Applying for Special Needs Education
You may think that it is a daunting task finding the right school for your child and even more so if your child requires special needs education but we can offer the following advice.
What Help May Be Needed?Most children with special educational needs can be tutored through mainstream education but there are those who require assistance outside the remit of state education. These children can sometimes have problems which may range from problems with reading and writing, expressing themselves or understanding what others say, making friends and/or relating to adults, conducting themselves properly in an educational setting or having a physical or sensory condition which may affect their schooling.
AssessmentsIf your child does not seem to be making significant progress at school your local authority may step in and make the decision to carry out an assessment as to your child’s needs, which is based on the advice of specialists. This may sound an arduous endeavour but your local authority will have a wealth of specialists that they can call upon to offer informed advice and assessments.
These assessments referred to as a ‘statutory assessment’ are geared to finding out exactly the nature of your child’s needs and how to best serve them. But this is only necessary if your child’s school cannot provide all the help required.
You can apply for an assessment through your local authority and usually within a time frame of six weeks they will tell you whether or not an assessment is going to be carried out. Should an assessment go ahead your local authority will seek the advice of certain individuals and they will be asked to give their considered opinion on your child’s needs. Usually they will seek advice from:
- Your child’s current school
- A doctor – either your family GP or an independent GP
- Social Services (who will only comment if your child is known to them) or
- An Educational Psychologist
After the AssessmentOnce the assessments have been completed they are reviewed by what are known as SEN Officers (Special Education Needs) and it is they who will decide to document all the information they have collected in a ‘statement of special educational needs’. Normally your local authority will tell you if it is going to compile this statement within 12 weeks of assessments beginning.
If your local authority decides not to write a statement then they must explain their reasons and make clear to you how it thinks that your child’s needs are to be met in a school setting.
If Your LA Does Not AssessShould your local authority think it unnecessary to assess your child’s special needs requirements then they are legally required to write and inform you of this and also inform the school of its findings. Given that sometimes parents, schools and local authorities do not always agree, you or your child’s school can appeal this decision.
As part of this appeal process it may be necessary for you to enlist the assistance of an unbiased professional who has no prior knowledge of your child’s circumstances.
It is usually possible to sort out these problems with your local authority in an informal and friendly manner but should you feel unsatisfied with its decision you can appeal to an independent organisation, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
Although it may sound like a minefield of problems and stress, as a general rule it can all run smoothly.
Speak to your child’s head teacher and teachers if you can and have them give references or reports as to your child’s behaviour or what they feel are your child’s requirements. You will find that they are happy to help and also you will find that the local authorities are more than helpful in this manner too.
Remember, at all times, not to lose sight of the goal which is to ensure your child receives the best education they can regardless of their circumstances.