Skip to main content


EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.6 Social inclusion through education and training

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 25/10/2020 - 22:46

On this page
  1. Educational support
  2. Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Educational support

Special educational needs and disabilities

The Children and Families Act 2014 sets out the support which local authorities are required to provide to children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). Under the Act, a child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her. A child of compulsory school age (5 to 16) or a young person aged 16 to 25 has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

  • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age or 
  • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions. 

The Act secures the general presumption in law of mainstream education in relation to decisions about where children and young people with SEN should be educated, although separate provision in special schools may be made in particular cases for those with complex needs.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years  outlines ‘four broad areas of need’ which should be planned for. These are:

  • communication and interaction 
  • cognition and learning 
  • social, emotional and mental health difficulties
  • sensory and/or physical needs.

There are two broad categories of support:

  • Special educational needs support / SEN support is the support given to a child or young person in their pre-school, school or further education institution from within the school or college’s overall budget, up to a nationally prescribed (financial) threshold per student per year
  • Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans are for children and young people aged up to 25 with more complex needs, who need more support than is available through SEN support. They aim to provide a unified approach, including a young person’s education, health care and social care needs. Young people and parents of children who have EHC plans have the right to request a Personal Budget to use in support of their needs.

Schools must appoint a member of staff as a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). The SENCO is a member of staff who has responsibility for coordinating special educational needs provision.

Specific support that children or young people may be provided with includes: working in small groups; extra help from classroom/teaching assistants; encouragement; practical assistance with mobility etc. While different teaching approaches may be used, the general requirement is that all pupils with SEN will be enabled to access the full curriculum.Disabled pupils may need access to specialist equipment. In some cases, external specialist support may be used.

For young people (aged 16+) in further education colleges, the SEND Code of Practice suggests ) that the type of support which might be given could include: assistive technology; personal care (or access to it); specialist tuition; note takers; interpreters; one-to-one and small group learning support; independent living training; accessible information such as symbol-based materials; access to therapies such as speech and language therapy. 

Under the Equality Act 2010, schools, colleges and universities need to have in place access arrangements so that students with SEN are able to participate fully in internal school tests, mock examinations and external examinations, without, however, changing the demands of these assessments. Examples of the type of reasonable adjustments and access arrangements which might be made include readers, scribes and Braille question papers.

For higher education students who have extra expenses as a direct result of a disability, support is provided through Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA). Allowances may cover:

  • non-medical help for students requiring non-medical personal assistance e.g. readers for blind students or sign-language interpreters for deaf students
  • specialist equipment
  • general expenses arising from attendance at the course
  • extra travel costs arising from the disability.

Looked after children

Under the Children Act 1989, local authorities have a duty to promote the educational achievement of looked after children.

Looked after children are given priority in school admissions, must be enrolled only in good or outstanding schools and have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) as part of their overall care plan.

Local authorities’ responsibilities extend  to looked after 16- to 17-year-olds. Statutory guidance sets out local authorities’ duties in supporting transitions from care. Local authorities should ensure that:

  • links are made with further education (FE) colleges and higher education (HE) institutions and that care leavers are supported to find establishments that understand and work to meet the needs of looked after children and care leavers;
  • each eligible care leaver knows about the 16-19 Bursary Fund; and 
  • each eligible care leaver receives a bursary of £2,000 when going on to study a recognised HE course and that arrangements for the payment of the bursary are agreed by the young person as part of the overall package of support that a local authority provides to its care leavers.

Pupils/students whose first language is not English

The Government’s framework document for the National Curriculum, in the section on ‘Responding to pupils’ needs and overcoming potential barriers for individuals and groups of pupils’, states teachers must also take account of the needs of pupils whose first language is not English. Monitoring of progress should take account of the pupil’s age, length of time in this country, previous educational experience and ability in other languages.

Teachers should plan teaching opportunities to help pupils develop their English and should aim to provide the support pupils need to take part in all subjects.It is normal practice for those pupils whose first language is not English to be integrated into mainstream education, with additional language support if needed.Funding regulations state that local school funding formulae may take into account certain ‘allowable factors’ which include English as an additional language. There is currently no financial support provided to schools by central government specifically to support pupils with English as an additional language (EAL). However, local authorities in England can opt to include EAL in their local formulae for allocating their dedicated schools grant (DSG) schools block funding for 2018-19 to schools in their area, as part of the National Funding Formula (NFF). A report on this states: 

The distribution of the EAL rates for both primary and secondary pupils shows a significant movement towards the NFF values of £515 and £1,385. For the primary 14 indicator 69% of local authorities are allocating between £500 and £750 per pupil. For the secondary indicator 59% are allocating between £1,250 and £1,500 per pupil. 

You can read more here

In assessments and tests relating to National Curriculum English, learners' answers are required in English. Some access arrangements can be made in other subjects, such as mathematics.

Alternative provision

Alternative provision settings provide education for children who can’t go to a mainstream school because of exclusion, illness or other reasons and who would not otherwise receive suitable education. Schools may also arrange such off-site education for pupils when their behaviour has been poor.

The Government’s March 2016 White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere,set out its intention to reform the current alternative provision system, which makes it difficult for those leaving alternative provision to find suitable post-16 provision. Schools, rather than local authorities will become responsible for commissioning such provision. Local authorities will retain a role in ensuring sufficiency of alternative provision in their area.Based on the White Paper, The Government launched the Alternative Provision Innovation Fund in March 2018. It seeks to fund and develop projects that help improve outcomes for children in alternative provision settings. An example is Cognus’ programme in Sutton, helping young people achieve good academic progress in alternative provision, as well as successful transitioning from alternative provision to further education, employment and training. 

