Obtaining an assessment of your child's special educational needs (statementing)
Some children will not have their needs met through joint planning and funding initiatives. Some may have needs over and above any joint initiative that is in place. For these children, and for children where all the needs have not yet been identified and drawn together, a very good way forward is to assess formally with a view to drawing up a Statement of Special Educational Need.
The process of assessing and meeting special educational needs (SEN) is governed by a Code of Practice. This must be considered by Local Authorities (LAs) and schools as they set out to meet needs and they must not do less than is set out in this code. This is available free of charge from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Local authorities will send you a leaflet or booklet telling you how they identify and meet SEN in your area. They will also tell you the name of a local Parent Partnership scheme where you can get free confidential advice and support for all stages of assessing and meeting SEN.
The following is a simplified guide focusing on how you can influence the outcome of an assessment and ensure that your child’s needs are identified. Remember you cannot meet a need if it has not been identified. For more detailed information you may wish to read the Code of Practice yourself or ask a local Parent Partnership scheme to explain it more fully.
Starting the statementing process
1. You can request a formal assessment of your child’s special educational needs at any time.
2. You need to write to your Local Authority (LA) to ask them to formally assess your child’s needs (sample letter attached as Appendix A).
3. The LA has six weeks to decide whether or not to assess and should then write to you to tell you if they are going to assess or not.
4. If they decide not to assess they should explain why and this may satisfy you. If it doesn’t you can challenge this through the First Tier Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Tribunal (SENDisT). The LA must tell you how you can do this and the local Parent Partnership (PP) scheme should be able to support you.
5. If they decide to assess you will be asked to tell them all about your child. You will want to tell them about your concerns and about all the good things your child can do.
- You can tell them what people you would like them to get reports from such as Playgroup, Portage, Sure Start, School for Parents or therapists.
- You can tell them if your child is sleepy in the mornings or afternoons so that they can assess when she is feeling wide awake.
- You can tell them when you would or would not be available for assessments or any appointments the child has.
- If more things occur to you as the assessment progresses you can send the LA additional information or reports that you may have and they may not have access to.
6. If they assess you will be asked to attend assessments with medical and educational professionals. You will want to think about what to ask these people in order to help you understand what they are doing.
When you attend assessments
An assessment may be carried out by a psychologist, doctor or therapist. You can use the following tips when meeting with any professionals and whether or not the assessment is for a statement or not.
Ask the assessor:
- What he/she is trying to find out about your child.
- How does he/she plan to go about it. (Perhaps the assessor will show you the test materials, the room or explain the sequence of actions.)
- After the assessment ask what he or she found out and what affect that is likely to have on your child’s learning in school.
- Follow this up with questions about how the needs can be met.
- Will your child need special equipment?
- Will there be a need for extra staff?
- Will staff need training?
If possible, write the answers down and agree these with the assessor before you leave. Ask the assessor to send you a copy of the report at the same time as s/he sends it to the LA. You have to request this. They will normally only send these reports to the LA and you may not see them for several months!
The report has been commissioned by the LA and you have no absolute right to see it prior to the LA sending it to you but it is good practice to do so.
When you get the reports
- Read them through.
- Check them against your memory or the notes you made.
- Does the report say the things you talked to the assessor about?
- Does the report mention the equipment; staff or training you talked about?
If the report is not what you expected contact the assessor and ask to meet him or her and talk it through. Someone from a parent partnership scheme may be able to go with you.
Once you have a good report you will be able to ask the Local Authority how the needs identified will be met whether or not a statement is produced. Schools already receive money to support special education but the LA has the responsibility for ensuring that your child’s needs are met, either directly when there is a statement or indirectly where the needs are being met through School / Early Years Action.
Once the LA has the reports
Once the LA has all the reports they will decide whether to make a statement or not.
If they think the school can meet the needs without a statement they will issue a Note in Lieu. This looks like a statement and some parents have not understood that it is not a statement. The best way to make sure that you know what you have been given is to check it out with your local Parent Partnership scheme.
