Introduction

All children with special educational needs have a right to a broad and well balanced education.

Many children, at some time in their school career, will have special educational needs of some kind. The law says that all state schools must do their best to see that proper education is provided for all such children. Most children's needs will be met by their ordinary (mainstream) school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists. In a few cases, the local education authority (LEA) will have to make a statutory assessment based on specialist advice. The LEA may then draw up a Statement of Special Educational Needs - usually called 'a statement'. This describes all the child's needs and all the special help that he or she needs. The child's ordinary school can often provide this help.

The most important law dealing with special education is the 1993 Education Act, which builds upon, and largely replaces, the 1981 Act. Under the 1993 Act, the Secretary of State has issued a Code of Practice, giving practical guidance on how to identify and assess special educational needs. The Code is available free of charge. All schools and LEAs must have regard to this Code when they are dealing with children who have special educational needs. The health service and social services must also have regard to the Code when helping LEAs. This means that, when schools, LEAs and health and social services decide what they should do for children with special educational needs, they should always consider what the Code says.

WHEN SCHOOLS, LEAS AND HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES DECIDE WHAT THEY SHOULD DO FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS, THEY SHOULD ALWAYS CONSIDER WHAT THE CODE SAYS.
 

This guide aims to help you to:

understand what special educational needs are;
understand what schools, LEAS and other professionals can and should do;
play a full part in your child's special education; and
understand what your rights are.

Basic principles

There are some basic points to keep in mind as you read this guide:

All children with special educational needs have a right to a broad and well-balanced education. This should include as much work as possible under the National Curriculum.
Children under five who have special educational needs, and their parents, can get advice and support from the LEA, social services, child health services and voluntary organisations.

As a parent, you have an important part to play in helping the LEA to decide which school is right for your child.

Most children with special educational needs will go to an ordinary school. As far as possible, they should be educated with other children of the same age. Most children's needs will be met by their local school without a statutory assessment or a statement. Children with statements often also go to their local ordinary school.

Some children with special educational needs will go to special schools. All children in special schools will usually have statements, or be undergoing statutory assessment.

Your knowledge, views and experiences as a parent are vital in helping your child to develop. Your child is likely to make most progress if you, your child's school and the LEA all work together in partnership. You and your child may also get help from a wide range of services, including child health and social services and voluntary organisations.

You, as a parent, have a right to take part in decisions about your child's education and to be kept in touch at all stages. Your views and support are very important. If you have any worries at any time, make sure you share them with your child's teacher, or one of the professionals working with your child, as well as your friends or family.

If you would like to talk to someone who is independent and knows about children with special educational needs, you may be able to get help from a national or local voluntary Organisation or parents' group. Your LEA will be able to tell you about any groups you can speak to. Sharing your worries can be very important.

If you are worried about the help your child is getting at school, you should speak to his or her teacher and head teacher. In some cases, you can also appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal if you think the LEA's decision is wrong.

You can help by keeping in touch with your child's teachers and making sure that your child:

  works on any special programmes set by the school;

  uses any necessary aids such as spectacles or hearing aids; and

  takes any medicines he or she has to take at the right times.
 

REMEMBER THAT YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BETTER THAN ANYONE. THE CLOSER YOU WORK WITH YOUR CHILD'S TEACHERS AND SCHOOL, THE MORE SUCCESSFUL ANY SPECIAL HELP WILL BE.
 


 

What are special educational needs?

The law says that a child has special educational needs if he or she has learning difficulties and needs special help. This help is known as special educational provision.
A child has learning difficulties if he or she finds it much harder to learn than most children of the same age, or if he or she has a disability which makes it difficult to use the normal educational facilities in the area.

For example, your child may have learning difficulties caused by:

a physical disability;
a problem with sight, hearing or speech;
a mental disability;
emotional or behavioural problems;
a medical or health problem;
difficulties with reading, writing, speaking or mathematics work.

These are just examples. Your child may have more general difficulties with school work. You may notice these problems yourself. Your doctor, health visitor or clinic may notice them before your child starts school. Or your child's teachers at school may notice them.

About one in five children may have learning difficulties at some time in their school life. Most children get over their difficulties quite quickly. For others, the effects may last longer.
 

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