The more you as a parent know about the statementing process, the easier it will be to secure the education your son or daughter needs.
You can negotiate for your child
Throughout the statementing process it is worthwhile to think of yourself as the main advocate for your child. Don't be afraid to negotiate on their behalf. For example, one parent of a child with severe learning disabilities believed the best thing for her son was to spend some time in a mainstream school. However, she suspected the experts would be more worried about the problems this might involve. For this reason, she made a video of her son to show what he was capable of and gave it to the local authority. The video helped to convince them that a number of hours each week in a mainstream school would be beneficial for him.
The best advice that was given to me was that I needed to ensure he had supervision at break times and lunch time. This had not even occurred to me – I assumed this would be part of the package. How wrong was I?
There is a lot of information and advice available to help you
Making sure you get the right support for you and your family can be incredibly important. The services available will vary according to where you live, and your local authority should give you details of people you can turn to for help and advice.
- In England your local parent partnership service can provide advice, information and support during each stage of the assessment process. They can also provide you with an independent parent supporter, who might be a trained volunteer, a relative or friend or someone from a voluntary organisation.
- In Wales you can contact the Special Needs Advisory Project (SNAP).
- In Northern Ireland you can also get information and advice from SENAC, the Special Educational Needs Advice Centre, by calling 028 9079 5779 Monday to Wednesday or 029 9070 5654 Wednesday to Friday.
I got hold of the SEN Code of Practice early on in the process and it was my bible for six months. Even though it's very long it really has everything you need to get you through statementing.
There are other ways to get hold of the information that you as a parent may need during the statementing process, and parents have told Mencap that the SEN Code of Practice is especially valuable at this time
- Download a copy of the SEN Code of Practice from the Directgov website.
- Download a parents and carer's guide to the SEN code of practice from the TeacherNet website
The detailed wording is important
Make sure the statement says exactly what support your child will receive, who will be providing it, how often and how long it will last. Any commitments that aren't specific may be difficult to secure later on.
The local authority is required by law to provide the support described in sections 2, 3 and 4 of the statement
I always advise other parents the most important thing is that any support in the statement has been described in great detail. The two words to remember is that it must be ‘specified and quantified'.
Once the statement has been completed the local authority is legally obliged to provide the educational support they have described for your child in sections 2, 3 and 4, so make sure you are happy with the services being offered before you sign anything. Section 5 will detail your child's non-educational needs, such as transport, health and social care, and section 6 will describe how those needs will be met. These two sections are not legally binding, and the local authority does not have to provide these services.
If your child needs speech and language therapy, it is vital that this is included in section 3 as it is an educational need. If it appears in sections 5 or 6, the local authority is not required by law to provide this support.
Getting help is not always easy
All local authorities are under pressure to keep within their budgets and to use these budgets efficiently, so it is important that you make it very clear at an early stage what support you think your child needs. Think about what evidence you can get to make a strong case, and to show why a particular school will meet their individual needs. Remember, each local authority has a duty to provide for all children requiring statements.
You can ask to see all the advice the local authority has received
Your local authority should send you all the advice they have received about your child as part of the statementing process. You can also ask to talk to the professionals who have written reports on your child in the course of the assessment.
You can state which school you want for your child
When you fill in the draft statement you can state which school you want your child to go to. Every child has the right to go to a mainstream school, and increasing numbers of children and young people with a learning disability are now being educated in mainstream schools with extra support. However, for some children,you and the local authority may decide that a special school will better support your child's educational needs.
The local authority must accept the school you name in the draft statement, unless they are sure that having your child at the school would make it too difficult to educate the other children who go there.
Visiting the schools helps you to see, hear and discuss first hand if they can support your son or daughter's needs.
It is a good idea to visit a few schools before filling in the draft statement to get an idea of what is available and where your child will receive the best support. The local authority must provide you with information of all local authority funded schools (also called maintained schools) and all approved independent and special schools in England and Wales. Parents can visit any school that they are thinking of naming in the statement. If you have not made a final decision when you receive the draft statement, you can still state whether you would like your child to go to a mainstream or a special school.
Read the Mencap guide ‘Choosing the right school for your child'
Your child has views too
By law the local authority has to consider the views of your child. As a parent it is a good idea to provide some guidance on the best ways of communicating with your child. It might be a good idea to record your child talking about the help they want at school, or their responses in different environments to illustrate their likes and dislikes. If your child finds it difficult to communicate with words, you could also help them to take pictures of the things that are important to them, or video them in their nursery or current school to show how they have been getting on.