SEN Q&A

Q - I am having worries about my child’s development compared to that of their peers and feel that they may need some extra support or may have a special educational need. How do I raise this with school and who do I speak to?

A – Your child’s class teacher is normally your main point of contact to discuss anything about your child. Most schools will allow for a parent to catch a teacher either before or after the school day - although these can be busy times and  they may  recommend the end of the day being an easier time to do so. If this is going to be more than a quick chat then it is often advised to book a time to speak with your child’s class teacher. Each school might have a different way of doing this, some may allow you to arrange this with the teacher directly, other schools may wish for it to be arranged through email or through the school office. You can check how your school would like this to be done by asking the class teacher or speaking with office staff if you don’t know. 
 

Before having a meeting with your child’s class teacher and in preparation for doing so, keep some bullet pointed notes about your concerns or worries or things you wish to discuss and maybe how long they have been going on for. This is really useful for trying to remember the points you wanted to raise. It can be handy to make a copy of the list too so that you can leave one with the class teacher and keep a copy for your own records. It can be very useful to make sure you put a date on the top and slide it into a folder. Keeping each set of notes and information, with dates on, and putting it all in a folder will allow you to be able to go back to it at any point if needed in the future.
 

A class teacher should listen to your worries and concerns and be able to share some of what they may have seen in school. Do not be alarmed if what a teacher is telling you about your child is different to what you are saying is how you see things or what is happening at home for your child. This is not unusual! Many children ‘mask’ and hold things in through their school day and when they are back home, the cascade of overwhelm, emotions and upset comes out. Home is a child’s safe space. A child will often mask to try and fit into the classroom, with peers and not have attention drawn on to them etc. While it could feel incredibly frustrating that they may not see things in the same way and you might not feel listened to by the teacher in some ways, often children can present differently in the classroom and therefore a class teacher just might not have seen or noticed what you are.
 

It might be that a class teacher says they will speak with the school SENCO at school and raise your concerns or put you in touch with them. It could be that the teacher might try to observe things a little more in class to come back to you with some further information. If you feel that you are not being listened to by the class teacher or feel that your concerns need to be addressed to the school SENCO for support around potential additional needs, you can ask for this to happen and for a meeting to be held with the school SENCO. 

Q - My child’s school has told me that they aren’t able to apply for an EHCP for my child. I have heard reasons from school, such as ‘your child is too academic’, ‘your child doesn’t cost more than the £6000 fund’ and ‘we can’t apply for one at the moment, they haven’t had a My Plan long enough’.


I believe that my child should be assessed for an EHCP to support their needs.

Is any of this true? What can I do about this?
 

A - In the Children and Families Act 2014 - Section 36 (1) it states, ‘A request for a local authority in England to secure an EHC needs assessment for a child or young person may be made to the authority by the child’s parent, the young person or a person acting on behalf of a school or post-16 institution.’


Therefore a school or parent are both able to request an EHCP assessment. To apply for an EHCP, evidence and information about your child and their needs will be needed as part of the application. (See question 3 for more information about how to apply for an EHCP as a parent). 

An EHCP is free to apply for and does not cost the school or parent to apply. With regards to the £6000 amount, (that is sometimes heard of by many parents as a reason to not apply) this is the amount that a school is allocated to a child who is on the SEN register. It is there to allow the school to make provision in school more accessible to the child and put in place reasonable adjustments. Sometimes Local Authority policies may be written in a way that makes schools have to evidence that they are spending the £6000 funding to support a child’s needs before applying for an EHCP. This might be Local Authority policy but it is not the legal requirement needed for an assessment of an EHCP. This is unlawful and you can apply to the SENDIST tribunal if the Local Authority refuses to carry out an EHCP assessment.

There are often many other reasons a school may use an ‘excuse’ to put off applying for an EHCP. Often it can be a fair bit of paperwork and admin work to complete, and the school will have to provide evidence to attach to the application. Sometimes a school might not have what feels like to them, enough evidence to send with the application. This does not mean that an EHCP cannot be applied for. A school can still apply and a parent can still contribute their evidence and information too or you can submit a parental application
 

If a school is reluctant to apply for an EHCP and you feel that they would benefit from having an assessment for an EHCP then you can submit a parental application even without the school wishing to, although it is helpful if they are willing to work with you.