If you are not happy with the Note in Lieu you can challenge the decision not to statement through the First Tier (SEN and Disabilities Tribunal).
If the LA thinks they need to oversee your child’s education they will issue a Proposed Statement. This will arrive with a note setting out time limits for you to challenge the contents. You will be asked to name a school. If you have already agreed a school this is easy otherwise you may need to seek support. At this stage you can ask them to make changes to the contents of the statement. You should put your concerns in writing and be prepared to meet with the LA to talk things through.
If you are happy with the contents the LA will automatically issue a Final Statement naming a school. If this is the school you want then this is great but if this is not the school you want or if the LA has not made the changes you wanted you can challenge this through the First Tier Tribunal (SENDisT).
Description of the Statement
The statement is in six parts:
1. Details of the child – address, name, date of birth
2. Educational Needs – this is everything that the child has as part of his learning need or disability. Basically everything that causes concern. Concerns could be that he is very bright but won’t be able to write things down or could be about mobility, hearing, attention and so on.
3. Educational Provision in two parts setting out the aims of the provision then what provision is to be made. It is important to check in this section that the needs are really detailed in the same way as in the reports. Phrases like “access to” and “regular” may have little value if you need to enforce provision. Speech and language therapy should normally be placed in this section. Aids and equipment should also be either detailed here or how the child will get these should be detailed.
4. Placement – this will normally be a mainstream school but may not be the school of choice. If you have requested a particular mainstream or special school and do not get it named you will need to seek support to challenge this with the authority.
5. Non – Educational Needs - detail everything that is not educational, for example health needs. If the child has transport needs that are in excess of what is normally provided in your area this sould be detailed here.
6. Non-Educational Provision – how the non-educational needs will be met.
Following the above sections which make up the actual statement you should have attached all the reports submitted by the professionals.
The statement should always detail what is expected to happen for the child. It is not acceptable to write that a school should follow the advice set out in one of the reports without actually detailing a summary of that advice.
Please note that only the first four sections can be challenged at the First Tier (SEN and Disabilities Tribunal.)
What you can do when you get the statement
How will you know if the statement is a good one?
- Read the reports.
- Check what the reports recommend.
- Check if these appear in the statement. Remember that everything your child should have in school to support his or her education should be in Section 3 Educational Provision.
- Get support from a local Parent Partnership scheme.
If the statement does not reflect the reports, is vague, names a different school or has put vital therapies in Non-Educational Provision, you should do the following:
- Seek support.
- Ask the LA to give you information about going to First Tier Tribunal (SENDisT) to challenge their decision.
- Make sure you have grounds to challenge the decision for example if you don’t like the school but it would actually meet the child’s needs you will have a very poor chance of a successful challenge. However if the educational psychologist has written that your child should be assessed for a computer to support his or her learning and that has not been written in you have a very good chance of getting that changed. PP schemes should help you.
- Gather information from the reports and from any additional reports you may have or that you don’t think the LA has properly considered.
What else is there other than Tribunal?
- Talk to the LA officer with the support of the PP scheme.
- Ask if an independent mediation service can support these discussions.
Neither of these avenues will prevent you from going to the First Tier Tribunal (SENDisT) providing you register your objection to the statement within two months of getting the Final Statement. You can register your objections with the First Tier Tribunal (SENDisT) and still pursue other ways forward.
Most statements set out clearly what the child’s needs are and what will be done to meet them. Some parents, however, do not realise they do not have a good enough statement until the time limit has passed and the child fails to make progress or is not getting the sort of provision the parent thought they would get. Local Authorities want to help your child succeed and will usually be very willing to talk through any concerns you may have.
Some of you will already have a statement and will be concerned about annual reviews. These are a legal requirement and should take place at least once a year. They should review progress against the targets in the statement and decide one of three things:
1. The child has attained all the targets and no longer requires a statement.
2. The child’s needs have changed and the statement needs to be modified.
3. The child still needs the provision set out in the statement.
The annual review will recommend one of these to the local education authority. If the annual review recommends either that the statement should finish or that it should change the LA has to consider that and decide whether to do anything about it. If the LA decides to finish the statement they will tell the parents in writing and also tell them that they can appeal this through the tribunal as before.
