Expert clinic: Statements and Special Educational Needs with Tania Tirraoro

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Tania Tirraoro

Jacqui
Here are your questions and my answers:

]Although I've been through the process myself with my son what for the unitiated is a Statement and..
Who can request a statement?

The parents or the school.

How do you go about writing the parental side? Do you have to use the LEA's own form or can you write your own evidence?
 - No, you do not need to use the LEA form – you might want to use their headings but there isn't enough space on the form for everything you'll probably want to say. Visit my Special Needs Jungle site for more information about this.

Whose evidence should you ask the LEA to include?
 - It is up to you (or the school as well if they requested the assessment) to provide the evidence. I would include all relevant medical reports, school reports that back your case, IEPs and any Ed Psych Assessments or assessments from outside professionals.
You will want to read through these reports carefully and quote from the relevant parts in your application to ensure the important parts are not missed.

Make sure you read the SEN Code of Practice and familiarise yourself with the Education Act so that you know what the LEA has a duty to provide.

What are the time limits?
 -  The LEA must respond to your request within six weeks – check the date for the SEN panel with your case officwer and make sure all your supporting evidence is in before then. Only send copies. You should really prepare your case before you request an assessment as you are otherwise putting yourself under undue pressure. You'll also find it may take quite a while if you're going to get your own Ed Psych reports done as they are often very booked up.

If your request is successful the LEA then have 10 weeks to decide whether to make a statement of SEN. If they refuse you have two months to register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal

How do you 'protest' if you think the Statement is wrong?
 - When you receive the proposed statement, go through it with a fine toothcomb, making sure the stated needs are correct and that the needs match the provision. I recommend making a table with three columns entitled LEA Stated need, LEA provision and My Comments. Then you can more easily see what's in the proposed statement. I go into much greater detail about this with examples in my book.

You have 15 days from the date you receive the proposed statement to make your comments. If you prefer, you could ask for a meeting with an LEA officer to discuss the proposed statement and why it is inadequate. A statement by law must be quantified and specific in what help and how much will be provided.

Are there any support groups who can help with writing your side?
Yes. IPSEA, SOSSEN, The NAS Advocacy Service and now Contact A Family has started an SEN service. My book also gives detailed advice for those wishing to do it themselves.

Are there specialist support groups who can help in the event of a Statement not being what you want?
The same support groups that I've just mentioned can help you. 

What are the procedures for going to tribunal.
You need to submit your notice of appeal within two months of an LEA decisin you disagree with. Then you download the forms from the SEND Tribunal site or ask for them to be sent to you and send them back to SEND with your supporting evidence. I would strongly suggest you get support from one of the above charities or from a legal advocate or representative.

What procedures are there for getting an established statement changed?
You can ask your LEA for a review or a reassessment of a statement. Speak to your school's SENCo and/or head teacher to establish what needs to be changed. Then write to your LEA. There is advice on the IPSEA website about this.

Can you insist that the school provide the support listed in the Statement? And if not why not?
Yes you can - a statement is a legal document. If it is not enforced, they are breaking the law.

Once you receive and accept a Statement is that the 'end' of the process or is an ongoing process?
The statement is reviewed every year to check that it is still appropriate for your child's needs.

Tania Tirraoro

More answers to Jacqui's questions:

How do you go about choosing the right school for your child?
The LEA should send you a list of all schools in the area. You should also do you own research. When you have narrowed it down to a few, visit each school and speak to the SENCo to see if they could meet your child's needs.

Are there any specialists within LEA's you can contact regarding issues such as behaviour etc?
The LEA has its own Educational Psychologists, but if you are having particular difficulty, you may want to seek the help of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) via your GP
What about post 16 provision, what's available and does your LA have a duty to provide it?
A statement can stop at 16 if your child leaves school or it can remain in force until age 19 if your child is still in education. You child should have an advisor from Connexions to help them with their choices.

Annual reviews, can a school hold it without you being present? 
A formal annual review should invite: the child’s parents/carers, a relevant teacher, an LEA rep, or anyone the LEA or the head considers appropriate. In Y9, this should also include a rep from Connexions All our annual reviews have had our sons there as well.
The Annual Review cannot legally take place unless the head teacher can show they have made numerous recorded attempts to encourage the parents to attend and have given a number of opportunities for this to happen. Parents or Guardians can take an Independent Supporter with them to the meeting.

At  what age can a statement first be issued?
Statements can be issued before the age of two, though this is rare. Legal rules for how assessments can be carried out only apply from age two, so if a request is made earlier, the LEA will decide how to proceed.

Are there alternatives to a Statement?
- The LEA may decide to issue a 'note in lieu' if it decides not to issue a statement. In the Note in Lieu the LEA will use the information collected during the Statutory Assessment to explain why the decision has been made. Reports that were collected will be used to provide guidance to the child’s school about what help should be provided. The advice should only be sent to the school with the parent's consent. Parents can appeal to the SEND Tribunal if they are unhappy with this decision.

Remember these answers are only brief - if you need more detailed advice, consult IPSEA, SOSSEN, Contact A Family or similar.

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ElectronBlue
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Hello Tania and welcomeThe School Run! Thank you so much for agreeing to come and answer our questions, as you can imagine SEN is a frequent and emotive topic on the boards so getting good advice is invaluable.

