School and Special Needs

When your child goes to school

Choosing the best school for a child with special needs requires some research on the part of the parent or carer. Primarily, a meeting with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) will help you to establish the school's approach to educating children with special needs. Ask them how special needs are addressed and catered for at that school. The school should have a special needs policy which you can ask to see. You can also ask to be shown round the school to see what sort of barriers the physical environment might present for your child. Try and speak to other parents whose children are at the school who also have special needs. Finally, find out what the rules on admissions involve.

Types of School

There are principally three types of school:
  • Maintained mainstream: not a special school but may have some children with special needs
  • Maintained special school: one that only takes pupils with special needs
  • Non-maintained special school: one which charges fees but does not make a profit

If your child has a Statement of Special Needs, part 4 of that statement will name the type of school they ought to attend. Parents may make a request for a certain school but this request will be rejected if:

  • Unsuitable for the child in some way, for example due to their ability or special educational needs
  • If it would adversely affect the education of other children at the school
  • If it would adversely affect the efficient use of resources

The LEA must talk to the governing body at the school but they cannot refuse to admit a child just because he/she has special needs.

Statutory Assessment and Statements of Special Educational Needs

If you are worried about your child's progress at school, talk first to their teacher and then the Special Education Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO). Schools are able to support pupils with special needs through School Action and School Action Plus

Following your meeting with the teacher and the SENCO, the SENCO will draw up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which should detail how the issues raised are going to be addressed and when there ought to be a review of how well the plan is working. There should be a review at least twice a year. If it does not seem that the plan is effective, then you might want to suggest the involvement of external help, this might be an Educational Psychologist or a specialist teacher. This means that the programme has moved from School Action to School Action Plus. Now a new IEP will be drawn up which needs to be regularly reviewed.

If this is unsuccessful, the school, in consultation with the parents, may approach the LEA for a Statutory Assessment (parents also have the right to request this). This assessment is a thorough assessment of needs to which parents will be asked for their input. As a parent you will need to think about and write down the history of your child's special needs from as far back as you can so that the assessment gives a full background to the issues and can therefore formulate as effective a plan as possible.

It is the law that the time taken to decided whether this type of assessment is necessary should be no more than 6 weeks; that the assessment should then be carried out and completed within 10 weeks; that the draft statement should take a further two weeks and the final statement be concluded within a further 8 weeks. This makes a total of 26 weeks.

Once the assessment has been concluded the LEA will decide whether to proceed with a proposed Statement of Special Educational Needs. If they decide not to do this they have to give a full report detailing their reasons.

The Statement consists of 6 parts:

  1. Introduction e.g. name/address/age of child
  2. Lists all the child's special educational needs
  3. Describes the kind of help your child will be receiving to meet their needs
  4. Name of the school where this will take place (or information about provisions made outside of school)
  5. and 6. These describe any non-eduational aspects of the child's needs

You should be given access to your child's Statement. It is a good idea to look out for what may be vague directions - words such as 'regularly' and phrases such as 'as necessary' , what do they actually mean in practice? Once the Statement has been finalised, the LEA has a legal duty to meet the requirements it lays out

Every LEA also has to provide independent advice, support and information to parents of children with special needs. These are called Parent Partnership Services.

For further information regarding the statementing process, see the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice

For information on special needs provision in Scotland, go to Enquire