What does statementing mean?
‘A statement of special needs is a formal document detailing a child’s learning difficulties and the help that will be given.’
If your child needs help at school – beyond what their teachers can provide – a ‘statement of special needs’ will ensure they get the right help. A statement is only necessary if the school is unable to meet a child’s needs on its own.
Some children have needs or disabilities that affect their ability to learn. For example:
- behavioural/social (eg difficulty making friends)
- reading and writing (eg dyslexia)
- understanding things
- concentrating (eg Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- physical needs or impairments
If you think your child may have special educational needs, contact the person in your child’s school or nursery responsible for special educational needs.
This person is called the ‘SEN coordinator’, or ‘SENCO’. Contact the local council or your doctor if your child isn’t in a school or nursery.
Contact your local Parent Partnership Service for impartial advice about special educational needs.
Either you, your child’s nursery or school can ask for the process to begin, you will have to ask the council for the assessments to start and they will confirm if this will happen within 6 weeks. If you feel your child has additional needs do start this process off as early as possible and can be started when the child is aged 2.
An assessment for your child can be requested if the child is under the age of 2 but it is up to your local council to determine how the child can be assessed.
Statements of Special Educational Needs detail what your child’s additional needs are. They are reviewed annually.
The council need to inform you if they wish to amend your statement.
You can appeal against anything you disagree with in your statement to the special educational needs and disability tribunal.
Your local council should tell you if you’re going to get a statement within 12 weeks of starting the assessment.
If the council decides not to write a statement, it will explain why and tell you how your child’s needs will be met inside or outside school.
Choosing a school
The statement initially has a blank section for you to say what school you want your child to go to (either mainstream or special), or how you want them to be educated out of school.
You have 15 days to say what school (including private schools) you want your child to go to.
Your local council must agree to send your child to the school you want as long as:
- the school you choose is suitable for your child’s age, ability, skills and needs
- your child meets any academic selection criteria the school has (although most state schools do not select pupils by academic ability)
- your child’s presence will not have a negative impact on the education of other children already at the school
- putting your child in the school will be an efficient use of the local authority’s resources
If there’s a suitable state school, the local council doesn’t have to send your child to a private school.
You can also ask the local council to change the school named in your child’s statement, if it’s at least 12 months since you asked for a change or since the statement was made or changed. This can only be the same type of school, eg mainstream school or special school.
Who will assess my child during the statutory assessment?
- You – the parents’ view is sought and you will be asked to write a report about your child
- Headteacher and teachers involved with your child’s learning
- Educational psychologist, to ascertain the sort of support that your child needs
- School doctor or your own doctor – medical reports may be requested
- Private opinions/advice – if there are other professionals you think would be able to help convey your child’s needs, these can be included
What do I write in my parents’ report?
The parents’ report provides a chance for the panel to ‘see’ the child behind all the other reports and jargon. You should include something of your child’s history, how s/he has found developmental milestones, as well as current difficulties and needs.
You should also provide a list of any professional people your child currently sees, so that the authority can request up-to-date reports from all of them.
Statutory assessment timeline
- Day 1 You write your letter requesting a statutory assessment.
- 6 weeks The local authority will make a decision on whether or not to assess and let you know its decision in writing. If it decides to go ahead, it should name the Officer who will deal with your case – this is the number-one person you need to speak to each time.
- 6-12 weeks The local authority will write to the educational psychologist, medical officer, school / pre-school teachers and social workers asking for their reports. It will also ask you for a report and your ideas about who else it might contact. Everyone involved has six weeks to submit their reports. Your child should also be asked for their input, where possible.
- 12-18 weeks (but it might be rather longer) When all the reports are in, the authority decides whether to put together a statement or a note in lieu. If a statement is the plan, then a draft ‘proposed’ statement is sent to you. You can comment on the proposed statement and will be offered the chance to meet with your officer to discuss this if you want to. (You can also discuss the proposed statement with an independent supporter.) If a statement is not the plan, then you will receive a note in lieu. This describes your child’s needs and offers guidelines as to how those needs can be met. A note in lieu means your child will not get extra resources from the local authority.
- Annually The statement must be reviewed at least annually.
- Directgov: special educational needs
- Directgov: SEN step by step
- IPSEA (Independent Panel for Special Education Advice)
- NASEN (National Assoc for Special Educational Needs)
- Home Education – Special Educational Needs