Tania Tirraoro

More answers for Jacqui!

There is talk of changing the system, what will that mean for children with SEN's? Will it affect those with Statements already?
No one yet knows as the process is still underway. I recently spoke to an SEN official at our LEA who said they would not expect children with existing statements to be reassessed under any new system, but new rules are not expected in force for some time as ideas are only just being piloted at the moment.
Who are the main people at the LEA that deal with everything to do with SEN's?
Your main point of contact will be your SEN Case Officer. LEAs have whole departments to deal with Special Educational Needs including strategy heads, inclusion officers and so on.
Are there different types of Special school?  And if so, how do you know which one would be best for your child?
Your LEA should be have a list of special schools in your area with the type of children they cater for. Visit the schools' website for more information. Nothing beats a personal visit, however and you should always do this before you decide on a school for your child.
And possibly finally, what are the rights/chances of parents of a statemented child getting the school of their choice even if it's out of catchment area.
Parents can express a preference for an out of county placement (ie, not local LEA run) and LEAs must pay regard to that as long as attendance at the school would not be incompatible to the efficient education of other pupils; where the efficient use of resources would be jeopardised or it would not be appropriate to the needs of the child.
You would need to show that the LEA preferred choice could not support the child's needs and your child can only receive an 'adequate' education at the school of your choice. Again, my SEN book details how to go about this and there is also help on the www.specialneedsjungle.com website.
You may need to consider a cost analysis, which may or may not be appropriate. If your LEA does not have a suitable school of its own, your chances are better. At every stage my best advice is do your homework, prepare well, put yourself in their shoes to answer any arguments they may come up with and provide sufficient evidence to back your case.
If you end up going to Tribunal over any part of the statement, get legal advice from one of the SEN charities mentioned, an SEN Advocate or an SEN Lawyer. Trying to do it alone is possible but you may live to regret it.

Tania Tirraoro

Barefootgirl wrote:
How would you go about persuading a parent who was resistant to the idea of "labelling" their child, of the benefits of applying for a Statement?

Personally, I have to say I do not understand this point of view, though I know some parents feel this way. I see a diagnosis or 'label' as a gateway to help. My sister, an early years SEN trained teacher says she has encountered situations where parents do not want to hear about their child's problems.
I would say that your child is who he or she is. A label doesn't change that, it merely helps you to help them make the most of their potential or access the services they need to do so. It's not about the parent, at the end of the day, it's about the child and they have one shot at education – don't they deserve the best chance they can get?

Tania Tirraoro

ElectronBlue wrote:
Hello Tania and welcomeThe School Run! Thank you so much for agreeing to come and answer our questions, as you can imagine SEN is a frequent and emotive topic on the boards so getting good advice is invaluable.

Glad to be here and thanks to Michael for ironing out the technical difficulties!
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Fredd
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Tania Tirraoro wrote:
Fredd: Your question - What is the first step? I have a friend who suspects her daughter is slightly ASD, and teachers have also noticed this. Who should she turn to first? Or should school be referring?
------

The first step is definitely to talk to the school and find out exactly what their concerns are and if they match her own. She needs to find out what level of support her daughter is already getting and if this is sufficient to meet her needs. She might want to consider taking her daughter to see a paediatrician in case there is a formal diagnosis she can get which helps with access to support. The school should be able to ask for an LEA Ed Psych Assessment or an Autism Outreach assessment and perhaps an assessment by the SLT team. All these people will make recommendations for support and your friend needs to work with the school to make sure these are carried out. If the support required surpasses that which can be offered within the schools resources, she should then cinsider applying for a statement.

Thanks Tania.  The teachers' concerns match my friend's, but school are doing absolutely nothing about it!  No additional support or anything.  My friend is going to speak to the school nurse to see if she will help with a referral.

Tania Tirraoro

Fredd wrote:
Tania Tirraoro wrote:
Fredd: Your question - What is the first step? I have a friend who suspects her daughter is slightly ASD, and teachers have also noticed this. Who should she turn to first? Or should school be referring?
------

The first step is definitely to talk to the school and find out exactly what their concerns are and if they match her own. She needs to find out what level of support her daughter is already getting and if this is sufficient to meet her needs. She might want to consider taking her daughter to see a paediatrician in case there is a formal diagnosis she can get which helps with access to support. The school should be able to ask for an LEA Ed Psych Assessment or an Autism Outreach assessment and perhaps an assessment by the SLT team. All these people will make recommendations for support and your friend needs to work with the school to make sure these are carried out. If the support required surpasses that which can be offered within the schools resources, she should then cinsider applying for a statement.

Thanks Tania.  The teachers' concerns match my friend's, but school are doing absolutely nothing about it!  No additional support or anything.  My friend is going to speak to the school nurse to see if she will help with a referral.

You're welcome - if your friend needs any help with next steps after seeing the school. contact me via the Special Needs Jungle website and I can help point her in the right direction

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ElectronBlue
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Good morning!

If the school were not fulfilling the requirements of the Statement, what would be a parent's course of action?

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ElectronBlue
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Can a teacher/ school apply for a Statement without the parents' consent?

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