Q - How do you submit a parental application for an EHCP and what information do I need?

 

A - There are two main options to submitting an application. Some Local Authorities will accept a letter of application for an EHCP request. The other option in some Local Authorities is an online application portal. 

These options will come down to individual Local Authorities as to which option they accept or some Local Authorities may accept either option. You can find out how your Local Authority will accept an application by searching under your own Local Authority council pages and looking under their SEND information. You could always ring your local council to ask about this if you are not sure. 

 

If your Local Authority is asking for a letter of request, then you may also need to check whether this is being accepted via email or post and how they would like to receive it.

When you are writing your request for an EHCP application, you may wish to consider including some of the below information depending on what is relevant to your child:

  • A history of birth and early development and milestones 
  • The difficulties and behaviours that you are aware of at home / in school
  • What home and school looks like for your child
  • Medical needs 
  • Speech, language and communication needs
  • Sensory needs
  • Food and Eating needs
  • Bedtime and sleeping difficulties
  • Social and Play development
  • Toilet needs and personal care needs
  • Independence and mobility needs
  • What have you tried at home or at school and what has supported your child or not helped.
  • Include any professional reports or letters or information that can support your application from health visitors, GP, speech therapist, occupational therapist, school reports, My Plans etc. 


If your Local Authority is asking for a letter of request for an EHCP application or you need more support or help with this. Please contact us via our website. 

 

Q - What is the legal timescale for an EHCP assessment, what key weeks in the process do I need to be aware of?

 

A - An EHCP assessment process should last 20 weeks. The Local Authority has to make decisions to assess or issue or refuse to issue through this time. These decisions have to be made at certain key week dates.

 

6 Weeks - by the 6 week date from submitting the EHCP assessment, the Local Authority must inform you of their decision to agree to assess or not.
 

6 - 16 weeks - the Local Authority carries out the EHCP assessment for the child or young person.
 

16 Weeks - by the 16 week date from submitting the EHCP assessment, the Local Authority must inform you of their decision to issue an EHCP or not. 

 

20 Weeks - the Local Authority must issue you with a final copy of the EHCP.

 

If you disagree with the decision from the Local Authority if they refuse to assess or refuse to issue at weeks 6 or 16, then you have the right to appeal the decision or with appealing anything in the EHCP at week 20. Please see further questions below for supporting with queries around appealing. 
 

 

Q It has reached the 6 weeks timescale and I have not heard anything back from the Local Authority about assessing for an EHCP. What should I do?

 

A - If you have not heard a decision from the Local Authority by 6 weeks, then you can make a complaint to them, as they must inform you by the 6 weeks. 

 

There are a few occasions where the 6 weeks timescale might not be kept to. It is important to note that the 6 weeks is from when the Local Authority receive your request not when you sent it. Therefore an email request is going to arrive sooner than say a signed for posted letter which will change the date slightly. If your request is also made within a 4 week or more holiday such as the summer holidays which are often 6 weeks, then the request can be extended during this period. 

You can write a letter of complaint to the Director of Children’s Services for your Local Authority. You should be able to find their details on your Local Authority page or through this website: https://adcs.org.uk/contacts/directors-of-childrens-services

 

What information should the complaint include:
 

The date you submitted your child’s EHCP assessment request

How the request was submitted to them (post, email etc)

Your awareness that they are in breach of their legal obligations as a Local Authority to notify you of a decision within 6 weeks of the request for assessment being received and whether or not they are making a decision to assess or refuse to assess

 

If you need further help or support with this process please contact us through the website.
 

 

Q My child’s EHCP is at the 16 weeks timescale. What happens here?

 

A - By week 16 of the assessment process, the Local Authority must have told you whether they are going to issue an EHCP or not.

 

If the Local Authority are going to issue an EHCP, you should receive a draft copy of the EHCP plan for your child. It is important that you check over the contents of this to make sure it is accurate and you are happy.
 

