What to do if you think your child has special educational needs or disabilities (SEND)
On this page, you can find out more information on what to do if you think your child has special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). This includes detailed information on:
- the steps you should consider
- information on the graduated approach and SEN support plan
- requesting an EHC needs assessment
- what makes a good EHC plan
- what to do if your request for an EHC needs assessment is refused
- national trial
- personal budgets
- types of exclusion
Step 1 – Arrange a meeting
- if your child attends a pre-school, meet with their teacher or key worker
- if your child is at school, meet with their teacher about your concerns. The teacher will be able to tell you what they can do to help your child. You could also speak to the school's special needs co-ordinator (SENCO), who organises extra help for children with SEND
- if your child is at college, meet with the person responsible for SEND (usually called the learning support co-ordinator)
Please note: your child doesn't need a medical diagnosis to receive a special educational needs (SEN) offer.
Step 2 - At your meeting
- say why you think your child may have SEND
- ask whether your child has more difficulty learning than other children their age
- ask what the setting/school/college can do to help your child
- ask what you may be able to do to help when your child is at home
Step 3 - What the setting/school/college should do after the meeting
They will use the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 – 25 to decide if your child does have SEND.
If they agree that your child has SEND they should take a graduated approach (PDF 1.6MB) . This means they will offer your child additional support and set targets (or outcomes) to be achieved. They will review your child's progress regularly, at least 3 times per year, and if necessary change the level or support or the way it is provided. This will all be discussed with you and must be recorded – in Central Bedfordshire, we recommend use of a document called a SEND Support Plan (PDF 134.1KB) .
It is likely that this will be sufficient to enable your child to make the required progress. However, where despite the setting/school/college having taken relevant and purposeful action your child does not make expected progress they may consider requesting an Education, Health and Care needs assessment.
Parents carers and young people are also able to request an EHC needs assessment themselves. In this instance, we will contact the setting/school/college for information about how they have been supporting your child so far, in order to decide if an assessment is necessary.
Most children and young people with SEND will have their needs met by their mainstream setting, school or college.
Some pupils with more complex SEND (0-25) may need an assessment to see if they would benefit from having an Education, Health and Care plan. This is a legal document which sets out any additional support required to meet the special education needs of the child or young person.
Graduated approach and SEN support plan
There are 3 documents which provide guidance for practitioners to support planning and decision-making for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) for children and young people.
This will help early years' settings, schools, and colleges identify the types of support they might provide for children and young people who do not have an EHC plan.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 – 25 years (2014) emphasises that SEN provision is appropriate only for children / young people who require action that is additional to, or different from, the normal range of activities in the classroom.
Read the more detailed graduated approach guides below which includes methods of assessment, teaching and training guidance.
The following 4 areas of need are used to review and manage special educational provision and support:
- communication and interaction
- cognition and learning
- social, emotional and mental health difficulties
- sensory and / or physical needs
Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective SEN provision in place. This SEN support should take the form of a four-part cycle through which earlier decisions and actions are revisited, refined and revised with a growing understanding of the pupil’s needs and of what supports the pupil in making good improvement and securing good outcomes. This is known as the graduated approach.
The majority of children and young people with special educational needs and disability will be supported within their mainstream school through the graduated approach, quality first teaching, targeted and personalised support.
Request Education Health Care (EHC) needs assessment
The SEN Team will be responsible for the coordination of the EHC needs assessment. Settings will need to complete the relevant forms and provide evidence of what support and strategies they have provided and consider the graduated approach document.
Requests to carry out an EHC needs assessment can be made by:
- yourself as a parent/carer, can ask us to carry out an assessment if you think that your child needs an EHC plan
- young people aged 16-25 years, can request an EHC needs assessment for themselves
- anyone who thinks an assessment may be necessary - including doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends
The following example letter requesting an EHC needs assessment may also be of use to you:
If we write to you following a parental or young person referral, we will need to write and gain information from you we would recommend that you complete the following forms:
- request for EHC needs assessment (PDF)
- request for EHC needs assessment (Word)
- annual review form (PDF)
- annual review form (Word)
If an education setting is recommending that you submit an EHC needs assessment, please complete the following form:
If you have any questions with regards to the education, health and care needs assessment, please contact us:
Telephone: 0300 300 8356
The Council for Disabled Children website offers a step-by-step guide on education, health and care (EHC) plans and information about securing good quality EHC plans.
What happens if my request for EHC needs assessment or EHC Plan is refused?
If we decide not to complete the assessment, we'll inform you within 6 weeks.
If after the assessment, it's decided not to issue an EHC plan, we must inform you within 16 weeks of the first request.
If you're not happy with either of these decisions then you'll have two months to consider mediation and make an appeal to Special Educational Needs Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).
Young people without an EHC plan will still receive the support they need in their mainstream nursery, school or college where funding is allocated to the setting to support children and young people with SEND.
If you do not agree with our decisions, or the content of the EHC Plan, you have the right to go to mediation.
Before registering an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST), parents and / or the young person must contact a mediation advisor to obtain a mediation certificate within 2 months of the date of the decision letter or context of EHC Plan. There are three instances when you would not have to seek mediation:
- the appeal is solely about the name of the school, college or other institution named on the plan
- the type of school, college or other institution specified in the plan
- the fact that no school or other institution has been named
You may wish to make an appeal to the tribunal only after you have contacted an independent mediation adviser and discussed whether mediation may be a suitable way to resolve the disagreement. Please contact Kids, Special Educational Needs and Disability mediation and disagreement Resolution Service (link opens in new window) on 03330 062835.
