Special Educational Needs

The Education Act 1996 says that 'a child has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.' It also says that 'a disability, which prevents or hinders them from making use of education facilities, amounts to a learning difficulty if it calls for special educational provision to be made'.

All children develop at different speeds and are likely to be more skilled in some subjects than others. All children should receive the teaching and help they need to fulfill their potential during their time at school. If you think despite the teaching and help they are receiving your child is struggling badly with a subject or across all areas of the curriculum then they may be entitled to extra help through special education needs (SEN). This is often commonly referred to as special needs.

What Type of Issues are Considered Special Needs?

A child may be termed to have special education needs if they have problems in any of the following areas:

. General school work

. Reading, writing and number work

. Making sense of instructions

. Behaviour

. Understanding what others are saying

. Making friends

. Working with and relating to teachers

. Expressing themselves

. Organisation

. Physical problems and difficulties

Do You Think Your Child Has Special Educational Needs?

In an ideal world a teacher will identify a child as having special educational needs. At this point they should talk directly to you and together with the schools Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) draw up a plan for your child. If communication has been effective between school and parents then this step should not come as a great shock, but the next step after earlier efforts to boost your child's learning.

If your child's school has not contacted you and you believe that your child has Special Educational Needs then you should ask for a meeting with your child's class teacher where the subject can be discussed. It is sensible to indicate what you would like to talk about when you arrange the meeting so that the school's SENCO can attend the meeting if appropriate.

Your child's views should also be taken into account and the school should discuss any decisions with them.

What Extra Help Will Your Child Receive?

If it is agreed that your child has Special Educational Needs a teaching plan will be put in place. Currently there are two levels of plan. The first is called School Action and the Second is School Action Plus.

School action usually involves using a different way of teaching, using special equipment or using extra help. The extra help could be sessions of one to one tuition or working in a smaller group.

As you would expect school action plus is the next step up from school action and has many similarities. One area where it differs is that a specialist teacher, psychologist or therapist maybe brought in from outside the school to help your child.

Both school action and school action plus are normally carried out in a mainstream school. This means that your child should not have to face the disruption of changing schools.

What Happens if School Action Plus Does Not Work?

Either the school or parent/carer can contact the Local Education Authority (LEA) and request a Statutory Assessment of special educational needs. If after investigating the LEA decides additional help is required they write a statement detailing a child's needs and any extra help they require. This is often referred to as a child being "statemented". This is a legal document and is reviewed each year. It is up to the school to carry out all the requirements listed in the statement.

How Can the Parent Partnership Help Me?

The Parent Partnership is an organization set up to support parents with children who have special needs. They can provide information on the steps you can take if you are unhappy with the help and assistance your child is receiving at school. Although they are neutral and do not simply take the side of the parent they can help in disputes and disagreements between schools, local education authorities and parents.

For further information about the Parent Partnership visit: Parent Partnership.

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