If the decision by the Local Authority is that they are not going to issue an EHCP plan then they must notify you by the 16 weeks date. With the decision to not issue an EHCP, you have the right to appeal this decision to the SEND tribunal. The details of how to appeal will be attached to the letter that says they are not going to issue. This will often advise you to go through mediation first. This is not compulsory and there are pros and cons to going to mediation. You have every right to be able to ask for the mediation certificate without sitting mediation which opens up the pathway for appeals. Often for refusal to issue an EHCP, Local Authorities will not overturn the decision as likely as refusal to assess decisions. Whilst it is up to an individual decision as to whether they choose to mediate with the Local Authority, if they do not overturn the decision then it delays the process for appealing to SEND tribunal. Therefore, some may choose to go straight to appealing instead of mediating. 

 

Please see further questions surrounding appealing for support with this or for further support or information in this situation, please contact us via the website.

 

Q What do I do when it has reached week 20 in the EHCP process and I have not heard from the Local Authority?

 

A - The Local Authority must have sent you a final copy of your child’s EHCP by the 20 week timeframe from submitting the request to assess for an EHCP. 


There are some occasions where the Local Authority might not be able to keep to the timescales. For example this being if a school has been closed over the summer holiday and the period of time can be extended slightly.

 

If it reaches week 20 and you have no final copy of the EHCP, you can make a complaint. 

You can write a letter of complaint to the Director of Children’s Services for your Local Authority. You should be able to find their details on your Local Authority page or through this website: https://adcs.org.uk/contacts/directors-of-childrens-services

 

What information should the complaint include:

The date you submitted your child’s EHCP assessment request

How the request was submitted to them (post, email etc)

Your awareness that they are in breach of their legal obligations as a Local Authority to provide you a copy of the final EHCP following the date of the request for assessment being received.
 

If you have not received a response within 5 working days from the Local Authority then you can seek sending a pre action protocol letter for judicial review.

 

Q The Local Authority has said they are refusing to assess for an EHCP for my child. What can I do?

 

A - The Local Authority must make a decision as to if they are going to assess for an EHCP or not within 6 weeks of submitting the request for assessment. 

 

If you have received a letter to say the Local Authority are refusing to assess your child for an EHCP, you have the right to appeal this decision. The details of how to do so can be found in the letter that has been sent to you stating the refusal to assess. 
 

The first thing you are often asked to do is mediation with the Local Authority. However, this is not compulsory. You have every right to ring mediation services and get a mediation certificate without going to mediation. Once you have got the mediation certificate then you can submit your appeal against the decision of refusal to assess for an EHCP.
 

Going to mediation can have pros and cons. Sometimes, the Local Authority will change their mind and agree to assess. However, they can refuse again at mediation and therefore you still have to go to appeal - this then lengthens the time and process. It is quite dependent on own personal decisions as to what people tend to do and how well they know their Local Authority and what others have experienced with this. Quite often when an appeal has been lodged for refusal to assess (rather than refusal to issue), a decision is overturned by the Local Authority especially if you have evidence that your child may have SEN or would benefit from SEN provision - the legal threshold for assessment. 

If a decision is not overturned at mediation, you will then have the mediation certificate for your right to appeal to SEND tribunal. Details about how to appeal are in your refusal to assess letter. If you need further help or support with how to request an appeal to tribunal then please contact us to see if we can help.

 

Q  What can I do? My child has been assessed for an EHCP but they have sent a letter saying that they are refusing to issue it, what do I do?

 

A - The Local Authority must make a decision as to if they are going to issue an EHCP or not within 16 weeks of submitting the request for assessment for an EHCP. 
 

If you have received a letter to say the Local Authority are refusing to issue your child an EHCP, you have the right to appeal this decision. The details of how to do so can be found in the letter that has been sent to you stating the refusal to issue and the reasons for this.
 

When you have received the letter stating refusal to issue, you have 2 months from this date to be able to appeal the decision.

The first thing you are often asked to do is to do mediation with the Local Authority. However, this is not compulsory. You have every right to ring mediation services and get a mediation certificate without going to mediation. Once you have got the mediation certificate then you can submit your appeal against the decision of refusal to assess for an EHCP.
 

Going to mediation can have pros and cons. Sometimes, the Local Authority will change their mind and agree to issue. However, more often than not they refuse again at mediation and therefore you still then have to go to appeal - this then lengthens the time and process. Quite often when an appeal has been lodged for refusal to issue, a decision is not overturned by the Local Authority.
 

If you need further information around how to submit an appeal please see further questions or contact us to see if we can support you with this.

 

Q   I need to appeal my child’s refusal to assess, issue, or change something in the EHCP, how can I do this?

