Your Local Authority will have already carried out a Statutory Assessment and decided that the degree of your child's learning difficulty and the nature of the provision necessary to meet their special educational needs is such that a Statement of Educational Needs is required.
They will have ascertained that your child's needs cannot be provided within the resources normally available to mainstream schools or early education settings in the area. It therefore follows that a Statement will be required for a day or residential special school placement and parents should hopefully have researched and found a suitable school before the Statement process is underway.
Once it has been determined that a Statement is necessary to provide for the child's needs the LA must draft a proposed statement within two weeks of the decision to issue a Statement and send it to the parents together with copies of all the reports and the advice received for the assessment process as appendices at the back of the Statement.
They will also include a Notice to Parents which:
• has a list of local schools, special schools and approved independent schools in your area
• an invite asking you which is your preferred school for your child and your reasons
• informs you that although provision is usually made in maintained schools, you have a right to request a non-maintained school
• provides a list of non-maintained special schools and independent schools approved by The Secretary of State for Education for children with Statements of SEN
• informs you of your right to appeal
• states the LA officer responsible for your case and how to contact them
You have 15 days from when you receive the proposed statement to carefully check the details and query anything that you do not agree with, for instance, advice and information from reports is not entered on the statement, facts are incorrect, wording of provision to meet needs is vague. You can now express a preference for the school at which you wish your child to be educated. At this point you may need help to check your Statement from your Parent Partnership Service, an independent organisation trained in helping parents with this, a private Educational Psychologist who has been working with you, or an experienced parent or representative from a local support group, etc.
Format of Proposed Statement
A Statement consists of six parts:
Part 1 - Personal Details
This gives general information, e.g. child's name, address, date of birth, home language, region, names and addresses of the parent/s.
Part 2 - Needs
This part describes ALL of your child's special educational needs and should also include their strengths. It should contain all the relevant information from the statutory assessment and any reports and advice from professionals who provided information for the assessment process and also parents' advice and childs views, all must be attached as appendices. It is important that any therapeutic input that is required is put in this section as an educational need otherwise the LA do not have a legal duty to provide it.
Part 3 - Special Educational Provision
This should describe the main educational and developmental objectives; the special educational provision and support that will meet the needs and the objectives mentioned - again referring to any reports and advice that are attached; the monitoring and recording arrangements for meeting the objectives, regular reviews of the child's progress and the setting of short term targets.
Part 4 - Placement
This is blank until the Statement is finalised. It is for the type and/or name of the school which will meet the special educational need - this can also be 'Education Other Than At School' such as home education.
Part 5 - Non-Educational Needs
Describes any non-educational needs that your child has which are agreed with health and social services, this section can also include transport.
Part 6 - Non-Education Provisions
Describes any non-educational provision needed to meet Part 5. This is normally provided by other agencies, e.g. health or social care and is not the responsibility of the education department.
Checking the Proposed Statement
Do this as soon as you receive the Proposed Statement as you must respond within 15 days of receiving it to either accept it as it is written or refuse it and request meetings to discuss it further. There is officially eight weeks to agree the content before the Final Statement is issued.
Take a copy of the Statement and attached reports and use these to make any notes, alterations, additions, etc.
Part 1 - Personal Details
This should be straightforward to check but mark anything that is wrong.
Part 2 - Needs
• Are ALL the needs described clearly so that anyone reading this and working with your child would know their difficulties?
• Go through all the attached reports and advice, highlight and number each difficulty or need.
• Make sure that all those highlighted needs are entered in the Statement.
• Make a note of anything that is missing.
• Are the child's needs at break and lunch times mentioned?
• What about specific difficulties in areas such as PE are or where there is choice?
• Ensure that any parts of the reports from speech and language therapists or occupational therapists that impact on a child's ability to access the curriculum are entered here, otherwise it not have to be legally provided by the education department
Part 3 - Special Education Provision
• Is there a provision related to every need that was listed in Part 2?
• Any needs that were missing in Part 2 will not have provision and these therefore will need to be added.
• Refer back to the reports, highlight and number any help/provision that is recommended.
• Check that the provisions are listed in Part 3.
• If you disagree about the help or do not understand anything, make a note.
IMPORTANT - the Code of Practice states that all support and provision should be specific, detailed and quantified. In other words, everything is set out in detail and is exact and measurable and there is no doubt what it means (however it is recognised that some flexibility will be needed for a pupil's changing needs as they develop); amounts of time; frequency; level of support; named programmes, etc. So highlight words and phrases that are vague and could be open to different interpretation by different people including: access to, some, regular, as required, where necessary, opportunities, visits from. Once these words are in a final Statement it is very hard to check exactly when and how much support your child is receiving and to argue that 'regular monitoring from a therapist' should mean more than twice a year.
• Does it state that staff working with and supporting your child should be qualified, experienced or trained in their particular special need?
• Is there support and alternatives for break and lunch times?
• What happens if the usual teacher is away?
• What happens if a support assistant is absent, will this be covered?
• Will your child need extra help on trips and activities away from school?
• Is extra help available for your child, who due to their condition or difficulty, may have a day when their problems are more severe?
• Monitoring: how will your child's progress be checked?
• How often will it be checked?
• How will you be involved?
Part 4 - Placement
• this will be blank
• you will have been sent a list of schools with the Proposed Statement
• at this point you have a right to express a preference for the LA maintained mainstream school, in your own LA or in another area, you would like your child to attend
• your LA must agree with this choice unless they can prove either:
- the attendance of your child would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education of other children at the school
- it is not a good use of resources (money, staff, transport)
- the school is unsuitable for the child's age, ability and the SEN set out in Part 2
If they can prove the above then the LA must name an alternative mainstream school.