If you do wish to request mediation, your allocated SEN Officer or the SEN Manager will be acting on our behalf. Your right to appeal is not affected by entering into mediation.
If you decide not to use mediation during or following contact with the mediation adviser the adviser will then issue a certificate within 3 working days. Once in possession of the certificate, you will be able to lodge your appeal, either within 2 months of this letter or within one month from receiving the certificate (whichever is the latter).
Mediation will not always lead to complete agreement between the parties and if you still wish to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal following mediation you must send the certificate to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service when you register your appeal. The certificate will not set out any details about what happened in the mediation, it will simply state the mediation was completed at a given date. Mediation meetings are confidential and without prejudice to the tribunal process and the tribunal will disregard any offers or comment made during them. Partial agreements achieved through mediation can help focus any subsequent appeals to the tribunal on the remaining areas of disagreement.
SEND Mediation Service and Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
SEND Mediation Service
This service offers an independent mediation service for children and young people with a special educational need or disability (SEND) in line with requirements laid out in the Children and Families Act of 2014, where there is a dispute concerning the support they have been offered.
The service targets families and children and young people aged 0-25 years old who wish to dispute a decision made about their access to an EHC Plan, or the plan itself.
The service aims:
a) to work with families and children and young people aged 0-25 years to facilitate an early solution to disputes connected to special educational needs entitlements and EHC Plans
b) to gather information from all parties to allow for a fair and balanced discussion of the decision
c) to organise suitable times and venues for all meetings
d) to work with families and schools and Local Authority representatives in a structured and unbiased format to attempt to reach agreement at an early stage of a dispute
e) where agreement is not possible, to provide a clear explanation of why this is the case, and outline the next steps available for both parties
Telephone: 0207 359 3635
Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
IPSEA is a volunteer-based organisation and many of the volunteers providing telephone advice and support at tribunals are themselves parents of children with special educational needs who have been helped by IPSEA in the past.
IPSEA’s aims are:
- to help ensure that children with special educational needs receive the special educational provision to which they are legally entitled
- to help ensure that parents and children’s views are taken into account when children’s needs are assessed and decisions are made about special education provision and school placements
IPSEA may be able to help if you feel your child’s needs are not being met, e.g. if:
- you want the Local Authority (LA) to assess your child, but they refuse
- the LA refuse to issue a statement after assessing your child
- you want to appeal against a statement when it is first made or when it is amended
- you are not happy with the way the school is meeting your child’s special educational needs
- the LA will not put the school you prefer on the statement
- you are unhappy with the amount of help your child is being given
General Advice Line: 0800 018 4016
Advice on: Problems with schools; requesting statutory assessment; proposed statements; annual reviews; disability discrimination; exclusion, etc.
Tribunal Help Line: 0845 602 9579
Next-step advice on SEN appeals and disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
When you call we will assess whether you need casework support.
You have the right to appeal to the First Tier Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) for the following reasons:
- refused to EHC needs assessment
- refused an EHC Plan
- content of the EHC Plan
- cease to maintain the EHC Plan
This is an independent tribunal set up by an Act of Parliament who hear and decide parents’ appeals, where you are unable to reach an agreement with us. For further information or advice, you can contact SENDIST on 01325 289350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEND tribunal: Single Route of Redress – National Trial
The government has extended the powers of the First-tier Tribunal (SEND), sometimes referred to as the ‘SEND Tribunal’, to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans as part of a two-year trial. The trial will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued/amended from 3 April 2018.
To date, you have only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans:
- assess a child's educational and care needs
- make a statement of special educational needs
- reassess their special educational needs
- create an EHC plan
- change what is including in an special educational needs statement or EHC plan
- maintain the statement or EHC plan
It is only possible for the tribunal to consider the health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan where you are already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHC plan and the education aspect must remain live throughout the appeal:
- First-tier Tribunal (link opens in new window)
- Extended powers SEND tribunal: national trial (link opens in new window)
- Single Route of Redress National Trial - Guidance and Toolkit (link opens in new window)
Find out more about personal budgets.
Types of exclusion and informing you
An exclusion is when a head teacher decides that a child is not allowed to attend school. It may result from a series of incidents or from one very serious incident.
There are three types of exclusion:
If a child is excluded from school they may not:
Informing the parent / guardian
You will be informed as soon as possible, usually by phone, if your child is excluded.
The head teacher must confirm by letter what sort of exclusion it is, how long it is for and the reasons for it. The letter should tell you that you have the right to make representations to the discipline committee of the school's governing body about the decision to exclude your child.
The head teacher can exclude a child on the day an incident occurred.
Informal exclusions are illegal and should not be used. A head teacher may, however, send a child home to remedy a breach in the school's rules on uniform or appearance.
For the first 5 days of any exclusion, the child's school should take reasonable steps to set and mark work for your child. If the exclusion is for more than 5 days, the school must provide full-time, off-site education from the sixth day of the exclusion. If the exclusion is permanent, we will provide suitable full-time provision from the sixth day.
- lunchtime exclusion – used when a child’s playground behaviour is considered unacceptable. Parents / carers have to take responsibility for their child during lunchtimes and return them to school at the start of the afternoon session
- fixed term exclusion for a specified number of days. Fixed term exclusions can be used for a maximum of 45 days in any school year
- permanent exclusion – used only in the most serious cases when it is allowing the child to remain in school would harm the education or welfare of the child or others in the school
- go onto the school premises at any time during the period of exclusion, including breaks and lunchtimes and after school
- use school transport