 

A - When the Local Authority send you the final copy of the EHCP or a letter stating they are not going to assess or issue, there will be a letter attached with it explaining your rights to appeal and the process of this. 

 

You have two months to be able to make an appeal and one month from the date of the mediation certificate once it has been obtained. The date that is the latest is the deadline for submitting an appeal. 

The first step that is offered is mediation with the Local Authority. You do not have to go to mediation, this is a personal preference and different local areas will have different experiences with as to whether other people have had much success with mediation with a particular Local Authority. You might have a local SEND support group you could ask in. Lots of times refusal to assess might well be overturned at mediation because the threshold to actually assess is low. But for refusal to issue or to make changes such as a setting change to an EHCP it is normally easier to go to appeal to avoid any delay in not getting a decision overturned at mediation.
 

The details in the letter that you are sent will provide the details about how to contact mediation. You can either meet with the Local Authority at mediation to try and resolve the issues and then if they are not resolved you can take the mediation certificate and use it for appeal to the SEND tribunal. Or you can request your reasons why you would like to decline meditation and that you would like a mediation certificate provided and therefore you can go straight to applying to appeal for SEND tribunal.

It should be noted that there are occasions when the Local Authority does not get back to the mediation with a date. If this happens and it reaches 30 days with no suitable date or not hearing from the Local Authority, your mediation certificate should be issued to you so that you can use it to apply to appeal.
 

When making an application for appeal you will need to complete the request for appeal form through the tribunal website - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-send20a-application-for-permission-to-appeal

 

There is further information on this website about appealing - https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/special-educational-needs-and-disability-tribunal-forms
 

Outline your reasons for appealing, you will also need a copy of any evidence such as professional reports or school documents or anything else to support your reasons for appealing and the changes that you are asking for and to send a copy of your child’s EHCP attached to the application. This can be sent via email or via post.

 

Q I have received my child’s draft EHCP, there are changes I feel that need to be made. How do I do this and how long do I have to do so?

 

A - You have 15 days from receiving the draft EHCP to get back to the Local Authority about anything you feel is incorrect, needs changing or that has been missed.

It is a good idea to highlight, make notes or comments about the things you wish to raise. Some changes will likely need supporting evidence from school or reports to make changes or add to if things have been missed. If you know you have this evidence in a report and the Local Authority have missed it, it is important that this is highlighted and the evidence is directed to. 

When you have got the issues that you wish to raise with the Local Authority, you can speak to them via telephone about it, send an email - this can be useful as you can detail everything down and highlight relevant evidence and points that might have been missed, or you can arrange a meeting with the Local Authority caseworker to discuss the draft EHCP. Email can be a very useful option as it creates a paper trail between yourself and the Local Authority. If you do speak to them on the phone or in a meeting, it is always a good idea to send a polite follow up email stating the points that were discussed today and thanking them for their time, that way you again have a paper trail for if it is ever needed. 

You also have the opportunity to name the setting that you would like your child to attend and be named in the final copy of the EHCP. It is important to note that this does not mean you will be given this setting. Whilst parental preference is important, it is not that simple. Your child might already be attending a school that says they can meet needs, the school you want might not be able to meet needs, if you are wanting a specialist setting for your child - there are normally panel decisions involved about this. 

If you then receive a copy of the final EHCP that has not made the relevant changes or not considered your school setting preference, you do have the right to appeal this when you get the final EHCP and the letter about your rights of appeal.

 

 

Q I feel that my child would benefit from support and advice from occupational therapists or speech and language therapists but the school isn't referring to them. What can I do to access this support?

 

A Maintained Local Authority schools are able to refer to these services to help support a child. Independent schools should have access to do so too or some settings may employ their own working on site. 

Sometimes it may be the school who raises with a parent about how they feel a referral to a service could benefit their child. But if you feel that a referral to a service needs to happen then you can start by raising this with the class teacher or school SENCO. They are normally happy to refer your child to a service.  
 

If school is reluctant to do so, then try and seek a different member of school staff to ask and provide your reasons why. You can also take a look at your school’s policy for SEND, local offer or outreach options and who you can make a complaint to if you feel that this is not being provided.

