My son/ daughter finds it difficult at school and as they get older these difficulties are becoming more obvious. What could be the cause of this?

It could be that your child has special educational needs.

I did suggest that to my child’s school. The teaching staff are always very helpful but they said to have special educational needs a child must have a learning difficulty. This isn’t the case for my son/ daughter because, although they are only able to attend school for three days in the week, they are doing well in some areas.

. It is important to understand that a child has special educational needs if they have a “learning difficulty” which calls for “special educational provision” to be made for them. According to s312 the Education Act 1996 a child has a “learning difficulty” is where they:

  • have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of their age;
  • have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the LEA; or
  • are under compulsory school age and falls within the definition above or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them.

Children do not have a learning difficulty just because their home language is different from one taught in school. Religion is also not considered to be a SEN.

The above definition means that a child does not have to have an Intellectual disability to have special educational needs. For example, a child with Asperger’s syndrome may be of average or above average intelligence but still have special educational needs.

I have spoken to the staff at my child’s school and they agree that my child may have special educational needs (SEN). What additional help is available to my son/ daughter?

There are three levels of support available to a child with special educational needs. There are the school based stages called School Action (SA) and School Action Plus (SA+). A child can also be given a statement of special educational needs after what is known as a statutory assessment.

Does my child need a diagnosis to be able to obtain additional support?

diagnosis may assist but it is certainly not needed.

What is a statutory assessment?

Quite simply, this is the process which is carried out by the Local Authority to determine whether or not a child needs a statement of special educational needs. Parents can contribute to this process by both written contributions and/ or contributions by independent experts they have instructed themselves.

Who can ask for a statutory assessment?

The head of a school a child attends can ask for a statutory assessment to be commenced. A child’s parents can also ask for a statutory assessment. One approach would be for a parent to request a statutory assessment but ask the head to write a covering letter in support of the application.

Who do I sent the request for a statutory assessment to?

The application should be sent to the LA, preferably the most senor education officer and copied to relevant others. If possible the request should be sent special delivery, simply to ensure delivery. Alternatively, the request can be delivered by hand and a confirmation receipt obtained.

When will the LA respond?

The Local Authority  must respond to the request within six weeks of receipt.

What information should be contained in the letter?

IPSEA have an excellent website which provides model letter that can be used in many different circumstances. The model for requesting a statutory assessment is contained here:

In summary, any request should detail why it is believed that the school cannot on their own make the provision required to meet the child’s special educational needs.

What is a request for a statutory assessment is refused by the LA?

If a request is refused then the LA should give its reasons for doing so and confirm that the parent has a right to appeal the decision to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

If the LA carries out a statutory assessment, what are the possible outcomes?

The LA this there options. Firstly they can chose to issue a statement of special educational needs. Secondly they can issue a “Note in Lieu”. Thirdly they can decide not to issue a statement of special educational needs.