Most children's special educational needs (SEN) can be met by their school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists. Schools have funding to support children through school-based help at stages 1-3 of the five possible stages that set out the way help might be provided to children with SEN.
However, in some cases the education authority (EA) will need to make a statutory assessment of your child's educational needs. This is known as stage 4. After the statutory assessment, the EA may decide that your child needs special help that can’t be met from within the school’s resources.
In these cases, they must write a statement of special educational needs (often simply referred to as 'a statement'), which is stage 5. Here we talk about proposed statements and what should be included a final statement of SEN.
Read more about getting extra help for your child in school.
Proposed statements of special educational needs (SEN)
When the EA writes a statement they will first send you a copy of the 'proposed statement'. This is so that you have the chance to comment on it.
Along with the proposed statement, the EA will send you copies of all the professional reports which were prepared during the statutory assessment. For example, these could be from your child's school or nursery, educational psychologist, health trust, etc.
You have the right to ask the EA to arrange a meeting with a relevant professional to discuss these reports, or 'advices'. You can also ask for a meeting with an EA officer to talk about the contents of the proposed statement.
The EA should send you a letter with the proposed statement which tells you that you have 15 days to make comments or request a meeting with an EA officer, this is known as making representations.
A meeting can take place after the 15-day period, it is a good idea to take a friend, relative or adviser with you. You will have a further 15 day period after your meeting to make representations on the contents of the statement.
Meetings with EA officers can be repeated. Following the meeting, an 'amended proposed statement' may be produced. Alternatively, the EA may finalise the statement, sending the final statement to you with a letter explaining your right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST ) if you disagree with the statement.
You may also want to consider contacting the EA’s Special Education, Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Service (DARS) officer.
If when you first receive the proposed statement you either do nothing or write back accepting it, the EA will send you a final statement and inform you of your right to appeal.
The EA should make every effort to make sure that you are happy with the proposed statement and that, as far as possible, your child’s views are reflected and they understand the reasons for the proposals.
Special education provision must be provided from the date the final statement is made.
What should the statement contain?
The statement must contain six parts:
Part 1 is a standard introduction that provides details of your child's name, address, etc and those of the child's parent or person responsible for them.
Part 2 should describe what your child can and can’t do clearly and thoroughly, including your child's educational needs and current difficulties. It should set out the nature and severity of these and how they might affect their ability to learn in the classroom. Part 2 should be set out so that it relates directly to the description of provision in Part 3.
You might wish to check that all your child's educational needs are identified in Part 2 of the statement. You can do this by looking closely at all the professional reports (or advice) which formed part of the statutory assessment. Make a copy of each report and highlight the educational needs mentioned, then check that these are all in Part 2 of the statement. By ensuring that all your child’s special educational needs are mentioned in Part 2, you can follow through in Part 3 to check that all of these needs are met by special educational provision.
It is important to try and avoid any vague descriptions in the statement. For example 'autistic tendencies' can be a description that makes it difficult to plan appropriate provision for your child.
Autistic children sometimes have related conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These also need to be identified in Part 2 of the statement.
Children with autism are likely to have difficutlies in the following categories:
- social communication
- social interaction
- sequencing and planning
Look for the following points in the professional advice or reports and make sure they appear in Part 2 of your child's statement if appropriate to them.
- difficulties with paying attention, processing, understanding or using language (receptive and expressive)
- literal interpretation of instructions.
- demonstrating impulsive behaviour
- acting inappropriately with peers.
Information processing, sensory sensitivities and transition
- planning and organising work/timetable/homework
- forming concepts and understanding abstract ideas such as creative writing
- predicting and anticipating events, especially consequences of their actions
- processing spoken information, needing more time or visual supports to help
- differentiating between relevant and background information
- finding noisy and busy environments distressing due to sensory differences
- finding change difficult, needing a lot of structure where activities must have a clear beginning, middle and end.
Autistic children may find it difficult to manage their behaviour
for the following reasons:
They may make inappropriate attempts to control their environment, as this can help lessen their anxiety
If your child has attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) they will find it difficult to focus. If they have dyspraxia they may have difficulties with co-ordination, from catching a ball (gross motor skills) to holding a pen (fine motor skills).
This is not an exhaustive list of the difficulties autistic children may have, so read Part 2 of the statement carefully to make sure that all your child's needs are included.
Part 3 of a statement must specify (ie set out clearly and thoroughly) all the educational provision to be made by the EA to meet your child's SEN. Part 3 of the statement is in three sections as follows:
The first section in Part 3 sets out the main educational and developmental long-term objectives to be achieved by the provision. These should directly relate to the learning needs described in Part 2.
