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The starting point for most special educational needs is support in the classroom. This will involve your child’s teacher providing differentiated learning opportunities for them, to help aid in their progression, in addition to monitoring your child’s work to ensure progress is actually being made.
When a child is still failing to make progress, it is the job of the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) to review the special provisions being made, and decide what appropriate additional provisions can be made through the ‘Asses, Plan, Do, Review’ method.
Beyond this, if a child is still failing to achieve their expected academic progress then an Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment may be appropriate. This will be conducted by the local authority to define the child’s specific needs and the provision needed to achieve progress and whether it is within the school’s means to provide them.
The legal criteria for determining whether or not to carry out an EHC needs assessment is outlined in Section 36 of the Children and Families Act (2014). A local authority should take into account the extent of a child’s learning difficulties, the provision they have already received, and any additional provision provided by the child’s parents/guardians. The local authority also has a duty to examine whether any of these difficulties point to further learning needs that haven’t already been identified.
Once all this has been considered, a child’s progress should be judged to determine whether their progress is adequate, if independent provision is being provided, and whether their progress would be stunted without these provisions.
Each case is examined on an individual basis, however, if after examining all the information it becomes clear a child is not making progress, and in fact cannot make progress without an EHC needs assessment, then the local authority should conclude that an assessment is indeed necessary.
Despite it being important that the law is applied correctly when applying for an EHC needs assessment, many local authorities’ panels will rely more on internal criteria that doesn’t necessarily take into account an individual’s circumstances. This internal criteria can be much stricter, and so in many cases a local authority can wrongly turn down an EHC assessment request.
In an instance like this, it is possible to make an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. We can help you with an appeal, but there is a time limit so you will need to take action as quickly as possible.
Our specialist education team can help you in making an application for EHC needs assessment, or advise you on making an appeal.