Statements and statutory assessments

While most children with a learning disability will get the support they need from their local nursery or school, some may still need extra help. In these cases a statutory assessment may be carried out and a statement may be issued. Most children with a learning disability  will get the support they need from their local nursery or school. If you as a parent, your child's school or a professional have concerns about your child's development, his or her teacher should follow a step-by-step process to provide them with extra support.

Between the ages of two and five there are two stages of assessment and support – early years action and early years action plus. During school years the two stages of assessment and support are school action and school action plus.

For some children, these stages will provide enough support to meet their special educational needs. However, some children may still need extra help to get the most out of their education. For these children, a statutory assessment will be carried out by the local authority, or the Education and Library Board in Northern Ireland. This may take place after your child has been given support at the early years action or the school action plus stage, or earlier if your child's needs are complex and urgent.

Once this statutory assessement is complete, a legal document called a statement of special educational needs will be drawn up. This is a detailed record of your child's needs and the services that the local authority must provide for them. The process is often referred to as ‘statementing'.

Parents have an essential part to play in this process – it's vital that you get involved to get the best outcome for your child.

In some cases, it may be a teacher, a professional or your local authority who will recommend that a statement is necessary for your child. However, it is important to remember that you as a parent also have the right to request a statutory assessment if you have concerns about your child's development. The local authority must comply with your request unless your child has been assessed within the last six months, or they have a good reason for believing a statement is not necessary.

It is a good idea to make your request in writing to your local authority, as this way it will be clear exactly when you started the process, and will help to put you in the driving seat. Making the request yourself can also prevent delays in getting started and can give you much greater control, as well as ensuring you are notified of decisions as they are made.

Many parents have told Mencap that statementing can be a difficult time, and getting your head around the system can be a challenge. However, you as a parent have a vital part to play in the process. This is your chance to secure the best education for your child, so don't be afraid to get actively involved, ask questions and make sure you get the right professional and emotional support to help you through the process.

This information provides an introduction to statutory assessments and where statements fit in to this process. It also contains useful information about getting support and some of the actions you as a parent can take. You can also find a short explanation of important words and phrases in the ‘key words' section, and look for the ‘what next?' sign for things you can do.

This information is also available to download as a PDF.


Key words

Get definitions of some of the key terms you may hear while going through the statementing process.