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The term Special Educational Needs (SEN) has a legal definition. Children with special educational needs have learning difficulties or impairments that make it harder for them to learn, than most children the same age. They might need additional or different help from that given to other children the same age.
Children with SEN might need additional help with a range of needs, such as:
Many children have additional or special educational needs of some kind at different times during their education. Schools and other organisations can help most children overcome these difficulties easily and quickly, but a few children will need extra help for most or all of their time at school.
It is important to refer to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. This is an easy-to-read guide on how and when a child will need additional support. It can be downloaded free from the Department of Education website.
The Code of Practice governs the process of assessing and meeting special educational needs. Local authorities and schools must consider the Code when deciding how to meet your child’s needs and they must not do less than is set out in the code.
Some children with SEN will go through a formal process of assessing their educational needs and will receive what is referred to as a “Statement”. You should be told if the Local Authority decides not to assess your child and why.
Your child will be assessed and tested by a range of professionals, in addition to information from the school. You will be asked to talk about your child’s needs and difficulties, including how they are at different times of the day. You should also be asked to attend any assessments with medical or educational professionals. A document will then be produced detailing your child’s needs and how these will be met.
Read the government's full Guide to SEN Assessments.
Get support from a local Parent Partnership Scheme (your Local Education Authority should be able to give you contact details).
Remember everything your child should have in school to support his or her education should be in Section 3 – Educational Provision.
If the Statement does not reflect the reports, is vague, names a different school or has put vital therapies in the Non Educational Provision section you may be able to challenge the decision through the First-Tier Tribunal (SENDisT). It is a good idea to seek advice from your local Parent Partnership Scheme or specialist organisations.
You might already have a Statement but may be concerned about annual reviews. These are a legal requirement. They should review progress against the targets in the Statement and decide one of three things:
The annual review will recommend one of these to the Local Authority (LA). If the annual review recommends that the Statement should finish or change, the LA has to consider that and decide what action to take. If the decision is that the child no longer needs to be “statemented” they should inform parents in writing and give details of appeal procedures at tribunal.
If the decision is to change, an amended Statement will be issued and again parents will be informed in writing. Again the whole statement can be appealed.
It is advisable that you seek advice from your local parent partnership scheme or specialist agency such as IPSEA.
The following organisations may be useful in providing advice and information on all aspects of special education and statementing.
Alliance for Inclusive Education
Tel: 020 7737 6030
National campaigning and information sharing network who believe all disabled learners have the right to access and be supported in mainstream education.
Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)
Tel: 0117 353 3150
CSIE works to promote inclusion in UK education.
Department for Education
Tel: 0870 000 2288
Gabbitas Educational Consultants Ltd
Tel: 020 7734 0161
Gabbitas produce a guide to special education needs education in the UK with details of over 2,000 educational establishments with provision for special needs. Provides advice on all aspects of independent education.
Government site giving advice on a wide range of issues, entitlements and benefits.
Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
Tel: 0800 0184016 (general advice line)
Tribunal Help Line: 0845 602 9579
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.
Tel: 0845 120 3730 (Helpline)
National charity aiming to advance the education of people in Wales.
The law says that children do not have learning difficulties just because English isn't their first language. Of course, some of these children could also have learning difficulties.
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