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Requesting an Assessment of Special Educational Needs

SEN Code of Practice 2001 Statutory Assessment

Before we start on the process of obtaining a Statutory Assessment of Special Educational Needs, please bare in mind that this information is for England. For Scotland go to www.childrenofscotland.org.uk and for The United States please check out the website www.Wrightslaw.com
If you know of any other links to similar educational resources in other countries please let us know at support@adders.org

According to the Education Act 1996 Chapter 54 a child has learning difficulties if:-

(a) he has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children his age

(b) He has a disability which either prevents or hinders him from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of his age in schools, within the area of the local education authority.

(c) He is under the age of 5 and is, or would be if special educational provision were not made for him, likely to fall within the above (a) & (b) when of or over that age.

For your information a child includes any person under 19 that is still a registered pupil in his school.

Requesting an assessment

In order to get a Statement of Special Educational Needs there first needs to be a statutory assessment made by the Local Education Authority, more commonly known as the LEA. This can be done ideally with parents and school working together, by the school or by the parent independently.

The special educational needs of the majority of children should be met effectively in mainstream schools through Early Years Action, Early Years Action Plus, School Action and School Action Plus, depending on the age and severity of the problems, without the need for the LEA to make an assessment.

In a small number of cases the LEA will need to make the Statutory Assessment and then consider whether or not to issue a Statement. This involves consideration by the LEA, working co-operatively with parents, schools and if appropriate other agencies involved to determine whether an assessment is needed. Please be aware that if the LEA decides an assessment is needed, this doesn't necessarily mean it will lead to a statement!

Referrals can be made by another agency such as Social Services or the Health Authority; this can happen particularly with children under the age of 5 with complex needs not yet attending school but maybe in an early educational setting

When requesting an assessment the evidence that should be provided by the school should include:-

a. The views of parents recorded at Early Years Action and Action Plus or School Action and Action Plus.

b. The ascertainable views of the child

c. Copies of IEP's

d. Evidence of progress over time

e. Copies of advice where obtained from health services and social services

f. Evidence of involvement and views of professionals and relevant specialists outside of the school setting

g. Evidence of the extent the school has followed advice provided by professionals and relevant specialists.

A Request by a Parent

Parents may request an assessment under section 328 or 329 of the education act. The LEA must comply unless an assessment has been made within 6 months of the date of the request or if they conclude after examining the evidence that it is not necessary.

Once the request has been made the LEA must decide within 6 weeks whether or not to carry out the assessment and should contact the parents. They must also inform the Head Teacher and obtain any written evidence from the school about the child's learning difficulties and the schools account of any special educational provisions made. The Educational Psychology Service, the designated officer of Social Services department, Health Authority and any other agencies involved must also be informed.

Suggested format for a letter of request:

The letter should be addressed to:-

Additional Educational Needs Manager

Local Education Authority

(Address)

Childs name and Date of Birth

Name of child's school (if of school age)

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to request that the LEA carry out a Statutory Statement of Special Educational Needs for my Son/Daughter under Section 323 of the Education Act of 1996 Chapter 54 , as is my right under section 329.

2nd paragraph: enter a description of your child's difficulties, past history, medical diagnosis and anything else relevant.

3rd paragraph: enter the current provisions your child receives, for example Individual Education Plan, helper, portage, outside agencies, speech therapy, physiotherapy, health and social services, one to one support and for how long etc.

4th paragraph: enter detailed account of why you think current provisions are not meeting your child's needs with evidence of lack of progress.

Yours Sincerely

Remember the LEA must take all parental requests seriously and take immediate action.

If a child attends an independent school or is being home educated, a request for an assessment must follow the same procedure.

What Happens Next?

The LEA before deciding to make an assessment must issue a notice under section 323(1) or 329A (3) of the education act and:-

i. Must write to parents giving them notice

ii. Must set out for parents the procedures to be followed if an assessment is considered necessary and for subsequently drawing up a statement, if considered necessary.

iii. Should explain the precise timing of each stage of the assessment within the overall 6 months time limit, and indicate ways the parent can assist in meeting the time limits, and explaining the exceptions to any.

iv. Must tell parents the name of the officer from LEA whom they can contact for any further information needed.

v. Must tell parents of their right to submit written evidence and oral representations as to why their child should be assessed. The LEA must set a time limit for receiving these, which must not be less then 29 days.

vi. Parents should be encouraged to respond and submit evidence. Any oral representations should be put into a written summary agreed by both the LEA and parents. Parents should indicate formally if they do not wish to make or add to previous representations so the assessment can start immediately.

vii. Must inform parent of local Parent Partnership Services which should provide information about other sources of independent advice.

viii. Should ask parents if they want the LEA to consult anyone in addition to those who they must approach for Educational, medical, psychological and social services advice if they proceed.

ix. Should tell parents that they can provide any private advice or opinions that they have or can obtain.

This notice must make clear that at this stage the LEA has not made the decision to go ahead with the assessment, but is considering whether to do so or not.

The Decision is No!!

If the decision is made that an assessment is not necessary the LEA must write to the parents and school explaining the reasons, they should also set out the provisions they consider will meet the child's needs. They should ensure the parent understands the school-based provision and the monitoring and review arrangements. Where parents have requested the assessment under section 328 or 329 or the school has made a request under section 329A, the parents may appeal. Leas must inform parents of this right to appeal and the time limits.

The Decision is Yes!!

Once it had been decided to go ahead with the assessment the LEA must seek parental, educational, medical, psychological and social services advice and any other advice they consider appropriate.

Parents must also be informed that, as part of the process their child may be called for an examination or assessment. If this does happen the parent must also be informed of their right to be with their child during any interview, test, medical or any other assessment which is being conducted and told of the time, place and purpose of the appointment. They must also be told of the name of an LEA officer who they can contact for further information.

The Next Steps

After receiving all the advice the LEA must make the decision whether or not to make a statement or amend an existing one. This decision must be made within 10 weeks of serving the notice o assess.

If it is decided that a statement is necessary, it must draft a proposed statement and send a copy to the parent within 2 weeks along with a copy of any advice received as part of the assessment.

If it is decided it's not necessary for a statement the LEA must notify the parents and school, giving their reasons within 2 weeks. Once again parents must be notified of their right to appeal.

For further information on Statements please see the Fact sheet entitled Statements of Special Educational Needs!

by Trace from adders.org

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