Support for children with Special Educational Needs without the protection of an Education Health and Care Plan
Schools have a legal duty to use their best endeavours to ensure that a child with Special Educational Needs is provided with appropriate provision. This is a very strong legal duty.
There are essentially two approaches that should be engaged in the context of a child with Special Educational Needs.
The first, is that when it is obvious when a child has multiple and complex needs which cannot be met by the school on its own, the school and the parent should seek a needs assessment to be undertaken by the Local Authority: the first stage to obtaining an Education Health and Care Plan. A needs assessment must always be undertaken if there is a possibility that a child may require the protection of a plan.
If, however, there is a potential for a child’s needs to be met through the use of the schools resources the school are meant to engage what is called the Graduated Approach with additional intervention put in place. The idea is that schools would put in place additional provision and monitoring if a child is making appropriate progress in line with his cognitive potential.
The way of examining a child’s progress, is not rigidly set out within the Code of Practice or in the Statute. A school is meant to examine broadly, whether a child is achieving in accordance with its academic potential, whether he is making progress within his peers, and whether his social and emotional functioning.
If a school believes that a child requires additional support, the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice sets out a discrete way in which support should be provided and monitored.
The first job the school must take is to assess the child’s Special Educational Needs. This without the extensive support of the Local Authority can be very difficult and in some cases, to fully uncover a child’s need, the school may need the support not only of a Educational Psychologist but also of a Speech and Language Therapist, ASD trained teacher or Occupational Therapist to name but a few. These are experts the schools do not usually have access to.
The school, after carrying out an evaluation of the child’s needs, is required to plan a support structure around that child to put the support structure in place referred to in the Special Educational Need Code of Practice as the doing stage and review the provision put in place after an appropriate period of time to monitor progress and to consider whether a needs assessment for a Education Health and Care Plan may be necessary. The SENCO should always be providing feedback to families of children with Special Educational Needs and should be monitoring the progress made on Special Educational Needs support at a school.
If parents are concerned about the level of provision being provided to their child, the first stage I normally suggest is to seek a meeting with the SENCO and ask to see the school file.