For more information on alternative provision, see the article ‘Inclusive Programmes for Young People’ in the ‘Social Inclusion’ chapter and DfE guidance for local authorities.

Widening participation in higher education

Widening participation in higher education is regarded as a vehicle for increasing social mobility. In 2014, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published a National strategy for access and student success, developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

The strategy aims to:

  • make significant and sustained improvements in the participation rates for the most disadvantaged groups and in the diversity of the student population
  • narrow the gap in the participation rates in and across higher education between advantaged and disadvantaged groups.

These underrepresented and disadvantaged groups may include, but are not limited to:

  • people from lower socio-economic groups or from neighbourhoods where higher education participation is low
  • people from low income backgrounds
  • some ethnic groups or sub-groups, including White males from economically disadvantaged backgrounds
  • disabled people
  • mature and part-time learners
  • care leavers
  • carers
  • people estranged from their families
  • people from gypsy and Traveller communities
  • refugees
  • students with mental health problems, Specific Learning Difficulties and/or who are on the autism spectrum.

The 2020 statistics for widening participation in higher education offer some insight into the current landscape in England. For example, the gap in progression rates by age 19 between Free School Meal and non-Free School Meal pupils has increased to 18.8 percentage points - up 0.2 percentage points since last year and the highest gap since 2006/07. Additionally, the progression rates for pupils with Special Education Needs lag well behind those for other pupils. 8.9% of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN progressed to HE by age 19 by 2018/19 compared to 20.6% of pupils on SEN Support and 47.3% for pupils with no SEN.

You can read more here.

Advance HE (formerly the Equality Challenge Unit) works to remove barriers to further education. It provides a central resource of advice and guidance for the sector. Advance HE is a registered charity whose charitable objective is to support strategic change and continuous improvement through the development of individuals and organisations of higher education.

The Government’s May 2016 White Paper Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, refers to two goals set by the then Prime Minister on widening participation:

  • doubling the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering university in 2020 compared to 2009
  • increasing the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) students going to university by 20% by 2020.

For further information on special educational needs see the articles in the Eurydice national description for England:

Introduction to the Educational Support and Guidance chapter

Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

See also ‘Youth work to foster social inclusion’ in the Social Inclusion' chapter .


The Pupil Premium, mentioned above in relation to looked after children, also covers deprived pupils (those eligible for free school meals). There is also a 'service premium' for children and young people with parents in the armed forces. See subheading 'Pupil Premium for Disadvantaged Pupils' in the article ‘Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education’ in the Eurydice national description for England. Further information is also available on the Department for Education’s website.

Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Equality legislation

The Equality Act 2010 created the Public Sector Equality Duty, which places public bodies, including schools, further education colleges and higher education institutions, under a general duty to carry out their functions with due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
  • foster good relations across all characteristics between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

The Department for Education’s advice for schools regarding the Equality Act include outlining ways in which the curriculum could be taught in a discriminatory way and highlighting ways to prevent this e.g The girls’ cricket team are not allowed equal access to the cricket nets, or the boys’ hockey team is given far better resources than the girls’ team. 

The protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

The Act applies to all schools, both publicly funded and independent fee-paying schools, higher education authorities and further education colleges.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has provided guidance on the provisions of the Act as regards further and higher education institutions.

‘Prevent’ Duty

From 1 July 2015, a wide range of public-facing bodies, including all schools, colleges and universities, became subject to the ‘Prevent’ duty. This is a duty to have due regard to preventing people being drawn into terrorism. Specific guidance for early years providers and schools and further education institutions and higher education institutions is available. Broadly speaking, these guidelines discuss the importance of safeguard training for teachers, as well as training in identifying children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, and risk assessment.

School curriculum

All maintained schools must meet the requirements set out in section 78 of the Education Act 2002 and promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of their pupils. Academies are subject to the same requirements under the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010.

Through ensuring pupils’ SMSC development, schools can also demonstrate they are actively promoting fundamental British values. These, as set out in the Government’s 2011 ‘Prevent’ strategy are:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty
  • mutual respect
  • tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.

Opportunities for developing social cohesion and an understanding of equality may be provided through personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), which all schools should make provision for, or in any other subjects or topics which schools may choose to introduce. The PSHE Association has developed a programme of study for PSHE, endorsed by the Government and to be taught at key stages 1-5. It is based around three areas - health and wellbeing, relationships, and living in the wider world. For these three areas at Key Stage 5, (the relevant key stage for this discussion as it’s for 16 year olds onwards) learning opportunities include: establishing positive mental health practices, respecting and understanding different cultural beliefs and views, recognising and managing bullying or harassment in the workplace, and celebrating cultural diversity to name a few. More information can be found here.

An updated curriculum of PSHE is mandatory in schools from September 2020.  

Teachers’ standards

The minimum standards which the Government sets for teachers to meet include that they must establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect and set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions.

Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others and not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

Programmes for youth organisations and schools

The Diana Award’s peer-to-peer Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme offers resources and training to schools and youth organisations across the UK. Following training, young people become Anti-Bullying Ambassadors in their schools and youth organisations. In their role they help educate their peers on bullying, lead on anti-bullying campaigns, promote a culture which celebrates and tolerates difference and help keep their peers safe both online and offline.

Internet Matters, a Department for Education funded tool, works to support reporting of cyber-bullying to schools.