This is the most important section of Part 3 and it should specify all the special educational provision that the EA considers appropriate for all the learning difficulties detailed in Part 2. The provision in this part of the statement should be specific, detailed and quantified. In particular it should specify:
- appropriate facilities and equipment, staffing arrangements and curriculum
- appropriate modifications to the Northern Ireland curriculum, or any appropriate exclusions from the Northern Ireland curriculum, These should detail how your child will continue to get a balanced and broadly based curriculum. .
Where a residential placement is considered appropriate, this should also be recorded here.
Using all the advice received and what has been outlined in Part 2 of the statement, you should check whether the following have been included in Part 3 (if considered appropriate for your child):
- frequent, supervised small group activities
- a programme for personal and social development
- a behaviour management programme
- additional supervision to help your child stay on task (for example a learning support assistant or teaching assistant)
- access to additional special needs support to cover unstructured times of the school day
- a language programme to be developed by a speech and language therapist or direct input from a speech and language therapist
- a teacher and/or learning support assistant with a qualification and/or experience in teaching and supporting children with an ASD
- a learning support assistant to help in delivering a modified curriculum
- opportunities to develop social skills
- a distraction-free environment
- an individual programme to develop language and communication skills
- an individual programme to develop social skills
- structured tasks and routines
- visual prompts and a visual timetable
- clear, unambiguous instructions at all times.
This list is not definitive but gives an indication of the kinds of provision your child might need. Always try and make sure that the provision listed in a statement is as specific, detailed and quantified as possible. Ask yourself:
- Who will provide the provision?
- How will it be provided?
- When will it be provided?
- How often and for how long? eg how many hours per week/how many sessions per week
Part 3 should be comprehensive and specify all the educational provision to meet each of your child's needs. Some of the provision will be made by the EA, some by your child's school from its own resources, and some may be made by health services and/or social services.
The EA has a legal duty to make sure that the educational provision in the statement is delivered, no matter who actually delivers it. This is unless the EA is satisfied the parents have themselves made suitable arrangements.
The final section of Part 3 sets out the arrangements that will be made to monitor and review your child's progress, including the preparation of an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
for your child. An IEP should be prepared within 2 months and you, your child and anyone else involved in their education and care should be involved.
Make sure that this section also specifies who will be involved in the monitoring and reviewing process and states how often the statement will be reviewed. A statement of special educational needs should be reviewed annually
Part 4 details the placement, that is, a type of school, the name of a school or nursery, or any provision for home education (also known as 'education otherwise').
In a proposed or proposed amended statement this section should be blank. Once you receive a proposed statement, you can express a preference for a grant-aided mainstream or special school or make representations for a placement in any other school, such as an independent or non-grant-aided mainstream or special school.
Generally, children will be educated in mainstream schools unless it is not appropriate to your child’s needs, not compatible with the interests of the other pupils at the school or it is an inefficient use of the EA’s resources.
Requesting a placement is not a guarantee that your child will be placed there. If the EA does not name your first choice of school or if no school is named you have the right to appeal to SENDIST.
Part 5 of the statement describes any non-educational needs your child has, as agreed between the EA, health services, social services and/or other agencies. This part of the statement is not legally binding and it is not possible to appeal to SENDIST about its contents.
If your child has health needs that can be categorised as educational in nature, they should be placed in Part 2 of the statement which is legally binding. This may for example be speech and language therapy and/or occupational therapy, where they are required to ensure access to the curriculum.
Part 6 of the statement describes how your child will get help to meet the non-educational needs in Part 5.
While the EA must arrange all the special educational provision that it outlined in Part 3 of the statement, the provision outlined in Part 6 is described as non-educational. This is normally provided by health services and/or social services in response to a request from the EA. However, no-one has a legal duty to put the provision outlined in Part 6 in place.
It is therefore important that all your child’s educational needs are described in Part 2 with the provision stated in Part 3. This would normally include therapies such as speech and language and occupational therapy.
The parental and professional advices sought during the statutory assessment process will be attached to the statement in the form of appendices.
Timescales from statutory assessment to statement
- EA receives request for statutory assessment - six weeks to make decision
- EA decides not to assess - writes to parents with right to appeal, or
- EA decides to assess
- EA seeks advice from parents and a range of professionals within ten weeks (unless in exceptional circumstances)
- EA decides whether or not to make a statement within two weeks of receiving all advices
- EA decides not to make a statement - writes to parents with information about their right of appeal, or
- EA decides to make a statement and issues a proposed statement
- EA has eight weeks to make a final statement
- total time: 26 weeks.
If you are still unhappy with the contents (Parts 2-4 only) of your child's final statement, you have a right of appeal to SENDIST within two months of the receipt of the letter accompanying the final statement. You may wish to contact our Tribunal Support Line on 0808 400 4102 (press option 6) for help. You may also want to approach your local DARS officer.
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