Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

What are special educational needs and disabilities?

The term ‘SEND’ has a legal definition, referring to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age.

If your child has a special need, they may need extra help in a range of areas, for example:

  • school work
  • reading, writing, number work or understanding information
  • expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
  • making friends or relating to adults
  • behaving properly at school
  • organising themselves
  • some kind of sensory or physical needs which may affect them in school

Parents can find guidance information and guidance on the legal requirements for local authorities, health bodies, schools and colleges in the SEND Code of Practice which covers the SEND system for children and young people aged 0 to 25.

Section 2.23 directs parents in the Armed Forces to CEAS for further support and guidance.

We know that many RAF families with children with SEND can face extra challenges with mobility, separation and deployment, with added complexity with transferring EHCPs and with school admissions.  Keep your evidence on this coming into us so we can continue to feed into policy makers in this area. Here is one example where we have made an input –  

Consultation on funding arrangements

In July 2019, the RAF Families Federation (RAF FF) joined forces with the Naval and Army Families Federations to make a joint response (below) to the Department for Education’s call for evidence – ‘Provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and for those who need additional provision: how the financial arrangements work.’ You can read the full online news story.

Devolved Nations

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, terminology may be slightly different.  In Scotland they refer to ‘Additional Support Needs (ASN)’ for instance.  Our comparison table gives details and links to the different codes of practice. 

Help and advice

Each Local Authority in England is required to publish information on their ‘SEND offer’ on their websites.

The Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) is a great source of information and help. They publish a factsheet.

They have also published help for families moving back to the UK with children with SEND – see our June 2019 news story in Envoy.

They have specialists able to offer advice and help when dealing with assessments, Educational and Health care plans (EHCP) in England,  Service Children’s Assessment of Need (SCAN) or the devolved administration’s equivalents.  They can advise on the sometimes challenging and complex process of moving across areas with these. Contact them at – [email protected] 

Register the need with the RAF

If your child has special educational needs and disabilities then you are strongly advised to register with CEAS.Ensuring that CEA and the RAF are fully aware of your family’s circumstances will mean that CEAS can help more efficiently  – for instance with the transfer process across local authorities and Career Managers can take these needs into account. 


If your child has a disability, the SSAFA Forces Help website page for families with special needs and disabilities is very helpful. Alternatively go to the Family support section on our website.

Further help and advice

Outside of sources specifically for defence, parents can find advice and guidance from independent advice services – there are many available but here are a few: 

England – Council for disabled children 
Wales – SNAP Cymru
Northern Ireland – SENAC
Scotland – Enquire
Special Needs Jungle