Talking to school about adjustments for your child

As a parent of a disabled child, you will want your child to get an education that meets their needs and abilities.

The law states that schools should not treat disabled students unfavourably. This means that they are not allowed to:

  • refuse to admit a child because of their impairment or condition

  • discriminate against them by not meeting their needs

  • allow harassment by teachers or students related to their condition.

Schools must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that your child can study. Schools and nurseries have a legal duty to identify children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). They do this when your child starts school and throughout their school life.

Children with education, health and care (EHC) plans have more legal rights to the specific support in their plans.

Talking to the school

The first person to talk to about your child’s needs is their head teacher. You may also want to talk to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). All schools have a SENCO. It is the SENCO’s job to work with teachers, parents and health professionals to meet pupils’ special educational needs.

Ask for an appointment with the SENCO.

What should I say to the SENCO?

Explain why your child needs extra support. If the school is unaware of your child’s needs, ask for a SEN assessment. If your child needs extra support, the SENCO and your child’s teacher create a support plan with you. This will include details of the adjustments and the help your child will get.

Special Education Needs (SEN)

If a school believes that your child has special educational needs, they must contact you to discuss what support is available. Often, your GP or another professional will also refer your child for support.

Support is available for your child throughout their education. You should have a say in this, as should young people aged 16 to 25. Schools must do their best to support children with special educational needs.

Supporting children with special educational needs is a cycle. After a review, there will probably be another assessment.

  • Assessment: Evaluating your child’s needs and the support required. This will involve input from you, teachers and other professionals.

  • Planning: An agreed support plan will talk about what the school will do.

  • Doing: The school will support your child, as agreed in the plan.

  • Review: The school will review how your child is progressing. This is your chance to say how your child is doing, and to say if they’re getting the support they need.

Your child has a SEN plan, but is not getting the help

Talk to the educational department in your local authority, and apply for:

  • an education, health and care (EHC) plan (England)

  • a statement (Wales)

You will need evidence to show how your school has tried to support your child, and why it has not worked. Reports from professionals will help. These can include people you’ve paid privately.

Special educational needs and disabilities: a guide to parents and carers (GOV.UK)

Support from your local authority

The local authority must provide parents of SEN children with information and advice. The SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years says the authority must:

  • provide support to children and their parents so that the child can do well in education and prepare properly for adulthood

  • have regard for the views and wishes of the child and their parents

  • ensure that children and their parents take part as fully as possible in decisions affecting them.

Go to your local authority’s website to find out about local information, advice and support services for families of disabled children.

All local authorities must develop a Local Offer. This covers education, health and social care services available in the local area for children with SEN. These services vary from area to area.

Find your Local Offer.

Adjustments schools can make

Adjustments will depend on your child’s needs.

For example, if your child has a hearing or visual impairment, they may sit at the front of the class nearest the teacher. If your child has difficulty writing, they may have a note-taker or learning support assistant.

There is no set definition for ‘reasonable’ adjustments. But they have to:

  • be affordable
  • be effective
  • not affect other pupils’ learning

Education, health and care (EHC) plans

If your child has a special educational needs (SEN) plan, and they are not getting the support that they need, an education health and care plan can help. EHC plans:

  • are more specific
  • can include support in education, health and social care funded by your local authority
  • mean that you have legal rights to the support in the plan

Example: Your child needs help with speech and language

The school writes a SEN plan with you. The plan includes regular support from a teaching assistant in a group. The assistant is guided by a speech and language therapist. The plan includes the difference that the support should make (outcomes).

The school has tried to support your child, but your child is not making the progress described in the plan. Your child needs specific help that the school cannot provide through SEN support. After reviewing the SEN plan, your school agrees that your child is not making expected progress. The school applies for an EHC needs assessment. This leads to an EHC plan.

The EHC plan includes funding for a speech and language therapist. Each week they will spend:

  • 1 hour giving ‘direct’ support to your child
  • 1 hour giving ‘indirect’ support to your child’s teacher

It’s easier if your school applies for you

It’s easier to get an education health and care assessment when your school agrees that you child needs one, and applies to your local authority.

You can apply to your local authority

Your school does not have to apply for you. Give the authority evidence to show what your child needs, how the school has tried to meet them and why this has not worked.

Template letter asking your local authority for an education health and care assessment (IPSEA)

Your local authority has 6 weeks to say if they will assess your child

Once it has received the request for an education, health and care assessment, the local authority may take up to 6 weeks to decide if they will do the assessment.

Template letter complaining when your local authority does not respond before the 6-week time limit (IPSEA)

Reviewing education health and care (EHC) plans

Your local authority must review education, health and care plans every year.

For a review, the local authority must:

  1. consult with the parent of the child or young person and their school about the plan
  2. organise a review meeting to discuss the plan with the parent of the child or young person and their school
  3. share information gathered from parents, young people and professionals about the plan 2 weeks before the review meeting
  4. share a report of what happened during the review, and send it to everyone who provided information used in the review
  5. review the education, health and care plan after the meeting
  6. tell parents about their decision within 4 weeks of the review meeting

Last reviewed by Scope on: 27/04/2018

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