Most children's needs can be met by their school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists. The school will have funding to support such children through school-based help called 'Action' or 'Action Plus' - see our information sheet Getting extra help in school or contact our Education Rights Service for further information.
However, in some cases the local authority will need to make a statutory assessment of your child's educational needs. After the statutory assessment, the local authority may decide that your child needs special help. If this is the case, they must write a statement of special educational needs (often simply referred to as 'a statement'). A statement will describe your child's needs and the specialist help and provision required to meet those needs.
When the local authority 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 local authority will send you copies of all the professional reports, eg from your child's school or early years setting, educational psychologist, health authority, etc which were prepared during the statutory assessment. You have the right to ask the local authority to arrange a meeting with a relevant professional to discuss these reports, or 'advice'. You also have the right to ask for a meeting with a local authority officer to talk about the contents of the proposed statement.
The local authority should send you a letter with the proposed statement which tells you that you have 15 days to 'make representations' - that is, to make comments or request a meeting with a local authority officer. This meeting may take place after the 15-day period.
Meetings with local authority officers can be repeated. Following the meeting, an 'amended proposed statement' may be produced. Alternatively, the local authority may finalise the statement. If they do this, the local authority will send the final statement to you with a letter explaining your right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales (SENTW) if you disagree with the statement.
If when you first receive the proposed statement you either do nothing or write back accepting it, the local authority will send you a final statement and inform you of your right to appeal.
What should the statement contain?
The statement must contain six parts:
Part 1 of a statement 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. It will often also list the reports gathered during the statutory assessment process that are attached to the statement.
Part 2 of a statement should describe your child's educational needs and current difficulties clearly and thoroughly. It should set out the nature and severity of your child's difficulties and how they might affect your child's 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. It can be useful to make a copy of each report and highlight the educational needs mentioned, then check that these are all in Part 2 of the statement.
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.
Children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes have additional conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, etc. These also need to be identified in Part 2 of the statement.
Children with an ASD are likely to have needs that fall into the following categories:
- difficulties with communication
- difficulties with social interaction
- difficulties with 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 where appropriate.
Your child may have difficulty with:
- processing, understanding or using language (receptive and expressive language)
- interpreting instructions literally.
Your child may:
- have impulsive behaviour
- act inappropriately with peers.
Your child may experience difficulties including:
- planning and organising information
- forming concepts and understanding abstract ideas
- predicting and anticipating events
- processing spoken information
- differentiating between relevant and background information
- finding noisy and/or busy environments distressing
- finding changes between activities difficult, needing a lot of structure where activities must have a clear beginning, middle and ending.
Your child may have difficulties in managing their behaviour because of:
- lack of understanding of social rules
- confusion and fear of unexpected events
- interference with repetitive activities
- inappropriate attempts to control their environment.
If your child has attention deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD they will have difficulty staying 'on task'. 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 children with an ASD may have, so read Part 2 of the statement carefully to make sure that all your child's needs are mentioned.
Part 3 of a statement must specify all the educational provision to be made by the local authority to meet your child's special educational needs. Part 3 of the statement is in three sections: objective, educational provision, and monitoring.
The first section in Part 3 sets out the main educational and developmental long-term objectives to be achieved by the special educational provision. Objectives 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 local authority 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:
- any appropriate facilities and equipment, staffing arrangements and curriculum
- any appropriate modifications to the national curriculum, or any appropriate exclusions from the national curriculum, in detail and how your child will continue to get a balanced and broadly based curriculum in spite of any exclusions.
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?
- For how long?
In summary, 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 local authority, some by the child's school from its own resources, and some may be made by the health authority. The local authority 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 local authority 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. Make sure that this section specifies who will be involved in the monitoring and reviewing process. This section should also say how often the statement will be reviewed: this should happen at least once a year.
Part 4 details the placement, that is, a type of school, the name of a school or early education setting, 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 ask for a particular school or setting, including one that may be out of the area, if you believe it will best meet your child's needs. Requesting a placement is not a guarantee that your child will be placed there.
Part 5 of the statement describes any non-educational needs your child has, as agreed between the local authority, health services, social services and other agencies. This part of the statement is not legally binding and it is not possible to appeal to SEN Tribunal Wales about its contents.
Part 6 of the statement describes how your child will get help to meet the non-educational needs in Part 5.
While the local authority 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 the health authority or social services in response to a request from the local authority. However, no-one has a legal duty to put the provision outlined in Part 6 in place. It is therefore important that all your childs 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.
Timescales from statutory assessment to statement
- local authority receives request for statutory assessment - six weeks to make decision
- local authority decides not to assess - writes to parents with right to appeal, or
- local authority decides to assess
- local authority seeks advice from parents and a range of professionals within ten weeks (unless in exceptional circumstances)
- local authority decides whether or not to make a statement within two weeks of receiving all advices
- local authority decides not to make a statement - writes to parents with information about their right of appeal, or
- local authority decides to make a statement and issues a proposed statement
- local authority has eight weeks to make a final statement
- total time: 26 weeks.
See 'Related resources' on the next page of this article for a PDF illustration of these timescales.
If you are still unhappy with the contents of your child's final statement, you have a right of appeal to the SEN Tribunal Wales 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 2) for help.