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What are Special Educational Needs in Durham?
In England, special educational needs (SEN) are defined by the Children and Families Act 2014..
A child or young person of compulsory school age is said to have SEN if they:
- Have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age.
- Have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
Children with special educational needs may be identified as having:
- difficulty with literacy or numeracy
- emotional difficulties, or problems making friends
- delays in their speech and language development;
- physical or medical needs, or impaired vision or hearing
These needs may be long or short term.
You should seen legal advice if you are unsure as to whether you think your child or young person has special educational needs to ensure they are receiving the support they require.
What SEN support is there in Durham?
Durham’s SEN webpage can be found here:
You will also find a link to Durham’s Local Offer below. This explains what support is available for children and young people with special educational needs in Durham.
In most instances, the child or young person’s school will identify when a child or young person has SEN. Where this happens, the class teacher should work closely with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) who will take responsibility for planning and monitoring additional help for that child or young person.
SEN support in schools usually starts by using the ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’ model. The additional help that the child or young person will receive will vary depending on the circumstances; however it could include social skills exercises, the use of special learning materials, and one-to-one or small group work.
The child, young person and their parents/guardians should be involved in discussions with the school about planning support for SEN. You should be clear on the support that is being provided, by whom, and how the progress will be monitored and evaluated. You should be updated a minimum of three times each year.
Parents should note, however, that schools receive a Delegated Budget which should be used to support children and young people with their SEN. It is important to be aware that this Delegated Budget is not finite and this will often limit the support that children and young people with SEN are able to receive from the school.
In some instances, the school will not identify that your child has SEN, or the child or young person’s needs simply cannot be met by the school. It is at this point that you should consider starting the application for an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
How can I get an EHCP in Durham?
An EHCP is a legal document setting out the child or young person’s special educational needs. It will also consider the views, interests and aspirations of the child or young person, their health and social care needs and provision, the outcomes sought for the child or young person, and the educational placement they should attend.
Before and EHCP can be issued, the local authority must make an EHC needs assessment. The guidance for applying for an EHC needs assessment and an EHCP in Durham can be found here:
This guidance can be helpful to determine how to apply for an EHC needs assessment and an EHCP, however it is important to know that Durham local authority must comply with legal duties under the Children and Families Act 2014, and the SEND Code of Practice 2015, as well as operating its own policies. Whilst these laws can be complicated, in our experience, local authority’s own policies can over simplify the law. This can result in poor decision making as the local authority often will apply their policies without fully considering the child or young person’s needs and circumstances.
At the conclusion of the EHC needs assessment, the local authority will decide whether an EHCP is necessary. The definition of the term ‘necessary’ is much debated. The local authority must consider the subjective needs of the child or young person, the additional help that they require to meet their needs, and whether a mainstream school are able to provide that support.
If the local authority refuses to complete an EHC needs assessment, or if they refuse to make an EHCP, you can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This process, however, can be difficult and it is useful to take specialist legal advice about a SENDIST appeal.
Where can I find SEN legal advice in Durham?
HCB’s specialist education lawyers have helped many children, young people and families in Durham. We have experience of working across the country and have provided expert advice to parents whose children suffer with special educational needs in Durham.
If you need specialist education solicitors in Durham, please call us on 02920 291 704.