There is also the option in most counties, to self refer to these services for your child. If you take a look at your county’s NHS webpage and find the service you are looking for, then a lot of them give you the option to self refer your child. You could also try speaking with your GP if this is not available and see if they can support you with a referral for your child. 

 

 

Q I would like to access my child’s data from school or from the Local Authority, is this possible?

 

A You have the right to be able to have a copy of your child’s data and information from school or from the Local Authority. You need to ask for a subject access request, sometimes called a SARS. 
 

You can ask for this verbally but it is much easier to keep a trail of when you asked and to whom if it is sent via letter or email. Schools or Local Authorities may well have a certain member of their staff that they would like this request to be made from. You can look on their websites or within their policy. If you cannot find the details for this then you could ask a member of the school or Local Authority staff for this information of who you direct this request to. 
 

A simple letter or email explaining that you are asking for a copy of your child’s data and what you would like it to include is all that is needed. You can though ask in more detail what it is you are requesting for, which can be very beneficial if there is a lot of information or data or if you are looking for something in particular. You can request all data or be more specific such as asking for the medical records or your child’s incidents log. It is also useful to ask for information between certain dates if you are looking for something specific. 
 

A SARS request can take up to 30 calendar days. If it is going to take longer than that then the school or Local Authority should inform you of this and they can extend this by an additional 2 calendar months, for example, if the request is extensive or they have to seek permissions to access information.
 

A SARS request can on occasions with certain circumstances withhold information or be refused. If this happens then you should be provided with the reasons as to why and what your rights are in making a complaint. 
 

This website has a lot of information on which might help further if needed.
 

https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/

 

 

Q I have heard of asking school for reasonable adjustments to support my child, what is this and what can I ask for?

 

A If your child is struggling with certain aspects of school or with their needs, you can ask for reasonable adjustments to be put in place to support them. If your child is on a My Plan, My Plan Plus or EHCP it might be easier to implement reasonable adjustments, as school staff are already aware of some of your child’s needs and have started to put other support in place too. This is not to say that a child without a My Plan or EHCP wouldn’t be allowed reasonable adjustments. Schools have to try and best support all children and if you have clear reasons as to why a certain adjustment would support your child then talking to school about it is where to start.
 

What reasonable adjustments could be considered for supporting my child?


 

  • A later start time to the school day
  • An earlier finish time to the school day
  • A toilet pass
  • Sensory and movement breaks
  • Adjustments to the amount or no homework given
  • Adjustments to the school uniform eg soft white t shirt rather than a polo top.
  • Visual timetables
  • Now and next board
  • Adjustments to recording of work, video, photos, typing on a laptop or tablet
  • Quiet or safe space provided 
  • Sloped writing boards
  • Pencil grips or supports
  • Coloured overlays for work for supporting Dyslexia
  • Access to fidget toys
  • Access to ear defenders
  • Access to wobble cushions 
  • Additional time in exams
  • Sensory and movement breaks in exams
  • An alternative space to do an exam
  • A comfort toy or item that is bought into school 
     

 

 

Q I am off to view a new school for my child with SEN. What questions could I ask them?
 

 

A These questions could be useful to ask a new school setting when viewing it for your child. Some of the questions might be adapted depending on your own child or whether or not you are viewing a mainstream school, independent school or a specialist school setting.


 

  • How many children are in a class?
  • What reasonable adjustments does your school have?
  • How many of the pupils in a class has SEN or an EHCP?
  • What are the adults to children ratios?
  • Do staff have recent and ongoing training around SEN and different needs?
  • Do they have access to onsite speech and language, occupational therapy or play therapy? If not, how do they access these services?
  • Are there any children with 1:1 support? What does this look like in your school?
  • Have you got a sensory room or calm areas in classrooms?
  • Do they have experience with similar needs pupils and what strategies do they use?
  • How will you communicate with me about my child’s day? 
  • How will I receive updates about my child’s progress?
  • What happens if school staff need to change and how will someone else covering the class be made aware of my child and their needs?
  • Are school staff trained to give medications that my child needs?
  • What options of support are available in making adjustments for exams for my child?
  • Is the building fully accessible with ramps or lifts?
  • What support is available at break times and lunchtimes?
  • Are there places to eat that are not in the dining hall? 
  • How are eating needs managed?
  • How is a child managed if they become anxious, overwhelmed, dysregulated or has a meltdown?

 


 

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