Children with special education needs (SEN) who don't have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) should have provision made for them in school through ‘SEN Support'.
This has replaced School Action and School Action+ which some children previously had before the law was revised in 2014.
What is SEN Support?
SEN Support should focus on a cycle which requires the school to assess, plan, do and review, to ensure they understand the child’s needs and the support needed to help them make good progress. This is therefore likely to differ according to the individual needs of each child.
To assess, the class teacher must work with the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) to carry out a clear analysis of the child’s needs, and this should include taking seriously any concerns raised by the parents. This should be reviewed regularly and should include input from professionals working with the child and school.
If the school decides to provide SEN Support, they must plan the support and interventions the child needs based on the assessment. The school must make sure the parents are fully aware of the planned support and interventions and they have the parents’ consent.
Do and review
The school should then do the planned support and interventions and should also review the effectiveness of them and the impact of these on the child’s progress. The school should also seek the views of the child and his/her parents. Any changes to the plan following the review should then be done in consultation with the pupil and parent.
Can SEN Support include provision from professionals outside of the school?
Yes, so long as it is decided that provision from an outside professional is needed as part of the SEN Support. Parents should always be involved in the decision to use external professionals and any agreed support should be provided as soon as possible after confirming it is needed.
What can I do if the SEN Support is not provided?
As the school is responsible for SEN Support you should contact the school and discuss this with them. You may want to contact the class teacher or the SENCo first, and if you don't receive a satisfactory response, you could consider making a complaint to the school. The school will have a complaints policy, which sets out the process you will need to follow. This should be provided on request.
What can I do if the school’s plan does not include the provision needed, or if my child is not making progress under SEN Support?
You could raise your concerns with the school as set out above. If you remain unhappy it is unlikely you will be able to take legal action against the school in relation to the SEN Support, unless you think the school is discriminating against your child. In this case you should seek legal advice.
You should consider whether your child’s special educational needs can be met under SEN Support or whether they need an EHCP. An ECHP is a higher level of support than SEN Support for children with special educational needs, determined by a formal assessment (EHC Needs assessment). Not all children will be entitled to an EHCP.
Why should I ask for an EHCP?
EHCPs have many advantages, but they have two key benefits over SEN Support: first, the EHCP will set out what provision is required to meet the child’s educational needs. If this is not provided as set out in the EHCP, there is a legal remedy that can be pursued against the Local Authority, which has a legal duty to ensure it is provided. Second, if an EHCP does not include all the provisions a child needs, the parents or the child (if they are over compulsory school age) can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and ask for further provision to be included in it. You can also use this right of appeal to ask for the provision included to be more specific and quantified, as EHCPs are not always written clearly enough to establish the specific provision which must be supplied.
How do I get an EHCP?
You or the school can request an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment from the Local Authority, which will start off the process. The Local Authority could refuse to carry out the assessment, or after assessing they could refuse to issue an EHCP. If either of these happens, you should seek legal advice about your right of appeal. Likewise, if you are successful in obtaining an EHCP I would recommend seeking legal advice regarding your right of appeal in relation to this to make sure it is a good Plan.
With thanks to Samantha Hale, a solicitor specialising in education, community care and public law.