I think my child has SEN, but the school doesn’t. How can I find out what their needs really are and who should I speak to in school?
What makes you think your child has SEN? Do you feel they are not picking things up as quickly as other children the same age? The actual definition of SEN is that a child has significantly greater difficulty in learning than other children the same age. But at the same time, it is true that all children learn at different speeds and schools are very aware of how important it is to identify children who may be having difficulties with their learning.
Arrange to meet with your child's class teacher to talk through your concerns. It is a good idea to ask for meeting rather than just try to catch the teacher at the start or end of the school day when they are busy.
SIASS can help you by suggesting questions you could ask and have produced a leaflet (see related content - A parent's guide - How my child is doing at school).
We often suggest we look together at the handbook that schools use to help them decide whether a child has SEN which gives schools clear information on identifying and supporting children with a wide range of needs. This might give you a clearer picture of whether your child does have SEN and what the school might do to help.
If you are still concerned after you have spoken to the class teacher, you could ask them to involve the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). They have responsibility for what happens on a day to day basis in the school for pupils with SEN and also provides advice to other teachers in the school to help all pupils with SEN to make progress.
As your child already has identified Special Educational Needs, it is a good idea to ask to meet with your child's class teacher, form tutor or the pre-school setting leader and the Special Educational Needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or inclusion co-ordinator. You may already have a review meeting arranged to look at your child’s progress and support. If not, you can ask for one to be set up.
You can explain at the meeting why you think your child needs more help, perhaps you feel they are not making progress, falling further behind or just telling you or showing you they are unhappy at school. You can ask to see evidence of the progress your child is making and talk through any changes to support that would help. You can look at their individual progress tracker and see which targets your child has achieved and what support helps them learn.
The amount of support you can expect your child to have depends on whether your child receives support at the level called SEN Support or has an Education, Health and Care Plan. Whichever stage your child is at, you can expect them to be given the right level of support to help them learn and make progress.
If your child is not making progress, then perhaps they need more individual support, more targeted support or a different approach to helping them learn.
The school could offer increased support or adapt the ways they are teaching them. The school should always be able to show you what support your child is getting and how they are monitoring their progress, who else is involved in planning their support, for example, an educational psychologist or speech and language therapist or a teacher from the Special Educational Need Support Services and how they are following their advice.
How do I decide which is the best school for my child?
This question applies whether you have a child starting school at 5, when they are transferring to secondary school or when expressing a preference for a placement in an Education Health and Care Plan.
All children are different, so are all schools. The best way to decide which school will suit your child and meet their needs is to visit a range of schools to get a clearer picture of what is available and where your child will fit in and be well supported.
SIASS’s leaflet provides questions you might like to ask during your visit.
It helps to ask the same questions at each school. We suggest you choose, or think of, 4 or 5 questions. You could draw a grid and make a note of the answers, even give them scores out of 5, so you can remember each school’s answers when you get home.
It is also helpful to talk to other parents who live locally; perhaps there is a support group for parents of children with SEN in your area. Because information about schools can very quickly go out of date, it is good to talk to parents who have children in those schools currently.
If you are deciding which school to name in your child’s Education Health and Care Plan, the discussions you had when writing their EHCP with professionals who know your child well may give you some pointers as to the school which can best meet your child’s needs. Most children stay in the same local mainstream school they attended before they had the EHC Plan.
You can ring SENDIASS to talk things through. We hear from parents with children who have a wide range of SEN and are in different schools all across the county. We can also offer to find a volunteer who could make the school visits with you.
Sometimes if a child or young person is finding it difficult to manage a whole day at school, perhaps because they have behavioural difficulties and there are concerns about this leading to an exclusion or they are feeling anxious about school and are reluctant to attend, a school might suggest a part- time time-table.
Salford City council have very clear guidance for schools on the use of reduced time-tables and they should not be used because there is not enough support for your child in school. Before any decision is made you should be able to discuss things with school and others and a risk assessment should be carried out. There may be better alternatives. The school must inform the local authority that your child is only attending part- time and the reduced time-table has to be reviewed regularly.
You don’t have to agree to a reduced time table and if your child has an Education Health and Care plan you should contact your child’s SEN Officer at the LA before making a decision. In any case, a reduced time table should only be a short term measure intended to help your child successfully return to school full time as they are entitled to do.
The EHC Plan, like its predecessor the Statement, is a legal document, and the Local Authority must secure the special educational provision specified in the EHC Plan.
If you or your young person are not happy with the finalised EHC Plan and are unable to reach agreement with the local authority, you can appeal against some parts of it to the SEN and Disability Tribunal.
You can appeal against:
- Part B, which describes the child or young person’s SEN,
- Part F which specifies the provision necessary to meet each and very need described in Part B
- or Part I, which names the school or setting the child or young person will attend.
Unlike Statements, the EHC Plan will be written at a meeting where you as parents, your child or young person, if they are able, will work together with professionals to decide what information on strengths, needs, provision and outcomes should be included in the EHC Plan. Your and your child’s views will be at the centre of the process so you will have a much clearer idea of what your child’s EHC Plan will look like.
After the meeting, the SEN Officer will pull together the information and the outcomes that were decided at the meeting and include those in a draft EHC Plan. This will be sent to you, or your young person if they are over 16 and able to make decisions for themselves, to read and to agree. You will be given 15 days to get back to the local authority about the content of the EHC Plan.
You will also be asked to fill in the name of the particular setting, school or college that you would like to be named in Part I.
Once the EHCP is finalised, you, or your young person if they are over 16 and able to make decisions for themselves, will receive a copy, with a letter explaining what you can do if you are not happy with the finalised plan.
As with a Statement, there is a review process for an EHC Plan. It will be reviewed annually if a child is over five. For children 0 - 5 the local authority should consider reviewing the EHC plan every three to six months as a young child can change so much in a short time.
If there is a sudden change in a child or young person’s learning needs, you could request an interim review of your child’s EHC Plan
If there are specific changes to a child’s health or circumstances that mean the health or social provision need changing, the EHC Plan can be amended without a full review or re-assessment.
A child or young person’s school or setting can make a request, as can a parent. Under the new law, a young person (16-25) can also make a request themselves.
In making its decision about whether a child or young person needs an EHC Needs assessment the local authority has to look at what support has already been provided and whether there has been any progress. If a school or setting makes the request, they will able to provide evidence of support, attainment and rate of progress.
For more information about the EHCP process and requesting an EHCP please have a look at the information page on the Local Offer.