Working with schools
Maintain good communication with your child's school. Attend all meetings and all reviews.
The key people you might deal with are your child’s class teacher, the SENCo, and the Headteacher. You may find the SENCo is more receptive than the class or form teacher.
Find out if the school have noticed any difficulties. Do problems come up at a particular time or subject area?
Sometimes behaviour problems in a child can be seen as a reflection of ‘problems at home’ instead of unidentified learning difficulties. If a child is at risk of exclusion, schools should always consider if they may have special educational needs and refer for an EHC assessment if required.
Working with the Local Authority
Check the ‘Local Offer’ on the website of your Local Authority. This should say how the Local Authority identifies children with SEN. Most Local Authorities will have a set of ‘Criteria’ for schools in their area, setting out what level of support schools are expected to meet from their own budget without an EHC plan being required.
It is important to be aware that these Criteria are local policies. They do not have any legal standing.
If the Local Authority refuses your request for your child to have an EHC assessment you can ask for a meeting to discuss the matter with the Local Authority caseworker. However, do not miss the deadline (two months from the date on the letter from the Local Authority) to submit an appeal or, if you wish to, pursue Mediation. For further information about submitting an appeal, see here.
Who will you be dealing with?
Smaller local authorities will have a single team overseeing SEN. Larger local authorities often have regional SEN teams, led by an SEN Area Manager.
You will be dealing with Case Officers. They may well be sympathetic to your case, but will be working under the direction of their line manager.
Who decides whether an EHC assessment is necessary?
When the Local Authority receives a request for a child (or young person) to have an EHC assessment, this will be referred to the local SEN panel.
Most decisions are made by local SEN panels made up of local professionals, including headteachers, SENCos, and educational psychologists.
The panel will make their decision based on the evidence supplied to them – reports from school and perhaps experts. On some occasions the Headteacher and/or the SENCo will be asked to attend a meeting of the SEN panel to provide further information.
The SEN panel may ask for more written information about your child from the school or other experts before making a decision. The SEN panel is how the local authority organise the way they make decisions about children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. However, it should be noted that the use of the panel cannot be used as a reason to delay statutory timescales or deadlines.
Can I submit evidence to the Panel?
The information from parents is crucial. Take the opportunity to complete any forms sent to you by the school or the Local Authority. Keep copies!
Working with experts
If your child’s school is supporting the need for an EHC assessment, the school may arrange for your child to have an assessment. Depending on your child’s needs, this could be a Specialist Teacher, a Speech and Language therapist or an Educational Psychologist.
The school (usually the SENCo) should inform you in advance of any assessment. You should be involved in talking with the professional regarding your concerns and their subsequent findings. The professional can hear your concerns and you can check to see they have received copies of any previous assessments that have been made.
Can I employ my own experts?
Yes. Bear in mind that the school and Local Authority are more likely to take notice of a professional who has been engaged by the school or the Local Authority. However, when or if an appeal becomes necessary, any report by an independent expert will count as part of your evidence for your appeal.
For more information about gathering evidence, see here.