Schools can provide a lot of help from their own resources for children with additional learning needs. However, some children with more severe or complex needs may need more help than the school can provide. These children may need a statutory assessment to establish what their difficulties are. This may lead to a statement of special educational needs which will set out the help the child must have.
Statutory assessments and statements are the responsibility of the Local Authority (LA) where you live.
Asking for a statutory assessment
Either you or your child’s school can make a request for a statutory assessment. It is a good idea to do it yourself even if the school have said they will do so. See sample letter below.
There is a timescale for the LA to follow in terms of what they should be doing and when.
The LA should inform you of whether it will go ahead with the assessment within 6 weeks of receiving your application.
They should then inform you of their decision within 12 weeks after deciding to carry out the assessment.
Week 1 – Week 6
This is when the LA will ask you, the school, and other professionals for initial information about your child. They will want to know how the school has helped your child and about the progress they have made.
The LA will need to see as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision whether a Statutory Assessment is needed. They will need to see things like Individual Education Plans, samples of school work and copies of reports from any specialists who may be involved.
The LA now decides whether to carry out an assessment
In some cases the LA may decide to give advice to schools on how to meet your child’s needs.
If the LA decides that it is not necessary to carry out an assessment, they will write to you and explain why they have to come to this decision. They will also write to the school to let them know their decision.
The Code of Practice says that you should fully understand how the school will be helping your child, and how they will review your child’s progress. If you are not happy with this decision you can appeal to the Special Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW). SENTW was set up by the Welsh Government as an independent panel, to look at certain decisions LA’s make which parents are not happy about. If you need more information about this, contact your local SNAP Cymru office.
Week 7 – Week 16
When the LA has looked at all the initial information, they may decide that your child WILL need a full assessment, this is what happens next; the LA will ask you for information about your child; they will usually do this by sending out a questionnaire called Appendix A.
They will ask you what you feel your child’s difficulties are and what help you think your child needs. This can be difficult to do, but SNAP can help.
The school will complete a form telling the LA all the difficulties your child is currently having. They will tell them how they have helped and how effective that help has been. They will let the LA know of any teacher assessment results they have, e.g. reading and spelling tests. The LA will want to know as much about your child as possible so that they can decide what your child needs: this form is referred to as Appendix B.
The Child Health Department will arrange for you child to have a medical, which usually takes place at the hospital. This will happen, even if your child has already had a school medical. They are checking to see whether there could be any medical reasons why your child is not making progress, or is having particular difficulties. If you have any worries about your child’s health, you could tell the doctor about them when you attend the appointment. The report completed by The Health Department is sometimes referred to as Appendix C.
The Educational Psychologist will go into school to assess your child. He or she may already know your child, but will be asked to write a new report for this assessment. The Psychologist will usually tell you when they are going to school and they may be able to speak to you about your child afterwards. It is usually not a good idea for you to be present for the assessment, as the Psychologist will want to see how your child is managing within the classroom – and your child will not be used to working in the classroom with you present. The report produced by the Educational Psychologist is sometimes referred to as Appendix D.
If the Local Authority (LA) decides not to issue a statement of special educational needs they may issue a note in lieu instead.
A note in lieu is a document that will explain why the LA does not think it necessary to issue a statement, describes your child’s special educational needs, and give guidance about the type of support which could be helpful to your child at school.
The note in lieu should be used by your child’s school to help them provide the right support for your child. This DOES NOT mean that nothing has changed. You and your child’s school will receive all the information from the statutory assessment to inform them about your child’s specific needs. There will be important information and advice available about your child’s strengths and the areas which require more support. The NOTE IN LIEU will draw together all this important information into one document. Although not legally binding, it should clearly set out the help needed both internally from the school, and externally from advisors, physiologists and therapists as necessary. It should also set out monitoring and review arrangements.
There are three things you might want to do when you receive a note in lieu:-
- Arrange to meet with your child’s school to discuss the information contained in the note in lieu and talk to them about how they are going to help your child. They will want to review the INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PLAN, setting targets based on the advice contained in the note in lieu. You and your child should be fully involved in this process.
- If you are really unhappy about receiving a note in lieu then you can appeal to the Special Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW) against the LA’s decision to issue it. Contact your LA and SNAP Cymru who can tell you more about this.
- Remember, you can ask for your child to be reassessed. The SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS CODE OF PRACTICE (COP) says that you must wait for 6 months before asking for another assessment. This will give you time to monitor your child’s progress and gather more information.
You may also see the following words, these can be used to mean the same as Special Educational Needs
- Additional Learning Needs
- Additional Educational Needs
- Additional Needs
A statement of Special Educational Needs is a legally binding document that sets out your child’s needs and how they will be met.