If the LA decides to change the statement they will issue an amended statement and again they will tell the parents in writing that they can object to the statement and the amendments. If the LA decides to change the statement the whole statement can be appealed.
- The LA decides to change the statement by naming a different school.
- The parents don’t want that school and they also want other changes to the statement based on new evidence. They may want a different type of school and they want equipment that has been recommended but not written into the new statement.
- The parents go to tribunal to appeal both to the school and to the fact that the recommended equipment has not been include in the amended statement.
However, if the LA takes the third course of action and decides not to amend the statement there is no way to go back to tribunal even if changes have been suggested and recommended to the LA. In 2009 it was suggested that the right to appeal about no change to the statement would be given to parents but to date (May 2010) this has not gone through.
In this case the parents would have to request a re-assessment to try to get the changes incorporated into a brand new statement.
APPENDIX A Sample letter
To LA Pupil Support Office
I am writing to request that you make a formal assessment/re-assessment of my son/daughter ………….. (state name and date of birth), who attends …………. (state - school or pre school group).
I understand that you have six weeks to consider my request and hope that the following will help you:
(Describe here any concerns and any reports you may have).
I believe these show that our child has needs over and above those usually met at this stage of education and that the LA will need to fully assess the extent of need in order to make adequate educational provision.
I expect to hear from you before ………….. (insert date six weeks and three working days from date of this letter). Should you decide not to assess I hope you will provide me with information to allow me to take my appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (SEN and Disabilities}.
I would also like to have the phone number and contact details of a parent partnership group that provides independent parental advice.
Statementing: further information
The following organisations may be useful in providing advice and information on all aspects of special education and statementing.
Advisory Centre for Education
Tel: 0808 800 5793 (Advice 2–5pm)
Fax: 020 7354 9069
(only for those that cannot access telephones due to a disability)
Offers guidance to parents and other on all aspects of school education. Various publications.
Tel: 0845 077 4055
Network 81 is a national network of parents working towards properly resourced inclusive education for children with special educational needs.
Alliance for Inclusive Education
Tel: 020 7737 6030
Fax: 020 7735 3828
Aims to end compulsory segregation of children with disabilities or learning difficulties from mainstream schools and communities. Membership, newsletter and publications.
Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)
Tel: 0117 328 4007
Fax: 0117 328 4005
CSIE works towards inclusive education for all children. It provides help and support for children who have disabilities or learning difficulties and who wish to remain in mainstream education.
Gabbitas Educational Consultants Ltd
Tel: 020 7734 0161
Fax: 020 7437 1764
GES produces a guide to special education needs education in the UK with details of over 2,000 educational establishments with provision for special needs.
Independent Panel for Special Education Advice
Tel: 0800 0184016 (advice line) (Mon to Fri 10am – 4pm, plus Mon to Thurs evenings 7pm – 9pm)
Tribunal Help Line: 0845 602 9579 Mon, Wed and Thurs 10.00 – 1.00pm
Advice for parents which may include problems with LEA over assessment or statements and help with appealing to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
Parents Partnership Services
Parent Partnership Services (PPS) are statutory services offering information, advice and support to parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs (SEN). PPS have a role in making sure that parents’ views are heard and understood and that these views inform local policy and practice. For more information please have a look on their website or call them on or call on 020 7843 6058.
National Parent Partnership Network (NPPN) website: www.parentpartnership.org.uk
Direct Gov Website
This website has update information about statementing, your local Parents Partnership Service and a booklet on SEN and resources related to special educational needs.
Improving the quality of statements of special educational needs: Good practice in writing statements
This is updated document (published in March 2010) on statements of special educational needs.
Contact Scope Response for information, advice and support on cerebral palsy and disability issues.
This information was last reviewed February 2011.
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