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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Support for special educational needs: parent partnership services and other organisations

You have a vital role in supporting your child's education. Your views should be taken into account and the wishes of your child listened to. There are also a number of groups and organisations who can provide you with advice about special educational needs (SEN).

Getting extra help

If you are not happy with what the school does for your child, first talk to the SEN coordinator (SENCO), or your child's class teacher or subject teachers, or the headteacher. There can be misunderstandings so it is important you cooperate as much as you can with your child's school.

You may also find it useful to talk to other parents through your local parent partnership service, or to link up with local and national voluntary organisations and parents' groups.

Parent partnership services

All local authorities (LAs) have a duty to provide information, advice and support to parents of children with SEN. This should be provided by dedicated staff working separately from the LA's SEN team so you are assured that the advice and information is impartial, and that the people you are receiving it from are not involved in the SEN decision making process.

Some parent partnership services are based in the voluntary sector but most remain within the LA. Most services also offer access to Independent Parental Supporters (IPSs) who are volunteers trained to provide individual support to parents.

What do parent partnership services do?

Most parent partnership services should offer you:

  • access to a confidential telephone helpline
  • impartial information and advice around SEN issues
  • support in preparing for and attending meetings
  • help in filling in forms and writing letters/reports
  • initial support in resolving disagreements with your child’s school and the LA
  • contact details for other statutory and voluntary services
  • links to local parent support groups and forums
  • the chance to submit your views, which will help inform and influence local policy and practice
  • training opportunities

Your child's school or your LA will have details of your local service. This information can also be found through the National Parent Partnership Network (NPPN).

Advisory Centre for Education (ACE)

The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) is an independent advice centre for parents, offering information about state education in England and Wales for five to 16 year olds. They offer free telephone advice on many subjects like exclusion from school, bullying and SEN.

Advice for parents with disabled children

Contact a Family

Contact a Family provides advice, information and support to families with disabled children across the UK.

Parents for Inclusion

Parents for Inclusion is a national charity who work to enable disabled children to learn, make friends and have a voice in ordinary school and throughout life.

Advice for parents with children with special educational needs

Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

IPSEA has independent experts who will give you free advice about your child's special educational needs.

IPSEA provides:

  • general advice
  • advice on appealing to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, including representation when needed
  • disability discrimination advice and training

Network 81

Network 81 is a registered charity and umbrella organisation of parent support groups whose aim is to improve education for children with SEN.

Resolving disagreements

If you are still unable to resolve the disagreements about your child's needs with the school or local authority, you can get initial help through the parent partnership service or access the informal arrangements for disagreement resolution. Details should be provided by your LA. Using the service does not affect your right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST)

As well as informal help for resolving disputes, you may also be able to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This is an independent body that hears appeals against decisions made by local authorities on SEN assessments and statements.

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