Once all the information gathered from the statutory assessment has been received the Local Authority (LA) must decide whether to draw up a statement. The LA will make this decision when it considers that the help needed for your child cannot reasonably be met by the school.
If the LA decides that a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) is necessary, they will send you a proposed statement along with copies of all the information gathered during the statutory assessement process.
A proposed statement of SEN is set out in 6 parts.
PART 1 – gives your own and your child’s name, address and other details.
PART 2 – gives details of your child’s special educational needs – your child’s strengths and weaknesses should be listed here. The assessment will have identified these. It should also give a description of your child’s current level of functioning.
PART 3 – this sets out all the help that your child will receive to meet the needs identified in Part 2. It will be divided into three parts:-
- It will set out the long term educational goals for your child – what they feel your child could achieve.
- It may also tell you what the arrangements are for setting short term targets – so that you and your child can measure and celebrate progress.
- The Special Educational Needs Code Of Practice for Wales (COP) says that the provision listed should normally be specific, detailed and quantified – it should clearly tell you who will do what, when and how. You should be able to understand Exactly what help your child will receive.
- It will tell you how your child’s progress will be monitored. This usually happens regularly in school, and then discussed annually through the annual review process (See I.S Annual Review).
PART 4 – when the LA issues a Proposed (Draft) Statement, this part will be blank to give you the opportunity to state a preference for a maintained school, or make representations for an independent or non-maintained school. Part 4 of the final statement must set out the type of school which is considered appropriate (e.g. mainstream, special, residential, or other setting, etc) or ‘educational arrangements otherwise’ and should normally name a particular school.
You are given 15 days from the date you receive the proposed statement to say which school you would like for your child, make any comments about the statement and ask for a meeting with the LA. Make sure you have clearly listed any changes you would like to be considered and any questions you may have.
PART 5 – describes the non-educational needs your child has – some therapies, specialist medical support may be in this section, transport to and from school may also be included here.
PART 6 – describes how your child will get the help described in Part 5.
LAs should make every effort to ensure that parents are happy with the proposed statement and that they understand the background to the proposals. Snap Cymru or your LA can help with this by explaining the process documents and by arranging meetings as necessary (this is known as ‘making representations’).
Once discussions have been held and agreement has been reached a Final Statement will be issued by the LA. However, occasionally agreement may not be reached. In these circumstances the LA may issue the statement anyway along with an accompanying letter which will give written notice of parents right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales, time limits for lodging an appeal and the availability of parent partnership and disagreement resolution services.
This ensures parents, the pupil, the Local Authority (LA) and all other professionals involved consider the progress the child has made and whether any changes to the pupil’s needs or provision are required. This makes sure the statement is still appropriate and meeting the child/young person’s needs.
The Head Teacher / SENCO of the school that your child attends is responsible for arranging an Annual Review Meeting and this is usually held at the school.
You will be informed in writing of the review meeting and invited to attend, along with the teacher, the Educational Psychologist, an officer from the Local Authority, and any other health or social services representatives who need to be involved.
You may invite your Parent Partnership Representative to go with you, or anyone else who you choose. You may also consider whether it is appropriate for your child to attend for at least part of the time.
Most Local Authorities or schools provide Annual Review paperwork that guides you to think about and write down what you would like to discuss during the meeting.
The recommendations from the Annual Review before a change of school, nursery to primary, primary to secondary, or change of school at any time are important in helping to decide your child’s future school. The LA must change part 4 of the statement by 15th February in the year your child is due to change schools (this does not apply to transfers during the Early Years).
The Head Teacher or someone acting as a representative for the Head Teacher, as the Head Teacher does not always attend, will ask everyone involved with your child for written reports.
These will be circulated to those attending the meeting at least 2 weeks before. They will include your views and those of your child of the progress over the past year. The written advice will be used as the basis of the review meeting discussions.
The review meeting will look at:
- The progress towards the objectives set out in the statement.
- Review the provision.
- Set new targets for your child
- Identify any new or changing needs.
- Consider if the statement is still meeting the needs of your child
This is your opportunity to voice any concerns you and/or your child may have or request alternative provision.
The Head Teacher or SENCO must prepare a written report summarising the main issues discussed at the review and any recommendations about the provision for the coming year. It will recommend whether or not the statement should be amended, maintained or ceased. The report is sent to the LA within 10 working days or the end of term, whichever is sooner. A copy of the report will be sent to you.
On receipt of this report the statement will be reviewed by the LA and any recommendations made in the report will be discussed. If the LA decide to change the statement you will be notified and asked for your comments. A proposed amended statement will be issued.
If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with the outcome of the amended statement you can appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.