• but if no mainstream school meets the necessary conditions and provisions needed then the parents can request or the LA can suggest a LA special school or special unit/resource base
• you can however state a preference for an independent or independent special school if you feel that your child's needs are particularly complex and/or severe and cannot be met in a mainstream setting. In some cases you may be requesting a residential placement so that your child can access what is called a 'waking day' curriculum where their complex educational and care needs can be continued outside the normal school day
• in all cases you must have visited all the options offered to you and suggested by you so that you can state your case clearly
• the LA has to consider the parents preference but it does not have to provide the 'best' education, just education that is 'adequate'. The LA may therefore name the school in the final statement that it considers meets the child's needs
• in some cases where both parents and their LA cannot find a suitable school and need more time to search, Part 4 can name a type of school rather than a specific school so that the Statement can be finalised and the provision started in the current placement
Parts 5 and 6 - Non-Educational Needs
Remember, the education authority have no duty to provide anything that is mentioned in Parts 5 and 6 so check carefully that anything mentioned here should not be in Parts 2 and 3 as mentioned above. If speech and language therapy for instance is an educational need, perhaps your child needs specific programmes to help with understanding instructions and communicating appropriately, then it should not be in the section.
Transport can also in some cases be included in Parts and 6. Children with Statements should have access to 'non-stressful' transport.
Proposed Statement is Acceptable
You have carefully checked though all of the above points and are happy that your child's needs and provision are clearly set out and quantified and you are happy with the school that is going to be named in Part 4 - it may be that you and the LA had worked closely together during the statutory assessment process and so there are no issues. You must accept the Proposed Statement in writing within 15 days of receiving it.
Proposed Statement is NOT Acceptable
Once you have checked through all of the above points it may be that you are not happy with the content of the Statement and have a list of questions, omissions, amendments. Write to your named office no later than 15 days after receiving the Proposed Statement asking for a meeting to discuss it. Remember, you can take someone with you to any meetings; they can be a friend, Parent Partnership rep or your own advocate/adviser. Take your highlighted and marked reports, Statement and a list of points and questions.
It is always best to start with the points that are straightforward and can easily be agreed. Discuss anything that you feel needs changing or adding and use the evidence in the reports to back up what you are saying. Keep notes of anything that is said, agreed or not agreed. Discuss with the officer the school that you want named, your reasons why and listen to their reasons for a different school. You have 15 days from the date of this meeting to ask for another meeting to sort the issues that may still be outstanding. Parents can ask for as many meetings as it takes to get the Statement right but at the end of the final meeting, you have 15 days to send in your final views.
If you have a query with any of the professional reports, you can also request a meeting with that person/s. It may be easier if everyone is at one meeting so as not to hold up the process of issuing the Final Statement.
If you and the LA cannot agree on the wording of the Statement or you disagree about the type of school, ask if you can have a mediation meeting to try and sort out the issues.
The LA and youselves should be working together to agree on the Final Statement to avoid the time consuming, stressful, expensive Appeal process for both sides. Do not feel that you have to be coerced into accepting an inadequate Statement, some LAs don't think parents will fight to get things right.
The Final Statement
Once all points have been agreed upon and differences have been resolved, a copy of the Final Statement, with the type and name of school inserted, must be issued within 8 weeks (unless there are still meetings going on) from the date of the Proposed Statement being issued. However, even if an agreement was not reached between the parents and the LA about the Statement, the LA can still go ahead and issue the Final Statement with an accompanying letter containing the name of the LA Officer or the 'named person' who is prepared to give you additional information; Parent Partnership Service and Disagreement Resolution Services. It must also advise you of your right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disibility Tribunal.
From the date of issue of the Final Statement the provision and extra support and specific programmes must be put in place. The LA must inform the responsible person in the named school that the Statement has now been made and that person must ensure that everyone involved with the child is made aware of their needs and that staff carry out the appropriate monitoring. Responsibility for the provision set out in the Statement being provided is the responsibility of the LA. Speak to the school in the first instance if anything is not happening or is not happening exactly as stated in the Statement, if nothing changes then contact your LA.
You appeal has to be received by the Tribunal within two months from the date of the LA decision and the earlier you get your appeal in, the better. You should put in an appeal even if you are trying to negotiate with your LA as you can always cancel it if you reach an agreement.
The SEND Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear appeals on the following matters relating to Special Educational Needs:
• decisions of Local Authorities to not carry out a Statutory Assessment
• decisions of Local Authorities to not finalise a Statement of Educational Needs after a Statutory Assessment is completed and instead issue a Note in Lieu (which does not confer legally enforceable provision)
• decisions of Local Authorities not to amend a Statement following a re-assessment
• decisions of Local Authorities not to amend a Statement following an annual review
• decisions of Local Authorities to cease to maintain a child's Statement
• where the Local Authority has made a Statement but the parents disagree with the contents in one or all Parts 2, 3 and 4
• where the Local Authority refuses to change the school named on the Statement
At this stage it is crucial that you obtain advice and support from an organisation or solicitor trained in Education Law.
A Statement must be reviewed at least once a year; usually around the anniversary of time of issue (interim or emergency reviews can be called at any time between by a parent or the school). The Annual Review is a meeting between parents, school staff and key professionals about how the year has been, the progress made, the needs of the child, whether the Statement needs amending. The views of the child must be sought and in appropriate cases they can also attend the review meeting. It is usually the responsibility of the Headteacher to organise and chair the Annual Review but can be delegated to the SENCo or other named person. Recommendations from the meeting are sent in a written report to the LA within 10 days.
For more information or advice, contact us here, or call 0161 507 3723.