School and Special Needs

How a statutory assessment is made? 

In law, a child with Special Educational Needs (SEN) is the one who finds it much harder to learn than most other children of her or his age or has a disability such as a hearing, visual, speech or language impairment that hinders normal schooling.

There are three level of it: school action, school action plus, and statutory assessment. Let us know a bit about all three to begin with. In level one: school action, teachers give the child appropriate extra help as part of their normal classroom role. In level two: school action plus, the school has to call in specialist help from outside agencies to help children make better progress in normal classes at school.

However, if a child is still not making satisfactory progress, the school and parents may apply to the Local Education Authority (LEA) for a ‘statutory assessment” (level three). This is an investigation by an educational psychologist and other professionals into the child’s need for support.

To apply for a statutory assessment, you write to the LEA or submit a request through the school’s SEN coordinator. You should be given the name of an officer at the LEA, who would advise you to keep you informed of what is happening. The LEA will first of all ask for evidence that, despite everything the school has done, difficulties remain. These evidence can include an assessment by the school of the child’s needs, a statement of measures that school has already taken to try to meet those needs, reports of the child’s levels of academic achievements and rate of progress at school, an assessment of the child’s behavioural, emotional and social development, and finally the reports from professionals such as educational psychologists and specialist support teachers. The whole process of getting a statutory assessment may take up to six months.

The Evidence

The LEA studies the evidence and then makes a decision. The decision could be that a statutory assessment is appropriate for the child, or the child’s needs are being adequately met under existing arrangements, so a statutory assessment is not necessary.  

The Assessment

The experts make the assessment and then make a decision. The decision could be that a ‘statement of special education needs’ is necessary for the child or no extra measures are needed. 

The Statement

The LEA experts write a statement of the child’s needs and of the provisions required to meet them. This statement of special educational needs is reviewed each year.  

Transition Period

At the age of fourteen a re-assessment is made and a transition plan worked out to prepare the child for an adult life. This plan is reviewed annually until the child leaves the school.  

Example

Poor Co-ordination and Attention Deficit Disorder

Your daughter has poor co-ordination and attention deficit disorder, but her teacher says the school does not have the resources for an assistant to help her. Please note that the legally the school cannot refuse to support your daughter. But, you or the head of the school must ask for LEA to carry out a statutory assessment. If the assessor thinks your daughter’s case is severe enough, they may issue a written SEN statement, obliging the LEA to provide the resources. 

If the authority refuses to make an assessment, or to issue a statement, you can appeal to an independent tribunal, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). You can also appeal to the tribunal if you disagree with the contents of the statement, or if your LEA does not fulfill the obligations the statement imposes. For its part, the tribunal can dismiss the appeal, order the LEA to make a statement, or change a statement already made, or reconsider its position.

If you need help with your appeal, ask your LEA to put you in touch with its parent adviser or a parent partnership scheme, or contact the Independent Panel for Special Educational Needs advice (IPSEA). 

See your daughter’s teacher and the school’s SEN coordinator and ask for backing for an LEA assessment. If the LEA refuses an assessment, or makes an assessment but decides not to issue a statement of special needs, ask the school to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). If the school is unwilling, contact the parent support officer at your LEA and ask how you can make an appeal to SENDIST. If SENDIST turns down your appeal, consult a solicitor about taking legal action against the LEA.