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Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001

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The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) makes changes to the Education Act 1996 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), changing the statutory framework for special educational needs and extending the DDA to education (Phillipa Stobbs. National Children's Bureau. Highlight No. 186; 2001)

The special educational needs provisions increase access to a place in a mainstream school, information and support available to parents, and parents' rights of appeal. From January 2002, a child with a statement of special educational needs must attend a mainstream school unless that is incompatible with the wishes of the parents or the efficient education of other children. Schools and local education authorities are required to take reasonable steps to prevent mainstream school placement interfering with the efficient education of other children.

The DDA changes introduce a “less favourable treatment duty” and a “reasonable adjustments” duty'. A school is held to discriminate against a child if, for a reason related to the child's disability, it treats the child less favourably than others to whom that reason does not apply and it cannot show that the treatment is justified. The reasonable adjustments duty requires the responsible body for the school to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled pupils are not put at a substantial disadvantage. The provision of auxiliary aids and services, and physical adaptations to buildings are excluded from this duty but local education authorities and schools have a duty to plan to increase access for disabled pupils.

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