Frequently Asked Questions
What are Special Educational Needs?
A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
A child of compulsory school age or young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
- Has significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
- Has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
What happens when my child is identified as having Special Educational Needs?
- If your child is identified as having a SEN then there is a process the school will follow, called the graduated or SEN response.
- School will follow a model identified in the Code of Practice 2015 and the procedures will also be laid out in their own SEN policy which you can find on their school website.
Does my child have special educational needs (SEN)?
A child (birth-16) or young person (age 16-25) has a learning difficulty or learning disability if he or she:
- Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
- Has a disability which prevents or hinders him/her from making use of facilities generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
Some children and young people have a learning difficulty or disability but do not have SEN if they do not require special educational provision to meet their needs.
If the learning difficulty or disability means a child or young person needs educational provision that is different or additional to what is normally provided then they have special educational needs.
I think my child may have Special Educational Needs, what should I do?
Speak to your child's class teacher, or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at school.
Does my child need a diagnosis in order to receive support?
A child or young person should receive support based on their individual needs. It is not a requirement to have a specific diagnosis to receive educational support.
As a guide, there are four broad areas of need identified in the SEND Code of Practice 2015:
- Communication and interaction
- Cognition and learning
- Social emotional and mental health
- Sensory and physical needs
Children and young people often have needs that may change over time or fall one or more of the areas.
A child or young person’s educational setting should make reasonable adjustments to support their needs if they are not making expected progress. Some needs can be met by making simple adjustments; others may require more specialist support.
What support should my child be getting?
If a child or young person is identified with a learning difficulty or disability that requires special educational provision, their education setting must use their best endeavours to secure that provision. Special educational provision is educational training or provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for others of the same age. If the education setting the child or young person attends can arrange the provision from within their own resources, i.e. finances and expertise, this is known as SEN support.
What is SEN support?
The purpose of SEN support is to remove any barriers to learning by giving children and young people extra help to make progress and achieve their outcomes. The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says that SEN support should follow the graduated approach; a cycle of Assess, Plan, Do and Review to decide the needs of the child, plan what actions to take to, do the agreed actions, and monitor whether the actions have worked by looking at the progress the child has made. You must be told about the support and be involved in making any decisions, including when the support plan will be reviewed.
If the education setting cannot meet a child or young person’s needs i.e. they lack the expertise or funding to identify the child or young person’s needs or implement the support they require, then it may be necessary for the LA to carry out an Education Health and Care needs assessment.
What is the next stage if progress is not made?
If a child or young person is not making expected progress over a period of time the school may decide at the review stage to consult with external professionals such as an Educational Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapist, Inclusion Team etc. They will give advice and suggestions on ways to support your child. During this time, you should be informed what is happening.
What can I do if things aren’t working or go wrong?
If you, or your child or young person are unhappy about the support being provided you can discuss your concerns with the class teacher or the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). You and your child or young person’s views, wishes and feelings must be considered and decisions should be made together. The SEND Partnership Service can help you prepare for a meeting.
If a child or young person is not making progress even when support has been put in place, then the support may need to be reviewed to make changes and plan the next steps. Sometimes it may be useful to involve other professionals to investigate the difficulties as the child or young person’s needs may not have been fully identified.
If the child or young person has SEN and may require special educational provision which cannot be met by their education setting, or the education setting is failing to provide adequate SEN support, then it may be necessary to make a request for an Education Health and Care needs assessment.
If you still have a problem or haven’t been able to resolve the issue you might be able to make a complaint. If you want help to understand these procedures, or require impartial advice about possible ways forward, please contact us.
What is an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan?
An EHC Plan is a legal document which sets out the education, health and social care needs a child or young person has, and the support that is necessary to meet those needs to help the child or young person achieve what they want to in their life. The Local Authority (LA) have a duty to secure the provision specified in an EHC plan to ensure that it is delivered by the education setting.
An EHC needs assessment is the first step which may result in an EHC plan being issued.
