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Special Educational Needs help in Oxfordshire
Our specialist education lawyers have secured special educational needs support for several children, young people and families in Oxfordshire and have experience of working across England and Wales.
What are Special Educational Needs in Oxfordshire?
The Children and Families Act 2014 defines special educational needs (SEN) as a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
SEN can affect everything from:
- Physical ability
- Concentration levels
- Ability to understand
- Hearing/visual impairment
- Social skills
A child likely has special educational needs if they struggle to access education or facilities at school, and requires support in relation to a learning difficulty or disability. You should seek legal advice is you are unsure as to whether your child or young person has SEN.
What is SEN support in Oxfordshire?
Oxfordshire’s special educational needs webpage can be found here:
You will also find here details of the Local Offer prepared by Oxfordshire’s educational needs team which explains the support available for children with SEN in Oxfordshire.
In most cases, a school will identify that a child or young person has SEN and the class teacher will usually liaise with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) to arrange additional support for that child. This follows a cycle called ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’. This assistance will vary depending on the circumstances, but could include one-to-one or small group work, special learning materials and social skills exercises.
The child, young person and their parents/guardians must be involved in discussions with the school to arrange support for the child’s special educational needs at this stage.
It is also key to note that schools receive a Delegated Budget – a specific amount of money – to support children with SEN. Unfortunately, this budget is finite and will often limit the amount of support that a school are able to provide SEN children.
In some instances, you may need to seek an Education Health and Case needs assessment through the local authority with the view to obtaining an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This will usually be required where the school does not identify that you child has SEN, or if the school does not have the resources to provide the support that your child or young person needs.
An EHCP is a legally binding document which sets out the needs of the child or young person. It will also state the provision the child or young person requires, and the educational placement they should attend. The document should be detailed and contain specific information about the support that should be delivered to the child or young person.
It is often the case that EHCP’s do not contain sufficient detail about the provision or support that is needed. Our specialist education law solicitors often assist parents/guardian’s of children and young people who are issued with these inadequate EHCP’s.
How can I get an EHCP in Oxfordshire?
The local authority must carry out an EHC needs assessment to determine whether an EHCP is necessary before an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) can be issued. It is important to note that it is not necessary for you to try the cycle of ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’ before seeking an EHC needs assessment.
You can find guidance for securing an EHC needs assessment and EHCP in Oxfordshire here:
Whilst this information can prove to be useful to understand how to qualify for an EHC needs assessment in Oxfordshire, it is important to note that Oxfordshire SEN teams must comply with the Children and Families Act 2014, and the SEND Code of Practice 2015, as well as their own local policies.
From our experience, we have seen that the local authority’s policies tend to overly simplify the law and confuse quite complex rules; leading to poor decision making. Often, the local authority’s internal criteria for carrying out an EHC needs assessment do not reflect the legal criteria, and will be rigidly applied without fully considering the child’s needs and circumstance. It is crucial, therefore, that when making a request for an EHC needs assessment, that your request applies the law correctly.
We would also advise that parents focus on the SEND Code of Practice, rather than Oxfordshire’s SEN policies only. The SEND Code of Practice can be found here:
A child’s parents, guardians or school can request and EHC needs assessment. A young person, aged between 16 and 25, can make a request for an EHC needs assessment themselves in Oxfordshire.
The local authority may refuse to make an EHC needs assessment, however they must conduct an EHC needs assessment if a child or young person may have SEN and they need the support of an EHCP. They have six weeks from the date they receive the request to decide whether to make the assessment.
If the local authority refuse to carry out an EHC needs assessment, it is possible to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST), however this can be difficult and it can be useful to take specialist legal advice about a SENDIST appeal.
If the local authority decides to undertake an EHC needs assessment, the local authority will determine whether an EHCP is necessary. The term ‘necessary’ has been the focus of much litigation. It means that the local authority must consider the subjective needs of the child or young person, the special educational provision that they need, and whether it is reasonably likely that a mainstream school and deliver that support.
If the local authority refuses to issue an EHCP, you can appeal to the SENDIST.
The local authority may also make further decisions you do not agree with. These can include:
- The content of an EHCP in Oxfordshire
- The school named in the EHCP in Oxfordshire
- Changes made to an EHCP following an Annual Review in Oxfordshire
- A refusal to make a change to an EHCP following an Annual Review in Oxfordshire
- A refusal to maintain an EHCP in Oxfordshire
Each of these decisions can be challenged by the SENDIST.
Where can I find SEN legal advice in Oxfordshire?
If you have any questions about securing an EHCP in Oxfordshire, are having difficulties securing one, or are facing any of the difficulties listed above, our specialist education law solicitors are here to help.