I am worried that my child is having difficulties or not making progress with their learning… what can I do?

The first step is to talk to your child’s school, college or early years setting. This can be the class teacher, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo), a tutor or sometimes the head teacher. If your child is in an early years setting this is usually the manager or key person.   Working together in this way will often help and extra or different help may be provided for your child.

This extra or different help could be a different way of teaching your child or some help from an extra adult, perhaps in a small group or use of special equipment like a computer or a desk with a sloping top. Your child’s progress with this extra help will be reviewed regularly and changes made if needed. This is called ‘SEN Support’.

Your child may need help for only a short time or for some years and in some cases it may be for the whole of their education.  If your child is still having difficulties despite the help being provided, the school, college or early years setting may bring in more specialist expertise.

You may also wish to ask for advice or support from Surrey SEND Information, Advice and Support service (SSIASS) (SSIASS@surreycc.gov.uk or 01737 737300).  This service offers independent information and advice to parents and carers who have concerns about their child’s education, including those who have special educational needs and/or disability.

What should I do first?

In the first instance it is worth booking an appointment with your child’s class teacher and/or SENCo. You should also look on the school’s website and read their Inclusion Policy for advice and to see what is available.

What is a statutory assessment?

If your child still does not seem to be making enough progress or needs a lot more extra help, your child’s school, college, early years setting can ask the local authority to carry out a more detailed assessment to find out more about their special educational needs and/or disability and what special help they need. You can also do this.  This is called a statutory assessment or an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment.

The community paediatrician or a social worker sometimes informs the local authority that a child may have special needs or disability. This maybe after a check-up appointment.

Once a request for an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment has been submitted to the LA, the local authority will usually let you know within 6 weeks of the request whether or not they are going to start an EHC needs assessment for your child.

If the local authority does not feel that your child needs an EHC needs assessment they will write to you explaining their reasons. You have the right to appeal this decision.

The Local Authority should inform parents of the local disagreement resolution and mediation service (Global Mediation) and if you are unhappy with the decision you can get advice or support from SSIASS.  Global Mediation is a free service for parents/carers/young people to help resolve or prevent any disagreements between you and the local authority:

You also have a right of appeal to the SEN and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) if you do not agree with the local authority’s decision. You must register your appeal within 2 months of the letter informing you of the local authority’s decision:

Contact First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) general enquiries:

If the local authority does agree to start a statutory assessment they will write to you to confirm this and they will ask you to provide your written views about your child’s special educational needs and/or disability.

The local authority will also ask for information from your child’s school or early years setting and other people working with your child such as an educational psychologist (an EP), a community paediatrician, a social worker (if they are involved) and anyone else whose advice the local authority considers appropriate.

Statutory assessment reports are usually provided within 6 weeks but this can sometimes take longer if appointments are not kept.

What happens next?

As soon as all the reports towards the EHC needs assessment have been received, a draft EHC Plan will be sent to you.

What is an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)?

A statutory EHCP is a legal document that describes your child’s special educational needs and the additional help he/she should receive. The EHCP is written based on the reports that have been received during the assessment, including the parent and young person’s contributions.

You will receive a draft EHCP before the final EHCP is written and you will be asked to express a preference for a school. You have the right to say which school or other educational setting you would like your child to go to – either mainstream or special. This may be the school they already attend.

The local authority must agree with your preference as long as:

  • the school you choose is suitable for your child’s age, ability, skills and SEND
  • your child’s needs can be met in a way that not will not affect the education of other children/young people already at the school and placing your child in the school will be an efficient use of the local authority’s resources.

The local authority aims to issue a proposed EHCP within 16 weeks of the request for statutory assessment. The final EHCP is issued within 20 weeks of the request for statutory assessment being received by the local authority. If you disagree with any part of the Plan you may contact the SEN Team to discuss this. You may also seek advice or support from SSIASS.

SSIASS can also provide you with information about the local disagreement resolution and mediation service (Global Mediation), a free service for parents/carers/young people set up to help resolve or prevent any disagreements between you and the local authority.

If you are not able to resolve any disagreements with the local authority using either SSIASS or a disagreement resolution or mediation service you have a right of appeal to the SEN and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) following the issue of the final EHCP. You must do this within 2 months of the final EHCP being issued.

How often is an education, health and care plan reviewed?

An EHCP is reviewed every year and this process is the Annual Review.

For children under 5 the SEND Code of Practice recommends a review every 6 months.

The purpose of the Annual Review is to check whether the description of your child’s needs is up to date and whether the provision prescribed in the EHCP is meeting the outcomes in the Plan. The Annual Review also considers whether the school placement and the level of support remain appropriate.

Which school will my child attend?

Most children with an EHCP attend their local mainstream school, college or early years setting. Some children and young people with more complex needs may attend a special school or a specialist resourced base attached to a mainstream school.

You will be sent a list of all schools and academies with the draft EHCP and asked to express your preference for the school you would like your child to attend. You can search for a list of schools on the Surrey County Council website – search for Directory of Schools:

If a decision is made to place my child at a special school or specialist resourced base – how is this decision made?

Only children with an Education, Health and Care Plan may attend a special school or specialist resourced base attached to a mainstream school.

If you express a preference for your child to attend a special school or specialist resourced base attached to a mainstream school the local authority will consider your request and all the information about your child at the weekly SEND Panel.

If the Panel agrees that a special school or specialist resourced base is the best setting to meet your child’s needs they will recommend admission and the SEN Team will consult with the school for a suitable vacancy.

The final decision about placement is made by the SEN Team on behalf of the local authority.

It is helpful to discuss any concerns with your child’s school as soon as possible so that they can involve appropriate professionals and ensure that all the necessary support is in place to meet your child’s special educational needs in the mainstream school.

Following the Annual Review meeting the school sends the Annual Review paperwork to the local authority and they consider your request for a special school or specialist resourced base at one of the weekly SEND Panels.