Special Educational Needs


Who is this aimed at:

This hand book is aimed at parents, schools and other agencies. It has been devised to support parents who are having difficulties with their children educational needs. Most children that are excluded from school because their educational need is not being met.  It is proposed that this hand book will support parents in enlisting the support of schools and other professionals to assess the children who have been identified as having special needs. It highlights the stages a child has to go through to be assessed and what support is to be put in place for the child

What are Special Education Needs?

Some children have needs or disabilities that affect their ability to learn. For example:

  • behavioural/social (e.g. difficulty making friends)
  • reading and writing (e.g. dyslexia)
  • understanding things (e.g. cognitive or comprehension difficulties)
  • concentrating (e.g. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • physical needs or impairments (e.g. Deafness or Blindness)

These children may need extra or different help from that given to other children of the same age.

These needs or difficulties are referred to in schools as Special Educational Needs.

What defines Special Educational Needs?

How do I know my child has Special Educational Needs?

You, or the school, may have become aware your child is exhibiting:

  • Emotional or behavioural difficulty
  • Difficulty with expressing themselves or understanding others
  • Difficulty with seeing or hearing
  • A physical difficulty
  • Difficulty with reading, writing or maths.

These are just some examples; your child may have more general or other difficulties.  Your child is not alone in having special needs.  Many children have difficulty of one sort or another at different times in their education.


Types of support

 It is important that the extra help your child gets should be appropriate for his or her needs.  Schools, or early year’s settings, may help children with special educational needs in different ways.  Your school will have a policy for children with special needs based on the guidelines in a Code of Practice.  The Code of Practice, produced by Ofsted, is a guide for schools and Local Authorities on how to help children with learning difficulties.

 Early years settings and schools must notify parents/carers if they identify your child with SEN.  They must also provide a copy of their SEN policy.  All schools and nurseries must use a ‘graduated approach’ to meet a child’s special educational needs.  This means that increasingly, step by step, specialist expertise may be brought in to help the setting with the difficulties the child may have.

There are stages of support to try and help children with special educational needs. If your child is getting the help they need and they’re learning well, there’s no need for them to go on to the next stage.

If your child has specific and serious needs, they may not need to go through earlier stages of support and can get an appropriate assessment straight away. The stages are:

  1. Early Years Action/School Action.
  2. Early Years Action Plus/School Action Plus.
  3. Assessment    
  4. Statement of special educational needs.

Early Years Action/School Action

Early Years/School Action is the first stage in helping a child who s having difficulties. This is when your child is identified as having special educational needs by the school, nursery or pre-school.  The Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) will collect information on your child and inform you of their concern and decide on the ‘Action’ needed to help your child progress.

It may be extra staffing, different learning materials or special equipment.  The school, pre-school or nursery may put together an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to help meet the needs of your child.  The plan should focus on only what is additional or different from the rest of the curriculum and it should have 3 or 4 clear targets.  The IEP should say:

  • What specialist help is being given
  • How often your child will receive the help
  • Who will provide the help
  • What the targets for your child are
  • How and when your child’s progress will be checked
  • What help you can give your child at home

The SENCo may ask if any other professionals are involved.

If your child begins to make sufficient progress they may be removed from Early Years/School Action.  If your child makes little or no progress they should be moved to Action Plus.

Early Years Action Plus/School Action Plus

This step is similar to Early Years/School Action Plus. Your chid will have an IEP with targets and reviews but at this stage the school or setting will be asking for help and advice from outside specialists’ e.g. an Educational Psychologist.  Your child can only be seen by the support services with your permission. Make sure you receive copies of reports from the support services involved.

A further IEP will be drawn up with new targets and a date for a review.  If a child continues to have difficulties and make little or no progress the parents, schools and early years settings can request the Local Authority to make a Statutory Assessment.

A lot of ‘education talk’ can be confusing; if you don’t understand anything don’t be afraid to say so. If you still don’t understand ask again or contact Parent Partnership or Tips4choices.


  • The special educational needs of most children will normally be met in mainstream schools or settings.
  • The needs of most children will be met by support given to them by Early Years/School Action and School Action Plus.
  • You should always be informed by the school or setting of any action they want to take.
  • You should ask for copies of written information from meetings, professional reports or any education plans to be passed to you.
  • You should keep record of any minutes, contacts, phone calls etc., as these will be useful if you request a statutory assessment.
  • You can request an assessment for your child from the local authority at any time – but make sure you have full discussions with the school or educational setting first.
  • You can ask to see a copy of your child’s school record.

