Gaining a Statement of Special Educational Needs

In April 2009 our son was awarded a Statement of Special Educational Needs. Will is dyslexic and has no other special educational needs. We made a request for Statutory Assessment in July 2008 and what follows is a parent’s view of that process. We hope that reading this account will give you the strength and conviction to initiate and go through this exhausting and at times lonely process. Remember, professionals told us we would not be successful.

At the start of year 4 the gap between Will and his peers was becoming significant. To survive at senior school he was going to need guaranteed support and a place in a school with a resource based unit for dyslexia. We now felt Will’s needs went beyond what was available through school action plus.

Prior to submitting the request for Statutory Assessment you need the following facts:

• Neale reading age

• Vernon spelling age

• National curriculum levels in literacy

• Previous year’s levels, so you can demonstrate lack of progress

Your school should be able to provide all the above information. Hampshire County Council uses the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability for measuring reading age, so it’s important that you use the same measurement. The Local Authority (LA) has specific criteria for awarding a Statement but an indication is that by age 9 they are 3 chronological years behind.

So in July 2008 we submitted a request for Statutory Assessment using a template document available from the IPSEA or ACE websites that states that you are making the request under Section 323 of
the Education Act 1996.

The LA then has 6 weeks to respond, with a decision to assess or not to assess. Luckily for us they decided to assess. If the authority decides not to assess, you can appeal against the decision within certain time limits to the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

The LA then starts a 10-week process of Statutory Assessment. During this time you have an opportunity to provide further parental evidence of your child’s needs. In addition, we decided to support our application with a private educational psychologist’s assessment. This is an expensive option, but the report clearly stated that Will needed a Statement. The LA also collects reports from school, an educational
psychologist, a doctor and if appropriate social services.

After this 10-week process the LA then makes its decision.

• To make a Statement
or

• Not to make a
Statement, in which case they may offer you a Note in Lieu.

We received a Note in Lieu. A Note in Lieu documents all your child’s needs and offers schools guidance on the support they require. As far as we could tell after five months we had achieved very little that would make any difference to our child. This was probably the hardest phase of the process and we certainly felt like we’d lost.

Fortunately again you have the right to appeal to SEND, which is what we did. Once we had filled in the appeal forms we also notified the LA that we were taking their decision to tribunal but were happy to meet to review and discuss their decision. The LA then contacted us asking to reassess our child; you had to wonder what they had been doing for the last 10 weeks! We asked them to put this request in writing, specifically requesting them to state exactly why they were reassessing. They responded that
they were assessing to see if he met criteria for a school with resourced provision for dyslexia. We responded again that if he met criteria for such a school, he would also meet criteria for a Statement.

The new assessment clearly stated that Will met criteria for a school with resourced provision for dyslexia. We responded that therefore he also met criteria for a Statement. Finally it was agreed
that a Statement would be issued. (even though this was not a pre-requisite of
a place in resourced provision).

At this point you feel quite rightly that there is cause for celebration. You have come so far but now you need to negotiate exactly what support and provision your child’s needs require. In addition you can name the school you think best suits your child’s needs, with the reassurance that if the LA does not agree with this decision, you could once again take an appeal to SEND.

Was it worth all the effort? Yes, Will is now settled into a senior school with a resourced provision for dyslexia and is making catch up progress. Would I do it again? Yes. Have the strength of
your convictions and be your child’s advocate.

Sally Holland

Additional information can be gained from:
• Ace – Advisory centre for education

• IPSEA – Independent Panel for Special Educational Advice

• Hampshire County Council resources: Criteria for statutory assessment of children with specific learning
difficulties (dyslexia) September 2010 and Secondary resourced provision for pupils with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia) Admissions criteria and procedures September 2010.

• Hampshire Dyslexia Association (who have copies of the criteria above). More information about
Resourced provision is on their website www.hantsda.org.uk