When a child is found to be having difficulties with their school work and it is considered that this is caused by the child having Special Educational Needs (SEN), it may be necessary for the school to provide additional support. The effects of a brain injury are not always obvious to others. To ensure that everyone fully understands the types of difficulties a child may face, a meeting should be held with parents and the school before a child returns to school after a brain injury or any lengthy absence.

The support that is put in place is called “SEN Support”. The aim behind it is to work with parents and the child’s difficulties to put in place support that will help the child to make progress with their education.

The support is provided through a four-part cycle: assess, plan, do and review. The idea is that difficulties are first identified through meetings and discussion with parents and perhaps other experts, short term plans to provide support are put in place and then reviewed after a suitable interval.

Assess

Assessment involves the school working with parents and the class teacher to look at any problems that the child may have in accessing their education. Progress is monitored and if specialist assessment is required, the school should commission it. This may involve input from an Educational Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist and medical professionals. Parents’ consent should always be agreed before assessments are carried out.

Plan

If the school decides to make SEN support available, it is something that should be discussed with parents and then the school should work with parents to agree what support will be put in place and the outcomes expected. Outcomes can be long term outcomes (i.e. looking at the next key stage or end of primary or secondary school) but there also needs to be immediate short term outcomes which need to be measurable and need to be SMART i.e. Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time-bound. A Plan is made breaking down long term outcomes into shorter goals and a date is agreed for review.

Do

The school will be responsible for implementing the support as discussed. In mainstream schools, the SENCO will be responsible for implementing the plan. Parents can assist by following through some of the planned provision outside of school.

Review

Parents should meet with the SENCO and any other professionals and class teacher to discuss progress. This will usually be after six weeks or one term. The date for review will be agreed at the planning stage. Any progress that is made will be discussed at these meetings and also, whether any provision needs to be amended slightly or whether any other experts need to be involved at this stage. The Plan will also be amended in consideration of progress made and another ‘assess, plan, do, review’ cycle will start again.

Funding for additional SEN support

Schools do not receive any additional funds to support children on additional SEN Support. Any additional cost must be met through their delegated budget. The sum allocated is made up of the standard £4,000 allocated to each child (with or without SEN) and then an additional £6,000 to provide SEN support.

When to move on from the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle of support

If after the school has used up that budget at the additional SEN Support stage, and the child’s needs are still not being met adequately, then a parent or the school can decide to request an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. It is helpful for parents to do this with the school’s support. Schools generally have to show that they have spent £6,000 worth of support in supporting the child for Additional SEN Support. Parents should keep records of all the additional support that is being provided and make sure that this is being documented by the school.

Funding is not the only consideration when requesting an EHC needs assessment. Consider the following:

  • The gap widening between the child and their peers
  • Additional professional support or expertise is required to help understand the child’s difficulties and support required and the school cannot afford this.

Remember that SEN Support is the responsibility of the child’s school but an Education Health & Care Plan (EHCP) is the responsibility of the Local Authority.

Any request for an EHC needs assessment should detail all of the child’s SEN i.e. their difficulty in accessing education. This should be submitted together with any supporting evidence or reports. The request should also include any support that the child is currently receiving in school and evidence that additional support may be required.

Many parents are concerned that their child is on SEN support for a long time. How long should parents wait before they request an EHC needs assessment? We advise that, if there is an obvious need for a significant amount of support or that the child’s needs are not fully understood, and the school has already tried several SEN Support cycles, then parents and/or the school should be requesting an EHC needs assessment. A request can be made even before the child has started back at school if it is acknowledged that the child is likely to need a high level of support when they return. Keeping good communication channels open with the school at the initial stages is crucial.

Produced by Laxmi Patel, head of Boyes Turner’s Education team

This article was written for us by Laxmi Patel who leads Boyes Turner’s leading Education team. An expert in special educational needs, Laxmi works closely with parents, schools, local authorities and case managers to ensure that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities receive the support they need to achieve their potential in their education.

Boyes Turner is a Reading based full service law firm with a dedicated Education team who help families get the extra help and support they require for their children with special educational needs and disabilities.

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