Statutory Assessments

What is a Statutory Assessment and how can the parents be involved?

A Statutory Assessment is a careful study which aims to find out more about your child and their abilities and difficulties.  Sometimes it is called a formal assessment.  It helps the education authority to decide what special help your child need. Different professionals will be asked to make contributions to the assessment.  They will look at your child’s needs from different angles and write reports.

You the parent will also be asked to make a written contribution.  You know your child better than anyone else, so your contribution is very important. When the reports are put together they will give a full picture of your child’s needs.

The LA decides whether to make an assessment following a request from the school, nursery, education provider or another agency.

The parents can ask for a statutory assessment by writing to the local authority Special Educational Needs Team. Parents Partnership or a member of Tips4choices can support the parents. The parent should talk to their child’s school before they request a statutory assessment.

 How is the assessment carried out?

Once the Local Authority agrees to make an assessment you will be sent a letter explaining what will happen.  You will be given 29 days to reply to the letter saying whether you agree that it should assess your child’s needs.  They will tell you the name of one of their staff who will be able to give you more information.  This person is called the SEN Inclusion Officer.

The parents should ensure they keep track of what is happening.  They will probably receive many letters, reports and other correspondence so that they can keep track of it all.

Remember to:

  • Keep all paperwork and information received together
  • Write the date received on letters or papers.
  • Put the date on any letters you write and keep a copy.
  • Make a note of phone calls, write down the date, who you spoke to and briefly what was said.

The Local Authority has six weeks to tell you whether it will make a statutory assessment of your child.  If it takes longer contact your child’s SEN Inclusion Officer to find out why.

If the Local Authority decides that an assessment is not needed, they will write to you and your child’s school giving the reasons for this decision.  Your child can still get extra help from the school and the LA must tell you how they think the school can meet your child’s needs.  You should discuss this with the school.  If you, or your child’s school or setting has requested a statutory assessment and the LA decide not to make one, you have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.  You should contact the LA at this stage so that together you can try to resolve the matter without appealing. 

How can the parents be involved?

The Local Authority must ask for advice from:

  • You
  • Your child’s school
  • An educational psychologist
  • A paediatrician/doctor
  • Social services (who will only give advice if they know your child).

The Local Authority may also ask for advice from any other professionals who are helping your child, for example speech and language therapist, physiotherapist etc.  They will also ask for your child’s view if appropriate.

Each professional involved in the assessment of your child will contact you and you have a right to be present during the assessing process.  However, children can act differently when their parents are around, so sometimes it may be better that you do not attend, or try to stay in another room while the assessment is done.

You may have information you would like to include to support your case – for example – Audio logical or opt homological assessments.  This will help the Authority to gain more understanding of your child’s needs.

Questions the parents should ask the professionals involve in the assessment.


  • What kind of help is my child receiving in the areas in which he is experiencing difficulty?
  • What progress has been made so far?

If the parents have not seen any records of the child’s progress they may ask if any have been kept and if you can see them?

Educational Psychologist

  • Why do you think my child should be assessed?
  • What help does he need


  • Does he/she have a medical condition which is affecting his/her learning?
  • If yes, what help will he/she need?
  • Does he/she need to see another medical specialist?
  • Does he/she need any specialist equipment?

Speech therapist, Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist

  • Is my child developing normally with his speech, communication and physical skills?
  • Do any of his/her difficulties affect his/her learning?
  • Are there any specialist groups I can be put in touch with?

Your views

The Local Authority, as part of the assessment, will ask you for written information about your child.  This is called ‘advice’.  If you need help making your views known you can contact Parent Partnership or Tips4choices.

In your ‘advice’ you should include:

  • What you think your child’s difficulties are
  • The length of time you have known about these difficulties and any changes that you have noticed.
  • Reports from other people who know your child.  For example a pre-school leader, health visitor, doctor or second opinion from another professional.
  • How you think your child could be helped at school

It is important to say what your child can do and what he or she enjoys doing.  Tell the things that only you would know. It would help your child if you give as much information as possible.

Your child’s early years:  Say when you first noticed any difficulties – big or small.  Did you tell anyone – what help or advice did you get?

Your child now: Health – eating, sleeping, illnesses, tiredness.

