Special Educational Needs

Special Educational Needs

Watkins Solicitors have many years experience of advising and representing parents of children with special educational needs and/or a disability who are in dispute with their schools or Local Authorities. We specialise in the more complex and complicated cases, where again we have significant experience and excellent success rates.

We are instructed on the following types of cases

  • Where children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), but without a Statement of SEN are not receiving appropriate provision and are failing to make adequate progress. We advise on application for statutory assessment of the child’s needs.

In accordance with the Education Act 1996 (EA1996) a parent and/or the child’s school can make a request for a statutory assessment. This is a request to the Local Authority (LA) and the LA must respond to the request within 6 weeks of the date of the request.

If the LA does agree to carry out a statutory assessment or it is ordered following an appeal, the LA has 10 weeks to carry out the assessment. This will include a medical assessment, an educational psychology assessment, school’s views, parental views and any relevant information from social services. After the 10 weeks, the LA have a further two weeks to issue a Proposed Statement of SEN or a Note in Lieu of a Statement (there is a right of appeal against the decision to issue a Note in Lieu of a Statement). Parents then have 15 days to respond to the Proposed Statement and a Final Statement must be issued within 8 weeks.
If a Note in Lieu is issued then parents have 2 months from the date of the decision to lodge an appeal against this decision with SEND or SENTW.

  • Where parents are dissatisfied with the contents of their child’s Statement of SEN, including the school placement we advise on negotiation with the Local Authority and appeals to SEND and SENTW.

Once a Final Statement of SEN is issued and if parents remain dissatisfied with the description of needs in Part 2, the provision in Part 3 and/or the school named in Part 4, there is a right of appeal to SEND or SENTW within two months of the date of issue of the Final Statement.

  • If a Statement of SEN is issued, it will be reviewed an annual basis. If following the Annual Review, no changes are made to the Statement and parents believe changes are necessary then again there is the right of appeal to SEND and SENTW and we are able to advise on this process.
  • There are occasions when even though a child has a Statement of SEN, the needs change or different provision is required and parents can request a statutory reassessment. If this is refused we can advise on this process.
  • Post age 16 – when a LA ceases to maintain a Statement of SEN or simply opts to let it ‘lapse’. We advise on the appeals to SEND and SENTW to secure the Statement post 16 as well as advice on post 16 specialist FE provision.
  • Judicial Review cases where, for example, the provision of a child’s Statement of SEN is not being delivered.
  • Appeals to the Upper Tribunal when decisions from SEND and SENTW are wrong on a point of law.
  • We advise and represent in cases involving a range of special educational needs such as Autism, Dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Emotional and Behavioural difficulties, Developmental Co-ordination Disorder, Speech and Language Difficulties.
  • We have extensive experience securing home based programmes (such as ABA programmes) for children with SEN.

In all of the above cases, we can assist by

  • preparing key documents including reasons for statutory assessment, grounds of appeal and working documents and advising on the preparation of the case; preparing cases to a full hearing and analysing the strengths of a case and the evidence necessary to support the case
  • corresponding with the LA to obtain key information and documents as well as challenging their position to strengthen the case for the child
  • challenging the LA’s legal position and where necessary instructing barristers with extensive knowledge in this area
  • providing details of independent experts to assist in the preparation of the case

Transition to Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC Plans)

From 1 September 2014 children with Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and young people with Learning Difficulties Assessments (LDAs) will start the process of transition to an EHC Plan.

Statements of SEN will remain in force until the transition to an EHC plan has been completed. All children with Statements of SEN must have completed the transition process by 1 April 2018. All young people with LDAs must have completed this process by 1 September 2016.

There is a timetable for the transition from Statements of SEN to EHC plans and this is set out in each Local Authority’s Transition Plan, which must be available on the Local Authority’s website.

In order to transition all children with a Statement of SEN and those young people with a LDA, the Local Authority must complete an EHC needs assessment. There must be an assessment before an EHC Plan is issued and parents must be given notice of this assessment/transition period. In certain cases the Local Authority can use existing evidence to provide the advice for the EHC needs assessment but in the majority of cases it is anticipated that the advice will be out of date and new advice, from a range of agencies, will be required. This is an important process and the Local Authority must complete an EHC assessment; a Statement of SEN or LDA cannot simply be transferred to an EHC Plan without an EHC needs assessment.

If you do not want to wait for the Local Authority to transition your Statement of SEN or LDA then other requests are possible. If a young person has an LDA, they can request an EHC needs assessment at any time from 1 September 2014. The Local Authority has no duty to agree but if they do not agree then the decision can be appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

If your child has a Statement of SEN, you can ask the Local Authority to carry out the transfer review before the timescales set out in the Local Authority’s Transition Plan. If the Local Authority does not agree you cannot appeal against that decision but you could still ask for a re-assessment under the old legal framework during the transition period and appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal if refused; if you are successful in this appeal the Tribunal can order the Local Authority to carry out an EHC needs assessment.

The above is just an overview. If you need advice about the transition arrangement for your child’s Statement of SEN or LDA then contact the office to arrange an appointment, we will be able to give you detailed and expert legal advice based on your individual circumstances. If you are interested in EHC Plans you might also be interested in:-

  • The new option of a personal budget for a child with SEN.
  • The new duty on the Local Authority to publish their ‘Local Offer’.
  • EHC Plans until the young person is 25.
  • A duty on parents to consider mediation before appeal
  • The integration between health, social care and education in EHC Plans and what you can appeal to the Tribunal

Contact Liz Smith for further information liz.smith@watkinssolicitors.co.uk