What to do if you think your child/young person may have SEN
If you think your child or young person may have SEN, arrange to meet with their class teacher or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) to talk through your concerns. Here is a list of questions you may want to ask the class teacher or the SENCO at the meeting. We would advise asking for a meeting rather than trying to catch the teacher at the end of the day.
- How are you measuring my child/young person’s progress against Age Related Expectations?
- Do you have an example of the assessment framework I can take away?
- Where have you assessed my child/young person as being now?
- Is the gap between my child/young person and their peers staying the same, increasing or decreasing?
- In which areas or skills has my child/young person made progress this year?
- What are my child/young person’s next steps in learning?
- How are you supporting my child/young person’s progress in ……?
- You’ve told me that my child/young person is not yet working at Age Related Expectations, what additional support is available to help him/her/them?
- Have you asked for outside or specialist advice to know how best to support them?
- If so, what difference is the advice they have given making to my child/young person’s progress?
- What can I do to help my child/young person’s learning at home?
It is also important to share with them what your child or young person has said, their words are powerful and tell us a lot about how they feel. At the end of the meeting make sure you know what will happen next. You may want to make a follow-up appointment so that you know when support and progress will be reviewed.
As an overview, the definition of Special Education Needs (SEN) is that a child has significantly greater difficulty in learning than other children the same age. (The full definition from the Children & Families Act 2014 can be found on the legislation.gov.uk website.) What this means is that children and young people with SEN all have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help from that given to others.
After the meeting or if a school has identified that your child or young person has Special Educational Needs (SEN) they will consult with you, any teachers involved in teaching your child/young person and the school SENCO. After the discussion what help is needed will be decided and school will arrange for this to be provided.
The extra support is called SEN Support and should be written down in a plan and reviewed regularly. Each school may have a different version of an SEN plan. There is also a Trafford LA template document that can be used. You can find useful links on the Information and advice page of our website.
Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and an EHC Needs Assessment
Educational, Health and Care plans (EHC Plans) are for children and young people who have a special educational need or disability that cannot be met by the support that is usually available at their school or college.
An EHC plan describes your child/young person’s special education needs (SEN) and the help they will get to meet them. An EHC plan must also include any health and social care provision that is required in relation to the chid or young person’s SEN. It is a legal document written by the local authority and is used for children and young people with high support needs.
Who should make the request for an EHC Needs Assessment
The first step when considering if an EHC Plan is necessary for a child or young person is an EHC Needs Assessment. In making its decision about whether a child or young person needs an EHC Needs Assessment the local authority will look at what support has already been provided and whether there has been any progress. If a school or setting makes the request, they will be able to provide evidence of support, attainment, and rate of progress.
An EHC plan can only be issued after a child or young person has gone through the process of an EHC Needs Assessment. At the end of that process, the local authority must make a decision, either to issue an EHC Plan or not. If the local authority decides not to undertake an EHC Needs Assessment or not to issue an EHC Plan after the assessment they will let you know in writing. They will also inform you of your rights to appeal against the decision if you disagree.
It is advisable to speak to your child or young person’s school or college about an EHC Needs Assessment.
Young people over the age of 16 and parents can also request an EHC Needs Assessment by contacting the Local Authority directly. Details on how to apply can be found on the Local Offer website.
From the date of the request for an assessment, if the local authority has agreed to issue an EHC Plan, they have 20 weeks to complete the process. You can find useful links on the Information and advice page of our website.
The Council for Disabled Children have developed an easy-to-follow animation explaining Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. There is also information on the IPSEA website about EHC plans.
Receiving the draft EHC Plan and what should be included
EHC Plans can be long and complicated, but they should, by law, contain certain sections. It is important that the EHC Plan matches the legal requirements and that it is written in a clear way so that parent carers, young people, schools, colleges, and Local Authorities know who is required to do what and when. It should also be clear how often it is reviewed.
During the EHC Needs Assessment the evidence and advice submitted by those providing it (e.g., education, health, psychological professionals) should be clear, accessible, and specific.
The provision, as outlined in Section F of the EHC Plan, must be detailed and specific and should normally be quantified, for example, in terms of the type, hours and frequency of support and level of expertise, including where this support is secured through a Personal Budget. Where health or social care provision educates or trains a child or young person this must also appear in Section F of the EHC Plan.
Outcomes are contained in Section E of the EHC Plan and should be personal and not expressed from a service perspective; they should be something that those involved have control and influence over, and while they do not always have to be formal or accredited, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART).
You will be given 15 days to make representations on the draft plan from the date of the letter attached to the draft plan. After this time the Local Authority will finalise the plan. If you or your young person are not happy with the finalised EHC Plan and are unable to reach an agreement with the local authority, you can appeal against some parts of it to the SEN and Disability Tribunal.
You can appeal against:
- Part B, which describes the child or young person’s SEN
- Part F which specifies the provision necessary to meet each and every need described in Part B
- or Part I, which names the school or setting the child or young person will attend.
The SEND Tribunal’s powers now extend to the health and social care sections of EHC plans. Parents and young people who are dissatisfied with the sections of the plan relating to health and social care, and who have not been able to resolve their disagreement locally, have can take these issues to the SEND Tribunal. They must appeal about the education parts of the EHC plan (Sections B, F and/or I) to do so.
The SEND Tribunal only has the power to make ‘non-binding recommendations’ on health and social care (unlike the binding decisions they make in relation to special educational provision). However, it has been made clear that the expectation is that the recommendations will generally be followed.
IPSEA have provided a useful checklist to support you to check that the EHC plan complies with the law, also see their page what an EHC plan contains. The Council for Disabled Children have developed an easy-to-follow animation explaining Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.