Many children, at some time, will have special educational needs of some kind. The law says that all state schools must do their best to see that special help is provided for all children with SEN. Most children’s needs can be met by their ordinary (mainstream) school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists. In a few cases, the local education authority (LEA) will have to make an assessment of a child’s educational needs, based on specialist advice. If the LEA then decide that the child needs special help, they must write a statement of special educational needs -usually called ‘a statement’. This describes all the child’s needs and all the special help that he or she needs. The child’s ordinary school and the LEA can usually provide this help with support from the LEA.
If your child still does not seem to be making enough progress or needs a lot more extra help, the LEA may decide to carry out a more detailed assessment of your child’s needs.
* Your child’s school or early education setting can ask the LEA to carry out a statutory assessment (see the next section). They should always talk to you before asking the LEA.
* If you feel that your child’s school or early education setting cannot provide all the extra help that your child needs, or yourt child is not making enough progress and so is falling further behind other children of the same age, you can ask the LEA to carry out a statutory assessment.
You should always talk to your child’s teachers or the SENCO before asking the LEA. You can always ask them to help you write to the LEA, or you can ask the local parent partnership service or a voluntary agency for help.
What is a statutory assessment?
This is a detailed investigation to find out exactly what your child’s special educational needs are and what special help your child needs. A statutory assessment is only necessary if the school or early education setting cannot provide all the help that your child needs.
When you, the early education setting or the school ask the LEA to carry out a statutory assessment, the LEA normally have six weeks to decide whether to do so. They will consider very carefully your child’s progress at school and the guidance in the SEN Code of Practice. They will also listen to your views and to the views of your child’s school about your child’s special educational needs. The school or early education setting will tell the LEA about any special help they have already given to your child.
Remember – your local parent partnership service is there to help you at any point.
How long will you have to wait for the LEA to decide whether your child should have an assessment?
The LEA will look at the request for a statutory assessment and will tell you (normally within six weeks) whether they will carry out an assessment.
As soon as the LEA start looking at the request for a statutory assessment they will write to you and:
tell you that they are considering whether to carry out a statutory assessment
tell you how they will carry out the statutory assessment if one is done
explain the timescales (which will be no longer than six months in all)
give you the name of the person at the LEA who will be your point of contact (the Named Officer)
ask you to give written or spoken reasons, called ‘evidence’, about why you think your child should or should not be assessed (you have at least 29 days to send this in to the LEA)
tell you about the LEA’s parent partnership service who will be able to help you with independent advice and support
ask you if there is anyone else you would particularly like the LEA to talk to about your child
ask you for any evidence or opinions you have collected or intend to get
encourage you to provide written or spoken evidence for the LEA to consider (the LEA or the parent partnership service can help you make a written version).
LEAs have six weeks to tell you whether they will carry out a statutory assessment of your child. If LEAs take longer than six weeks, you should ask the Named Officer to explain the delay.
If you are not happy with the answer or the reason for the delay, you can talk to the local parent partnership service or ask the LEA to arrange to sort out the disagreement informally through an independent person.
As a last resort you can complain to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills about an unreasonable delay. The Secretary of State can tell the LEA to tell you whether they will be carrying out a statutory assessment. The LEA or the parent partnership service will be able to give you details of how to make a complaint about such a delay.
What can you do if the LEA decide
not to assess your child?
If the LEA decide not to carry out a statutory assessment of your child, they must write and tell you and the school their reasons. You or the school may still feel that more needs to be done to meet your child’s educational needs. You should talk to the school to find out what can be done. They may consider different arrangements or outside help will be appropriate. You can also talk to the local parent partnership service.
Even if the LEA decide that your child does not need a statutory assessment, your child can still get extra help.
If the LEA decide not to carry out a statutory assessment, you have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal if you disagree with the LEA’s decision.
The LEA should tell you about local arrangements for sorting out any disagreement informally, your right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal and the time limits for appealing. It is important that you begin any appeal to the Tribunal within the time limit as the Tribunal are likely to refuse to hear your appeal if you are late.
Very few children need a statutory assessment.
If the LEA carry out an assessment, they will ask a number of professionals to give their views on your child. The LEA will ask for advice from:
your child’s school or early education setting
an educational psychologist
social services (who will only give advice if they know your child)
anyone else whose advice the LEA consider appropriate.
You have the right to be present at any interview, medical or other test during the statutory assessment, but sometimes the professionals may ask to see your child without you. Children sometimes behave differently when a parent is present.
You will also be asked for your views again – this is separate from asking you whether you think your child should be assessed.
You should feel free to suggest any other people or organisations you know whose views may be helpful in the assessment of your child. The LEA should then ask for their views. You may also send the LEA any private advice or opinions you have collected about your child and the LEA should take these into account as part of the assessment.
You have an essential part to play because you know your child better than anyone else.
Your views will be very welcome and you should feel free to ask questions at any time. The parent partnership service or an LEA officer can help you. Your concerns, views and knowledge of your child are very important – you know your child best.
The LEA will help you think about how to give your views. They may have guidelines to help you take part in your child’s assessment. It is important to get as much advice and support as you feel you need. You may want to consider asking:
the local parent partnership service
voluntary organisations working with children and young people
other parent support groups.
The Named Officer of the LEA should help explain the assessment process. You should feel free to contact them at any time.
To help the LEA carry out the assessment quickly, when they ask what you think, you should try to reply within six weeks. The LEA may give a deadline for you to give your views. The LEA will tell you if this is the case, and the deadline will be 29 days or more.
The LEA may also ask what your child thinks about their SEN. What your child thinks can play an important part in the LEA’s assessment. If your child needs help to give their views to the LEA, you, a teacher or another professional can help.
