.

You can find out more about transport on the Devon SEND Local Offer website. 


Exclusion from school means that a child or young person is not allowed in school for disciplinary reasons. The exclusion can be either a fixed-term exclusion or a permanent exclusion and these can both be stressful and emotional for the parents, as well as for the child.

Only a head teacher (or deputy head if the head teacher is off site) can exclude a child. If your child is excluded, it’s important that you have the right information and support and that you ask the right questions about options for the future.  

Exclusions can be:

  • Fixed-term – for one short period of time such as a half day or a day and for several fixed periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year)
  • Permanent – your child is asked not to return to school

A fixed period exclusion does not have to be for a continuous period. In exceptional cases, usually where further evidence has come to light, a fixed period exclusion may be extended or converted to a permanent exclusion.

You can find out more about exclusion from Devon’s education inclusion service and the Government guidance on exclusion.

For more information see our leaflet – excluded or at risk of exclusion from school


There are more than 360 schools in Devon. Choosing a school can be a really big decision, especially if your child or young person has special educational needs.  Devon SEND Local Offer has lots of useful information about choosing a school, including a list of special schools and specialist centres.

If you’re applying for a place for your child at a mainstream school in Devon, you’ll need to apply for a place through Devon Admissions.

If you live outside of Devon or are moving away from Devon you can find the contact details of other local authorities by looking on the Government Find a Local Council site.

For more information around the schools admission code set out by the Government please look at their publication


The ‘basic’ school curriculum includes the ‘national curriculum’, as well as religious education and sex education. The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools so that all children learn the same things.

It covers what subjects are taught and the targets that children should reach in each subject at each age. Other types of school like academies and private schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum. Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, maths and science as well as religious education. The national curriculum is organised into blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, your child’s teacher will formally assess their performance to measure your child’s progress.

Age Year group Key stage (KS)
3 to 4 Early Years (EY)
4 to 5 reception EY
5 to 6 Yr1 KS1
6 to 7 Yr 2 KS1
7 to 8 Yr 3 KS2
8 to 9 Yr 4 KS2
9 to 10 Yr 5 KS2
10 to 11 Yr 6 KS2
11 to 12 Yr 7 KS3
12 to 13 Yr 8 KS3
13 to 14 Yr 9 KS3
14 to 15 Yr 10 KS 4
15 to 16 Yr 11 KS4


Performance P Scales

Pscales are used to assess the progress of children aged 5-14 who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and whose abilities do not yet reach Level 1 of the National Curriculum.

P scales use eight levels, P1 to P8. They can be used in primary, secondary and special schools for children who may or may not have an Education Health and Care plan.  The P scales breakdown the important skills, knowledge and understanding that a child needs before moving onto the national curriculum levels, into small achievable steps. There are statutory P scales in KS1, 2 and 3 for;

  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Science

However, there are also P scale descriptors for all areas of the curriculum.

P scales and Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

If your child has special educational needs and they haven’t reached their targets at the end of Early Years, the school may carry on with an early years curriculum to support your child’s learning and development. In this case, the EYFS profile, rather than P scales, should be used for assessment, as it may be suitable in year 1 for a small number of children. Professional judgment should be used to decide which P scale descriptor best fits a child’s performance.

EHC plans

Education, health and care (EHC) plans are for children or young people aged up to 25 with special educational needs (SEN) who need more support than can be given through SEN support in their mainstream nursery, school or college.

An EHC plan is a legal document that describes your child or young person’s:

  • special educational needs
  • health needs (in terms of how these affect their education)
  • social care needs (in terms of how these affect their education)

It explains:

  • the extra help your child will be given to meet their needs
  • how that support will make a difference to them
  • how the support they get can help them to achieve what they want in life

EHC plans are made by a local authority after an EHC needs assessment. A plan can include your child’s health or social care needs as well as their educational needs, but they won’t get a plan if they only have health or social care needs that don’t affect their education.

Your local authority (LA) must make sure that your child or young person gets everything that’s in their plan. EHC plans became law in 2014 and have now replaced Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments.

You can find out more in our leaflet about EHC needs assessments and plans (PDF 240KB).

Coming to an agreement

When other people are involved in the process of making decisions about the future of your child, there may be times that you might disagree with some of the decisions, or be unhappy about some of the choices that have been made on your child’s behalf.

The first step to resolving any disagreement is to talk to the other party, explain your concerns and see if you can come to an agreement. If after a meeting, your concerns have not been resolved, you may want to consider other ways forward to resolve the situation. Methods include disagreement resolution, mediation, an appeal to the SEND tribunal or a complaint.

For more information read our leaflet What if we can’t agree.

The SEND Code of Practice 0-25 outlines more details and guidance around all areas of disagreement resolution

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Page updated February 2020 Page due for review February 2021