Special Educational Needs
A key issue for parents is to consider and manage their children’s education. This becomes complicated if their child is mentally and/or physically disadvantaged or has special educational needs.
Conditions like cerebral palsy are wide ranging in severity and it is not always easy to decide what is right for children in terms of education. Experts recommend that early support and help are vital to give a child with CP the base to develop.
Children in severe cases will need full support and therapeutic input, specialist schools, equipment and specialist teachers and staff.
Some children with mild forms of CP may flow through mainstream curriculum with minimal intervention and support.
A Statement of Special Educational Needs
For those children with severe and complex needs which cannot be met from within the resources ordinarily available in a mainstream state school, a Statement of Special Educational Needs (a Statement) may be required to ensure the child receives an appropriate education. This may amount to additional support within the child’s mainstream school setting, such as Teaching Assistant support or therapy input, or it could potentially be a special school placement.
A Statement is a legally binding document issued by a Local Authority which should describe the special educational needs of a child and specify the necessary educational provision to meet each of those identified needs. The Statement should also name an appropriate school for the child where the educational provision is to be delivered
A Statement is a 6 part document the purpose of which is to ensure that the child receives an adequate level of educational provision to meet his or her needs. The special education provision specified within a Statement must be delivered to the child and the Local Authority is responsible for ensuring that it is delivered.
Options for education
All schools should admit pupils with identified special educational needs and schools may not refuse to admit a child on the grounds that they feel unable to cater for their special educational needs. This in many respects fosters an inclusive society.
For those children with special educational needs who do not have a Statement, the normal school admission procedure applies and they must be treated as fairly as all other children.
A different system operates for those children who have Statements. Parents may express a preference for a state maintained school to be named in the Statement. Unless a Local Authority believes the education of a particular statemented child in mainstream would be incompatible with the education of the other pupils, the Authority should comply with that parental preference for a state mainstream school.
However, for those children who require more specialist educational provision and input a specialist school may be needed.
All parents have a right to say which school they would prefer their child to go to and to give their reasons. However, this does not mean that they have an absolute right to choose a school for their child or that the child must be given a place at their preferred school.
It may be clear cut that a child will need a specialist school and the educational, health and care team working with the child may help parents to determine which is the appropriate school for the child’s needs. In other cases, there may be disagreement between parents and professionals as to whether a specialist school is required or what type of specialist school is needed.
In the case of children with mid and mild CP the choices can also be varied and this can represent a significant challenge to ensure that the appropriate educational route is navigated.
The majority of children are accepted to their school of choice. But what measures are available if your application for a school place is unsuccessful or, in the case of a child with a Statement, the Local Authority refuses to name your preferred school in that Statement?
There are two different appeal routes open to parents to challenge decisions made about their child’s school placement depending upon whether or not their child has a Statement.
If your child does not have a Statement and was turned down for a place at the school of your choice what can you do?
You can ask for your child to be placed on the school’s waiting list and you can also appeal against the decision of the school’s admission authority not to offer a place. If your child has not got a place at your preferred school you must be told that you can ask for an admissions appeal and should be advised as to where to send this request. The appeal will be heard by an independent appeal panel who will decide whether the child should be admitted. The process and criteria the independent appeal panel will use to consider an appeal will depend upon whether the child is of infant school age or older but all appeals will consider whether the rules were followed correctly by the school’s admission authority when refusing the child a place.
For those children who have a Statement and where parents disagree with the school named by the Local Authority for them in that Statement, parents have a right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (the SEND Tribunal). This is an independent and specialist Tribunal which hears disputes between parents of children with special educational needs and Local Authorities. A right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal will only arise in certain circumstances which includes, amongst others, a right to challenge the description of the child’s needs in the Statement, the provision specified for them and the school named as being appropriate. Parents will need to demonstrate that the school named by the Authority is not appropriate for the child and will not adequately meet their needs and that they instead require placement in the parents’ preferred school.
Some parents may feel confident or wish to fight an appeal themselves. This is admirable but in our opinion it is worth contacting a legal professional at this stage to help the decision making process.
It is sensible to find out your legal position as early as possible if you are considering a formal challenge or appeal or if you are dissatisfied with the provision or placement being offered to your child. Most Educational and Special Educational Needs Lawyers will initially hear your concerns for free over the phone.
You should always take professional advice and in this area of law there are only a handful of truly specialist UK solicitors who specialise in Special Educational Needs Law.
The most important questions to ask a lawyer prior to engagement are:
We have a list of experienced Special Educational Needs Lawyers and are happy to discuss this further with you.
Contact us for advice.
Useful sites on
Special Educational Needs
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