WHAT ARE SPECIAL NEEDS? WHAT IS SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL PROVISION?

This Factsheet is one of a range of FREE Factsheets on Education, Disability & Public Law issues that we have written for parents who are seeking specialist help.

In it we have provided basic but relevant information on the issue identified as well as information about what we do and how we may be able to help. We would be very grateful if you would not photocopy it or copy it electronically but ask other people who you feel may find it helpful to download it directly from our website at www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk

INTRODUCTION

In January 2007, it was reported that only 2.8% of pupils across all schools in England had Statement of SEN, a slight fall when compared to the previous year. Around 57% of children with statements of SEN are placed in Maintained Mainstream Schools (nursery, primary, secondary), down 1.5% from previous year. There were corresponding increases in the proportion of pupils with statements of SEN placed in Maintained Special Schools (36%) and Independent Schools (3.9%). In 2007, 75% of primary schools and around 50% of secondary schools had less than 2% of pupils with Statements of SEN. Less than 1% of both primary and secondary schools had over 10% of pupils with Statements. (Office of National Statistics)

SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

A ‘Special Education Needs’ (SEN) is defined as where a child has a ‘learning difficulty’ which calls for ‘Special Educational Provision’ to be made for them.

A ‘Learning Difficulty’ is where a child: Has significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age. Has a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of LEA; or under compulsory school age and falls within the definition above or would do so if special education provision was not made for them.

Children do not have a learning difficulty just because their home language is different from the one taught in school. Religion is also not considered to be a Special Educational Need. Furthermore, gifted children cannot be said to have SEN.

SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL PROVISION (SEP)

‘Special Educational Provision’ means educational provision which is additional to or otherwise different from the provision made generally for children above the age of two in schools maintained by an LEA, other than Special Schools. If children are under two, special educational provision is educational provision of any kind.

LAW AND GUIDANCE

The law regarding Special Educational Needs is mainly contained in Part IV of the Education Act 1996 (as amended). The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, which came into force on 1st January 2002, provides additional guidance. Both Governing Bodies (in the case of the Community, Foundation or Voluntary schools) and LEA’s (in the case of Maintained Nursery Schools) must do their best to ensure that necessary educational provision is made for any pupil who has special educational needs. They must therefore be aware of the importance of identifying and providing appropriate provision for these pupils.

LEA’s have additional duties to identify children with special education needs. The law states that parents should always be involved in partnership with schools, LEA’s and other agencies in order to ensure that the appropriate assessment and provision is secured for their child.

SCHOOL ACTION/SCHOOL ACTION PLUS

Not all children with Special Education Needs will require a Statement of SEN. A child who may have Special Educational Needs will normally be able to have their needs met within the education provision that can be made directly by a Mainstream School. If a school identifies a child as having Special Educational Needs, it should try to provide intervention which is in addition to or different from the normal classroom curriculum. This is known as “School Action” (formerly known as “Stage 2”). If a child requires further assistance then, in consultation with parents, the school may involve external specialists to advise and assist the school with supporting the child. This is known as “School Action Plus” (formerly known as “Stage 3”).

In these types of cases, the school will provide the child with an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) which will record that provision which is additional or different from the normal curriculum plan. The school also has a duty to inform the child’s parents that additional provision is being made for them.

The IEP will normally be evaluated and updated twice a year and parents can be involved in discussions about their content.

THE IEP SHOULD SET OUT THE FOLLOWING:

• What the child’s learning difficulties are
• What action is to be taken to help the child and by whom
• What specific programmes of work activities, materials or equipment are being offered for the child
• What help parents should give the child at home
• Short term targets and say when they should be reached
• Any requirements for medical help, Education Welfare Officer or Social Worker support that the child may have
• If any specialists have been brought in from the outside the school this should be shown in the IEP with the information about the work they are doing to help the child
• How the IEP is to be monitored and how its success is to be evaluated
• What arrangements have been made for the plan to be reviewed and indicate when the next review is due

If there is concern that a child’s Special Educational Needs cannot be met within the provision available from the school, it may be necessary for there then to be a “statutory assessment” of the child by the LEA to determine the special educational provision, which any learning difficulty they may have calls for. This can be done by making and maintaining a Statement of special educational needs after conducting a Statutory Assessment of the child’s SEN (see Factsheet No 2 on “What is a Statutory Assessment”).

Douglas Silas Solicitors are a small, niche but nationally acclaimed firm of solicitors specialising exclusively in Education, Disability, Public Law, particularly in cases concerning Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability Discrimination (DDA).

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Please browse our website at www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk to find out more.

Please note that every care it taken to ensure that the information included on this website is accurate. However, should you discover any information which you believe to be inaccurate please contact us as soon as possible.

Although the information we have provided here is meant to be helpful to you. Douglas Silas Solicitors cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss caused any Inaccuracy or reliance placed upon it. If you have any concerns about your child, you should seek professional educational legal advice as soon as possible.