School Not Meeting Your Child’s Special Educational Needs?

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Sarah Woosey Profile Picture
Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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In the UK, it’s a basic right for every child to have access to education. However, a child's right to receive an education often doesn’t consider the individual needs of each child.

Every child is different and so finding a ‘one size fits all’ approach can already be difficult. However, when you have a child who has additional support needs and requires additional help and assistance through accessing Special Educational Needs resources, the right of your child to be able to access a basic education starts to become a lot more complex.

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What Exactly Are Special Educational Needs?

According to the NHS, a child or young person with Special Educational Needs is a child or young person who has a learning difficulty and/or disability that means that they need special  health and education support. Special educational needs is often shortened to SEND.

A learning disability affects the way that a person learns new things throughout their life. No two people are the same or experience learning disabilities in the same way. A person with a learning disability might have some difficulty with: 

  • Understanding complicated information
  • Learning some skills
  • Looking after themselves
  • Living alone

 

As a learning disability is different for everyone, everyone’s experience is different. Lots of people who have a learning disability can work, have relationships, live alone and get qualifications if they wish to do so. However, others may need more support throughout their life.

Unfortunately, we don’t always know why a person has a learning disability. Sometimes it can be because a person’s brain development is affected before they’re born, during their birth or in early childhood. This can be caused by things such as:

  • The mother becoming ill during their pregnancy
  • Problems during the birth that stops oxygen reaching the brain
  • Genetics
  • Illness, such as meningitis

 

When a child has additional support needs and requires additional support, the main focus should always be on that child and their own individual needs. Those who work within the relevant services concerning Special Educational Needs should always ask themselves the question of “what can be put in place to help level the playing field when this child is learning and being educated?”. Because ultimately, that should be the end goal.

A child may not fit into a traditional teaching method or a traditional learning environment however that doesn’t reduce their basic right to access an education. Sadly, whilst many children with additional educational and support needs attend at school and technically have “access” to an education, many may be let down by a school system that fails to adapt to their needs in order to make sure that they not only have access to an education, but understand what they are being taught too.

As a result of this, Education Departments in various different local authorities have individuals who specialise in adapting teaching and education in an attempt to engage and teach children who have additional educational and support needs effectively. It may even be that the school that your child goes to has or has access to a Special Educational Needs Coordinator, sometimes referred to as a SENCO. This individual is a fully qualified teacher who is responsible for overseeing the support that children with special educational needs get in mainstream schools.

Unfortunately, not all needs of a child may be identified or addressed at the earliest opportunity. Your child’s needs may have changed or grown over time. If you feel that your child’s special educational needs are not being met, there are steps that you can take to address this and hopefully change this in order for your child to have a more positive learning environment at school.

 

Firstly, it’s often best to arrange a meeting with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator for the school or the local area to discuss matters further. Alternatively, if you are unsure about how to do this or how to get in touch with the relevant people, you can instead approach the school’s head teacher.

This will give you the opportunity to raise any concerns you have and discuss what assistance your child should receive going forward, such as introducing them to new activities or using different techniques to engage them.

Our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers know how frustrating it can be if you don’t get the outcome you were hoping for or the changes that have been made aren’t working for your child. If you’d like to take further action, we can provide you with legal advice and guidance on how to make a formal complaint to the governing body. For legal advice get in touch with our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers today on 0808 239 9764. Alternatively, you can request a call back.

 

Does My SEN Child Need an EHCP?

SEN support is the type of support provided by schools and is appropriate for some children, those who have more complex needs might need a higher level of support through an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

An Education, Health and Care Plan is more commonly referred to as an EHCP. It is a plan for children and young people aged up to the age of 25 who need more support than what is available through special educational needs support already in place. The plans identify educational, health and social needs of the person and go on to set out the additional support recommended or required to meet those needs.

If your child’s school is unable to meet the special needs of your child, through SEN Support for example the school doesn’t have the right resources or specialist staff required, it should request an EHC assessment. The school should, however, notify you about this before the EHC assessment is carried out.

Alternatively, if you believe that your child would benefit from an EHCP, then you can make a request to your Local Authority for an Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA) even if the school has said they will request this or if they have told you one isn’t needed or you won’t qualify for one. If you’d like some advice on how to make this request, speak to one of our Education Solicitors about what steps you need to take.

 

How Can I Get My Child’s EHCP Reviewed or Changed?

As children’s educational needs may change over time, it’s likely that their EHCP will need to be updated and amended. Local Authorities have a duty to carry out annual reviews of EHCPs, but if you think that your child’s plan urgently needs to be reviewed, for example, the provisions aren’t meeting their educational needs or the placement isn’t suitable, we can help you request an earlier review. We can also help you prepare for the annual review.

If you don’t agree with a decision made about your child’s EHCP following the Annual Review, our Education Solicitors can support you throughout the appeal process and represent you at a SEND Tribunal.


 

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

Whether you need advice or legal representation, we can advise you and fight for the right provisions and effective support to be put in place for your child, helping them to reach their full potential.

Support for children who have special educational needs is not just a matter of legal rights but a fundamental necessity for their well-being, development and future success. The importance of providing tailored education that accommodates individual needs cannot be overstated and should consider the unique challenges and abilities of each child.

Unfortunately, children who have special educational needs often face obstacles that go beyond their education, with some experiencing a significant impact on their emotional and social development. This can, in turn, lead to feelings of isolation or inadequacy – something that no child should ever feel.

Without the correct support, sadly it’s possible that these children may struggle which could both hinder their education and negatively impact their self-esteem and confidence. The right support, however, can empower them to navigate challenges, build confidence, and unlock their full potential.

We understand that families of children with special educational needs can often become overwhelmed in navigating the complexities of the education system here in the UK. It can be both frustrating and time consuming. Here at Simpson Millar, our team of expert Education Solicitors and SEN Solicitors are here to help to guide you and assist you in this journey wherever we can.

 

Although the benefits of additional support for children with special educational needs are clear, some parents or carers may still be reluctant to seek legal advice or to challenge the education system. This could be through a lack of awareness about their rights and the options available to them or even perhaps through a worry that their needs and concerns won’t be taken seriously by the relevant authorities. However, it’s important for parents and carers to overcome these apprehensions and recognise that seeking legal advice is not only a right but a powerful tool to ensure their child receives the support they need. 

Legal assistance from Simpson Millar can guide parents through the complicated education system, help them to understand their rights, direct them to the available support mechanisms, and assist with the avenues for appeal if this becomes necessary.

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Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

References

GOV.UK. (n.d.). "Extra SEN Help." Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/children-with-special-educational-needs/extra-SEN-help (Accessed December 5, 2023)

NHS. (2022). "Learning Disabilities." Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/learning-disabilities/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

NHS England. (n.d.). "Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)." Retrieved from https://www.england.nhs.uk/learning-disabilities/care/children-young-people/send/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). "Special Educational Needs (SEN)." Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/education-law-solicitors/special-educational-needs-sen/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). "Education Law Solicitors." Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/education-law-solicitors/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/#form (Accessed December 5, 2023)

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