Statements of SEN - your questions answered

Article publish 9th June 2008

Statements of special educational needsIf a school cannot meet all the child’s needs from its resources, it may be necessary to apply for a statement of SEN. Statements are designed to ensure a child's additional educational needs are met. Statements of SEN are due to be phased out and replaced in the near future with Education, Health and Social Care (EHC) plans.

Although we still hear of parents who shun the idea, or are fearful that ‘being statemented’ is somehow a black mark that singles out their child as different, a statement for a child that needs it is a very positive step as it opens up doors and coffers that may otherwise remain resolutely shut.


In a few cases a statement may be applied for immediately (or even before a child starts school). Usually a child will already have been placed on School Action Plus but this is not always the case. 

The future

Getting the right statement is seldom a walk in the park and the whole process is currently under review. The aims of the review are to strip away some of the bureaucracy, speed up the whole process and give parents a greater say in how any funds allocated are spent. We shall see.

The now...

The current system leaves the LA in the precarious position of deciding what a child needs by way of extra support, then been legally bound to meet those needs.

Statements are complex and a good understanding of their nuances will help to avoid some of the pit-falls. For this reason we asked  David Ruebain, one of this country’s leading lawyers in the field of education and disability and special needs to explain the legals. He does so in his highly informative article Statutory Assessments and statements of Special Educational Needs

For those new to the whole statementing process we hope the following FAQs will shed some light. 

What is a statement of special educational needs?

A statement of special educational needs is a lengthy, detailed document written by the local authority (LA). It should describe all of a child’s additional educational needs, and the special help and support a child should be given.

What is a statutory assessment?

Statutory assessment is the process that determines what a child's needs are. It is a detailed investigation which may include assessment and reports from those teachers and professionals (such as speech and language therapists)  who have been working to help your child. It is designed to determine both a child’s special educational needs and what special help is  required.

Why are some children assessed?

If the LA decides that all the special help a child needs cannot be provided from within the school or preschool’s resources, they will seek to issue a statement of SEN.

When will the need for statutory assessment be considered?

A statutory assessment, carried out by the LA, may be recommended when a child has severe or complex difficulties or hasn't made enough progress through Early Years Action Plus or School Action Plus.

I would like my child to have a statutory assessment, can I ask for one?

Yes, as long as your child hasn't been previously assessed in the six months prior to the request AND (the tricky bit) the LA considers an assessment (or further assessment) is necessary.

Can anyone other than parents request an assessment?

Yes. Schools and early education providers can ask for an assessment to be made.

Is it true that LAs can stop an assessment being made?

Yes, the LA has to agree that an assessment is necessary. There has been a concerted effort to reduce the number of statements issued so getting the LA to agree could become an uphill struggle.

What should parents and schools do to persuade an LA to agree to an assessment?

Document and detail your case then present it as clearly as possible:

  1. gather evidence
  2. keep detailed record
  3. use checklists to illustrate your case
  4. talk to people who know your child well, teachers, health specialists etc. ask professionals for their input and support
  5. pass to the LA the names of those people you feel should be contacted to give useful information about your child’s needs.

Where can I find out what details should be included?

Assessing a child's special needsObtain an up-to-date copy of the SEN Code of Practice (from the LA or the Dept for Education). This details the evidence the LA has to consider,

it’s always helpful to know how the other side prepares their case.

You may find it useful to have a parental supporter to help you make decisions; they will have experience of the process, understand your concerns and anxieties and provide a different view-point to those who work with your child.

Who will the LA ask for information and how are parents involved in the assessment process?

The LA will ask for information from the parent (or carer), the child’s school or preschool, a doctor, an educational psychologist and anyone else involved with the child.

Parents have the right to attend any interview, medical or other test during the statutory assessment, but it’s not always in the child’s best interests for a parent to be present, so if in doubt speak with the people assessing your child before deciding.

After the LA has collected all the advice and comments, a decision will be made whether to write a proposed statement or a note in lieu for the child.

Can I appeal if my request for a statutory assessment is refused?

Yes. You may appeal to SEND (first tier tribunals) provided there hasn't been an assessment within the last six months.

Are there time limits in drawing up a statement?

Yes. See the table below.


Time frame Action
Within 6 weeks LA must say if an assessment is to be made.
Within 16 weeks If an LA decides to assess a child for a statement, a proposed or draft statement must be given to parents. This should take no more than 10 weeks, unless there is a valid reason such as a need to obtain extensive medical reports.
By week 18 A draft statement or notice in lieu should be issued.
Within 26 weeks Once a draft statement has been agreed, the statement should be finalised and issued.







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