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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Special educational needs: assessments

If a mainstream school cannot provide all the help your child needs, your local authority may carry out an assessment to find out what your child's special educational needs (SEN) are and how they can be supported.

Getting help for your child's special educational needs

The law says that all state schools must do their best to meet SEN, sometimes with the help of outside specialists.

For more information on this type of basic help, known as School Action and School Action Plus, see 'Special Educational Needs: a step-by-step approach'.

Assessments: if your child needs extra help

If your child still does not seem to be making progress under the School Action or School Action Plus, or needs a lot of extra help, your local authority may decide to carry out a more detailed assessment of your child's needs, based on specialist advice. Very few children need an assessment.

The assessment finds out exactly what your child's needs are, and what special help they need. It is only necessary if your child's school or educational setting cannot provide all the help they need.

You can ask for an assessment for your child and so can your child's school. If the school wants to ask the local authority to carry out an assessment, they should always talk to you first. If you would like to approach the local authority, it's best to talk to your child's teacher or SEN coordinator (SENCO) first.

Apply for an assessment of special educational needs

The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more about how to apply for an assessment of SEN for your child.

The assessment process

Local authorities look at requests and tell you (normally within six weeks) whether they will carry out an assessment. They also explain the assessment process.

If the assessment goes ahead, the local authority asks people to give their views on your child. They ask for advice from:

  • you
  • your child's school
  • an educational psychologist
  • a doctor
  • social services (who will only give advice if they know your child)
  • anyone else who the local authority thinks it should get advice from to get a clear picture of your child's needs

You can attend any interview, medical or other test during the assessment. You know your child best so your views are important. What your child thinks also plays a big part in the assessment.

You are free to suggest any other groups you know whose views may be helpful. The local authority should take them into account as part of the assessment. You may want to think about asking:

  • your local parent partnership service
  • voluntary organisations working with children
  • other parent support groups

After the assessment

Once SEN officers have completed their assessment, they decide whether to write down all the information they have collected in a statement of SEN. Your local authority usually tells you if it is going to write a statement within 12 weeks of beginning the assessment.

If the local authority decides not to write a statement, it will explain the reasons, and tell you how it thinks your child's needs should be met in school or in other ways.

If the local authority decides not to assess

If your local authority decides not to assess your child, it must write and tell you and the school its reasons. If you or your child's school still feel that more needs to be done, talk to the school. The local authority could think about other ways of helping your child, including getting in some outside help.

Your local authority should tell you about local arrangements for sorting out any disagreement informally and how long it should take. You also have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, an independent organisation. It is important that you begin any appeal to the Tribunal within the time limit as the Tribunal is likely to refuse to hear your appeal if you are late.

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