Physical skills – walking, climbing, drawing and using scissors.

Communication – speech, describing things, talking to people.  How much do you think your child understands what you say?

Personal skills – dressing, washing, feeding, travel.

Your child at home: watching TV, reading, hobbies, outside activities – clubs, sports

Relationships – parents, brothers and sisters, adults.

Behaviour at home – shearing listening, helping¸ moods, loving tantrums

Your child at school: What is your child good at?  What does your child enjoy?  Everything you feel about school – relationships, progress, how has school helped or not helped – how has the extra help benefited your child, what is easy or difficult for your child.  Are your child’s difficulties getting worse? What help do you think your child need?

Your child’s view: 

Usually, there will be a separate form asking for your child’s view.  This could be completed with you or a member of staff from school.  It may not always be appropriate for the child’s view to be requested and if this is the case, just ignore the request.

When the Local Authority has collected all the information it needs about your child it will decide whether to make a Statement of Educational Needs.  The Local Authority will normally tell you its decision no more than 12 weeks after the decision to carry out the assessment.  If it takes longer contact your child’s Inclusion Officer to find out why there is a delay.

If the Local Authority decides not to make a Statement they will normally send you a ‘Note in lieu’.  You should meet with the school to find out how they plan to meet the needs of your child.  If you do not agree with this decision you have the right to appeal to the Special Needs Tribunal.

You will be sent a copy of a proposed statement together with all the reports and advice.


  • You and your child should be fully involved at all stages during the assessment process
  • Don’t forget to give your written views if you need help with this – ask.
  • By agreeing to the assessment, it does not mean that you have agreed that your child be placed in a special school.  Most children with Special Educational Needs go to mainstream school.
  • Governors have specific duties towards children with Special Educational Needs.  Ask for a copy of the school’s policy on Special Educational Needs.
    • This can be a difficult and stressful time.  If you have doubts or need help contact Parent Partnership or Tips4chpices.
    • There is a strict timetable to the assessment procedures.  This gives you time to think, ask questions and seek independent advice and make your contribution.
    • The local education authority should clearly explain what will happen and must inform you of Parent Partnership service. 


What is a Statement?

A Statement is a legal document that sets out your child’s needs and the special help he or she should have.  A Statement is set out in six parts:

  • Part 1    Your own and your child’s name and address and other details
  • Part 2    Details of your child’s special educational needs.
  • Part 3    The special help which the local authority think your child should get to meet the                  needs detailed in part 2.
  • Part 4    Where your child should go to school
  • Part 5    Your child’s other needs (apart from educational)
  • Part 6    How these non-educational needs will be supported.

What happens once a Statement has been prepared for the child?

You will be sent a ‘Proposed Statement’ along with all the reports.  It is important to take time to go through the document to make sure you are happy with it.  Part 4 of the statement must be left blank when you are sent a proposed statement.  Check that you have been set copies of all the reports, which the LA has received from the professionals, involved with your child (including anything by you).  If something is missing contact the LA.  You will be asked to say if there is anything you do not agree with.  The LA should be told in writing of any changes you would like to make.  Your child’s current school will be sent a copy of the proposed statement.

You have 15 days from the date of the Statement to make comments and say whether you accept it or not.  You can ask for a meeting to discuss the proposed Statement with an LA Officer.  If you still disagree with all or part of the proposed Statement you have a further 15 days to try to come to an agreement.

What happens next?

The LA will normally make a final statement within eight weeks of making the proposed statement.  You will be sent a signed and final copy to keep and your child’s school/setting will also receive a copy.  You will also be told of your rights to appeal to the SEN Tribunal if you do not agree with the decision.  The SEN Tribunal is independent and considers parent’s appeals against the decision of LA about a child’s Special educational Needs.  The Statement comes into force as soon as it is made final.  The school governors must make sure that your child gets the help set out in the statement. 

The advice on the Statement will be followed and reviewed each year, or before if it is felt to be in the child’s interest.  This is called an Annual Review.

Can the parents choose their child’s school?

Deciding which school you feel would be right for your child can be difficult.  You have a right to express a preference for which LA maintained school you want your child to attend.  In making their decision the LA must agree with your preference as long as:

  • The school you choose is suitable for your child’s age, ability and SEN
  • Your child’s attendance will not affect the education of other children already at the school.
  • Placing your child in the school will be an efficient use of resources.

