1: My child is struggling in school, what can I do?

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If you feel your child is struggling at school, you should first speak to the class teacher and/or the SENCo to find out the view of the school. SENAC have a sample information request letter which you can use as a guide for questions to ask the school

Your child does not need to have a diagnosed condition or a Statement of Special Educational Needs to get extra help in school.

If you feel you need further support or advice you may wish to contact SENAC’s Advice Line

NB: Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) have been recorded on the schools SEN register under one of 5 stages as outlined below. The new Code of Practice when published will have 3 stages and for the purposes of the 2020/21 Dept of Education NI school census, all pupils with SEN will now be recorded using the new 3 stage approach.

However, it is the 5 Stage approach that is still the legal framework. When discussing which stage your child is recorded check if the school/EA are referring to the new 3 stage or the current 5 stage approach.

The 5 stage approach to identification, assessment and provision

The SEN Code-of-practice  and the Supplement to the code outlines how help can be provided within a 5 Stage process. The process is used to help identify and assess your child’s needs and provide support for those needs.

Stages 1-3 are known as the school-based stages and support will be identified and carried out by the school. At Stage 3 the school can arrange extra help with support from outside specialists.

Stages 4 and 5 detail the process for Statutory Assessments and Statements and these will be carried out by the Education Authority (EA).

Note: Each stage brings with it a different level of support. Your child does not have to progress through each stage in order to get the level of support they need. 

Stage 1

If the class teacher is concerned, or it is brought to their attention, that your child may need extra support with learning it is their responsibility to make an initial assessment of your child’s needs.

They should explore changes to class work, different ways of teaching or classroom organisation to help meet your child’s needs.

The teacher will collect and record information and monitor progress.

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) will put your child on the SEN register

If after one, or at the most two, review periods at Stage 1 there has not been satisfactory progress the teacher and SENCo may decide to move your child to a different stage

Stage 2

The SENCo will assess your child’s needs and along with all relevant teachers will draw up an education plan. This plan is called an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and is a detailed plan of targets for your child, how the targets will be achieved and how they will be monitored and reviewed.

As a parent you should be told about any action planned and advised about how best to help your child at home.

Stage 3

If after a review of progress, it is decided that your child would benefit from more intensive and specialist support they may be moved to Stage 3 so they can access specialist help.

At this Stage outside professionals may be asked to help support your child. These could include the educational psychologist (Stage 3 Time Allocation Model), Autism specialist, speech and language or other relevant therapists.

The School should inform you that they have asked for this help and the Education Authority may also be informed by the Principal or SENCo whenever a child moves to Stage 3

The IEP should be changed and new targets and review dates set.

If your child remains on any of these stages and you feel they are not making progress you may wish to contact our Advice Line for further advice 

Stage 4 – Statutory Assessment

Most children’s needs can be met by their school at Stages 1-3; however, some children may benefit from specialist help or require support that cannot be met effectively within the resources normally available to their school. This is when the EA, working with the school, parents and any other agencies will consider whether a statutory assessment of your child’s special educational needs is necessary.

As a parent you have the right to ask the EA to make a statutory assessment of your child’s special educational needs. The school and other professionals can also make a request for a statutory assessment. However, to safeguard your right to appeal, should the request be turned down, SENAC strongly advise that a parent makes the request. In the instance where the request has already been made by someone other than you as the parent you may wish to put in your own request as well.

While considering whether to carry out a statutory assessment the EA will look at evidence of the action already taken by the school to meet your child’s difficulties. They will look at the education plans and review notes and reports from outside specialists if involved. They should also take account of the views of the parents and seek the views of the child where possible.

The EA must comply with a request from a parent to conduct a statutory assessment, unless:

  • an assessment has already been done within the previous 6 months.
  • or, having examined the available evidence they have decided that a statutory assessment is not necessary.

If the EA decides not to comply with your request, they must inform you in writing, giving reasons for the decision and they must also inform you of your appeal rights and how you can appeal.

Stage 5 – Statement of Special Educational Needs

The EA may decide to issue a statement when the statutory assessment is completed. A statement of special educational needs (SEN) is a legal document that sets out your child’s needs and the extra help that will be put in place to meet those needs.

The EA will issue a Statement if they decide that the help your child needs cannot be provided for from the resources normally available to mainstream schools in your area.

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Advice Line 028 9079 5779

For advice about your child’s education please contact our Advice Line to speak to one of our advisers.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the Advice Line will continue to operate its usual hours from 10am to 1pm Monday Tuesday and Wednesday.

For the foreseeable future, all calls to SENAC will go through this number so for all other enquiries please also ring us on 028 9079 5779 Monday to Friday from 10am -1pm

Contact us

Graham House,
Knockbracken Healthcare Park,
Saintfield Road, Belfast BT8 8BH.

Office Enquiries: 028 9070 5654
Office Email: info@senac.co.uk

Office email cannot be used for advice queries, for education advice please contact our Advice Line

Limited Company No. NI48698
Charity No. NIC101355

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