What is an EHC needs assessment?
The EHC needs assessment is a detailed look at a child’s educational, health and social care needs and the provision they may need in order to achieve their outcomes. A child’s parent, the child or young person’s educational setting, or a young person can make a request to the statutory SEN Team at the LA for an EHC needs assessment.
Within six weeks of a request being made the LA must decide whether the child or young person may have SEN and if it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made in accordance with an EHC Plan.
If the Local Authority refuse to assess they must inform the parent or young person of the reasons and of their right to appeal against the decision to the SEND Tribunal.
If the Local Authority agree to carry out an EHC needs assessment, they will seek information and advice about the child or young person from a range of professionals and must include you and your child or young person’s views. The timeframe for completing the needs assessment is within 14 weeks of the LA receiving the request.
What happens after the EHC needs assessment is completed?
Once the EHC needs assessment is complete, the LA must decide whether to issue an EHC plan or that it is not necessary for the provision to be made in accordance with an EHC plan.
If the LA refuse to issue an EHC plan, the parent or young person must be informed of the reasons and that they have the right to appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
If the decision is to issue an EHC plan, the LA must first send a draft plan to the parents to consider and make any comments. Once the draft plan has been checked and agreed, the LA should then carry out a consultation with the school the parents have expressed a preference for. Within 20 weeks from the request for a needs assessment the final plan should be issued naming the school or educational setting.
We have a team of Information and Advice Officers who can help you understand what an EHC plan is, who needs one and how to request one. They can support you through an EHC needs assessment to make sure you understand everything that happens along the way.
Can we change what’s in written in the EHC Plan?
For new EHC plans at the draft stage you can request changes to ensure the plan accurately reflects the child or young person’s SEN and the provision required to support those needs. When you receive a draft plan it is important to check that it describes each and every SEN of your child or young person and that there is a corresponding provision specified for each need.
What is an Annual Review?
An existing EHC Plan must be reviewed within every 12 months through the Annual Review process. The Annual Review is all the steps taken by the LA to look at the progress the child or young person has made and decide whether the EHC plan is still appropriate, needs to be amended or should be ceased. Having yours and your child or young person’s views is an important part of the review.
You must be given two weeks’ notice of the annual review meeting and everyone involved will be asked to share their views. After the meeting the education setting will send a report to the LA about what was discussed and if any changes are being requested. The LA must then make a decision and will tell you if there are any changes they want to make to the plan. The annual review is not complete until the LA have notified parents of their decision. If you or your child or young person do not agree with the LA’s decision or the changes they are suggesting then you have the right to appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
If it has been less than a year since the last review but your child or young person isn’t making expected progress or their needs have changed a lot since the plan was last agreed then you can request an Early Annual Review.
If you need additional support our Information and Advice Officers can help you check the contents of an EHC Plan.
How do I challenge a decision by the LA about my child’s SEN?
When a decision is made by the LA, they must notify the young person or child’s parent in writing of their decision, the reason for that decision and their right to appeal against the decision.
The first step to resolving a disagreement can be to discuss your concerns with a Senior Inclusion Officer in the statutory SEN Team.
You may decide to participate in mediation which is a confidential meeting with the LA and an independent mediator to try and reach an agreement about the issue. You do not have to mediate, but must consider it and obtain a mediation certificate from a mediation advisor before you can register an appeal.
If these steps do not resolve the issue then an appeal can be made to the First-tier SEND Tribunal if a young person or the parent of a child does not agree with a decision made by the LA. The SEND Tribunal is a legal body and will investigate the evidence of a case fairly to decide whether the LA followed the law in making its decision. The SEND Tribunal may then order the LA to take certain actions to resolve the issue.
To discuss the appeals procedures please contact SPS with further information about your specific case.
What is Special Education Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)?
All Local Authorities must have a SENDIASS (under section 32 of the Children and Families Act 2014), who offer an impartial, confidential service to young people (16+) and parents of children with SEN needs.