The Code says parents should be supported in making these decisions.  Parenting Partnership or Tips4choices can provide this support.

Will my child get free transport?

This will depend on your child’s individual needs. The Local Authority has a policy on transport that the parents can view.  They can contact their Inclusion Officer for help.

Deciding which school the parents would prefer their children to attend is very important.  The Local Authority and Parent Partnership should be contacted for help and support.


Please read your child’s statement thoroughly – you may wish to copy the Proposed Statement and go through the reports to make sure they ‘match up’.  This is important id some of the views are conflicting or if you need anything clarified.

  • It is important that the description of the child’s difficulties is clear. Many people dealing with your child (such as teachers) may not have to read all the advice attached to the Statement.
  • All difficulties (and strengths) should be included.
  • The Code of Practice says that provision in Part 3 should be clear and specific, qualified as necessary.  It helps to think about how the provisions, which are described, will happen.  What type of extra help? How much time will they be given for extra support?  Look out for words such as ‘opportunities for’ ‘access to’, ‘benefit from’, ‘regular’ etc.  They sound good, but what do they actually mean?
  • Until a Proposed ~Statement is sent to you no one else is able to make a firm decision about which placement will be most suitable for your child.   Even if you visit a particular school, this does not necessarily mean that the Local Authority will finely recommend a placement at the school. 
  • Governors have specific duties towards children with SEN.

The Special Educational Needs process (taken from Parent Partnership Waltham Forest handbook)

Children who have already been assessed as having Special Needs

Children who have already been assessed as having Special Needs would go through the 4 stages of assessment which end with a statement.  Each stage has its own recommendation and support; the child will proceed to the next stage if there has not been any improvement until he/she gets to the statement.

 Children with special needs that have not been assessed or recognised

Children with special needs that have not been assessed or recognised will be struggling to keep up with their peers.  Their behaviour will change as they struggle to keep up.  They will become angry and disruptive because their needs are not been met.  Parents should work closely with the school to get the child assessed.  The parents can apply to the Local Authority directly (with the knowledge of the school) to get the assessment done.

Other Children requiring help

Needs arising out of deprivation or poverty

‘As a whole, pupils currently identified as having special educational needs are disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds, are much more likely to be absent or excluded from school, and achieve less well than their peers, both in terms of their attainment at any given age and in terms of their progress over time. Over the last five years, these outcomes have changed very little’.

Past the age of 16, young people with learning difficulties or disabilities comprise one of the groups most likely not to be in education, employment or training’. (Source Special Educational Needs & Disability review (Ofsted))

What help is out there?

What educational support is available for children with SEN?

Before your child starts school or early education

Your child’s early years are a very important time for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. When your health visitor or doctor makes a routine check, they may suggest there could be a problem or you may have worries of your own. You can talk to your doctor or health visitor who will be able to give you advice about the next steps to take and who can help.

If your child’s needs are severe or complex, your health visitor or doctor may approach the Children's Services Department on your behalf. You can also contact them directly.

If your child is at an early education setting or at school

If you have any concerns about your child’s progress you should first talk to your child’s class teacher. In schools (or pre-school) there is a SEN Co-ordinator (SENCo), who is responsible for co-ordinating help for children with special educational needs. You will be able to talk over your concerns with the teacher and/or SENCo and find out what the school thinks. The SENCo will be able to explain what happens next.

Working together with your child’s teachers will often help to sort out worries and problems. The closer you work with your child’s teachers, the more successful any help can be.

Parents should contact Parent Partnership, Tips4choices, Independent Parental Support and Family Group Conference for support.

About Tips4choices.

Tips4choices is a Community Interest Company with a mission to help children to fulfil their potential by working with both the child and all adults who looks after or work with them.  We provide advocacy, training, in the form of parenting classes, education and information for a variety of roles and situations – especially within families that have cared- for children or engaged in Child Protection Processes.

 Tips4choices was established to support parents/carers and the children with all issues of a Child Protection nature.  Tips have a team of advocates who will support the parents/carers at meetings, conferences and at court. They can help the clients to make clear their own views and wishes thus helping them to make informed choices and get the services they are entitled to.  Tips4choices has an information services where the parents/carers can call and get advice on issues pertaining to their children.


This site uses cookies. Some of the cookies we use are essential for parts of the site to operate and have already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but parts of the site will not work.