Timetable for assessment
There are some exceptions to this timetable when the overall time may be longer than 26 weeks. If this is likely, the LEA will tell you the reason for the delay.
What happens after the assessment?
A statement of special educational needs sets out your child’s needs and all the special help they should have. Once your LEA’s SEN officers have collected all the advice and comments about your child’s educational needs, they will decide whether to make a statement of SEN for your child. They will normally tell you their decision no more than 12 weeks after they decided to carry out an assessment.
After the assessment the LEA may decide it is necessary to write down all the information they have collected in a document called a statement of special educational needs (usually called a statement).
The LEA should normally write and tell you whether they are going to write a statement within 12 weeks of beginning the assessment.
If the LEA decide not to make a statement, they will explain their reasons and tell you how they think your child’s needs should be met in school, in an early education setting or in any other way.
What if you disagree with the LEA’s decision?
The LEA should tell you about the local arrangements for sorting out disagreements and your right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal. You have the right to appeal to the SEN Tribunal even if you are using the disagreement resolution service as well (see if you disagree with the LEA section).
What is a statement?
A statement will describe all your child’s SEN and the special help your child should receive. The LEA will usually make a statement if they decide that all the special help your child needs cannot be provided from within the school’s resources. These resources could include money, staff time and special equipment.
A statement of SEN is set out in six parts.
Part 1 gives your own and your child’s name and address, and your child’s date of birth, home language and religion. It also lists all the advice the LEA received as part of the assessment.
Part 2 gives details of all of your child’s SEN as identified in the statutory assessment.
Part 3 describes:
all the special help that the LEA think your child should get to meet the needs listed in part 2
what the long-term aims are
the arrangements for setting short-term goals, regularly reviewing your child’s progress towards those goals, and how your child’s progress is to be monitored.
Part 4 tells you about the school your child will go to to get the special help set out in part 3, or how any arrangements will be made out of school hours or off school premises.
Part 5 describes any non-educational needs your child has, as agreed between the LEA and the health services, social services or other agencies.
Part 6 describes how your child will get help to meet the non-educational needs described in part 5.
The LEA must send, with the statement, copies of all the advice they got from you and from other people and organisations during the statutory assessment.
What happens once a statement has been prepared for your child?
Before the LEA’s SEN officers write a final statement, they will send you a ‘proposed statement’ – that is, a draft of the statement. All the parts listed above will be filled in, except part 4 (describing the type and name of the school) which will be left blank.
With your copy of the draft statement the LEA will send you a letter telling you how you can give your views on the proposed statement before it is finalised. Your views will be welcome. You may want to consider getting more help and support at this stage.
Can you choose your child’s school?
The LEA will send you details of schools that are suitable for children with special educational needs. The LEA will send you details of state mainstream and special schools in the area. They will also send you a list of all schools known as ‘non-maintained’ special schools and all independent schools that are approved by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills as suitable for children with SEN.
You have a right to say which state school you want your child to go to, either mainstream or special. This can be the school they already go to. The LEA must agree with your preference as long as:
the school you choose is suitable for your child’s age, ability, skills and SEN;
your child’s presence will not damage the education of other children already at the school; and
placing your child in the school will be an efficient use of the LEA’s resources.
Special schools usually take children with particular types of special needs. Many ordinary schools also have special provision for children with particular needs. For example, they may have good access for physically-disabled pupils or special teaching for pupils with hearing or sight difficulties or dyslexia. You can ask to see schools’ policies on SEN to make sure you know what they can offer. You can also visit a number of schools if you want to. The LEA will send you details of how you can tell them what school you want.
You may want your child to go to a school that is not run by the LEA – a non-maintained special school or an independent school that can meet your child’s needs. The LEA will consider your wishes carefully before they make a final decision but, if there is a suitable state school, the LEA have no legal duty to spend public money on a place for your child at a non-maintained or independent school.
Deciding which school you would like your child to go to is an important matter. Again, it is important that you ask for and get all the information, help and advice you need, and that you talk over any concerns you may have. Your LEA and the local parent partnership service will be pleased to help.
Before they make the final statement, the LEA can arrange a meeting with you to discuss your wishes.
Remember that you can take a friend, a relative or an independent parental supporter with you when you visit schools or meet the LEA. You may also want to talk to other parents through local voluntary organisations and parents’ groups.
The LEA have to consult the school before naming it on the statement, but the LEA make the final decision. They will keep you fully informed and will always explain their decision to you.
If you do not want to suggest the name of a school but want your child to go to an ordinary mainstream state school, you should also tell the LEA.
They must then give your child a mainstream place as long as:
your child going there will not damage the education of other children already at the school; and
* There are no practical steps that the school or the LEA could take to prevent your child affecting the other children’s education.
How long have you got to comment?
When the LEA send you a draft statement, you have 15 days to comment on all parts of the statement – and to say which state school, or non-maintained special school or independent school, you want your child to go to.
You can ask for a meeting with the LEA to discuss the draft statement. After this meeting you have another 15 days to ask for more meetings with the LEA. Within 15 days of your last meeting with the LEA, you can send in any more comments you have and the LEA will consider them. If you would like more time to comment, you should talk to the Named Officer.
When will the LEA make the final statement?
Usually, the LEA must make the final statement within eight weeks of the draft statement. They will send you a copy of the statement and it will have part 4 filled in with the name of a school.
The statement comes into force as soon as the LEA make it. From that time the LEA must provide your child’s school with any extra resources that it needs. The school’s governors must do their best to make sure that your child gets the special educational help set out in the statement.