The main body of the legislation regulating the education of children with special educational needs (SEN) is contained within Part IV of the Education Act 1996 and associated Regulations. That Act consolidated the Education Act 1993 which legislated in this area and which, in turn, followed the original SEN legislation contained in the Education Act 1981. The SEN Code of Practice gives statutory guidance to schools, local authorities and others in carrying out their duties for children with SEN.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 amended the Education Act 1996 and also the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 by making the provision of education subject to that Act. The changes the 2001 Act made to Part IV of the Education Act 1996 in summary were: it strengthened the right of children with SEN to be educated in mainstream schools where that is what their parents want and the interests of other children can be protected; it required local education authorities to provide the parents of children with SEN advice and information and a means of resolving disputes; it required local education authorities to comply with SEN and disability tribunal orders within prescribed periods; and it required schools to inform parents where they are making special educational provision and allowed schools to request a statutory assessment of a pupil's SEN.