What is a statement of special needs?

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At a glance

Information about statements of special needs (or 'statementing') in schools.

What does statementing mean?

A statement of special needs is a formal document detailing a child's learning difficulties and the help that will be given.

If your child needs help at school - beyond what their teachers can provide - a 'statement of special needs' will ensure they get the right help. A statement is only necessary if the school is unable to meet a child's needs on its own.

Only around 2 per cent of children need a statement. You shouldn't assume that because your child has special learning needs, that they necessarily need a statement.

How are statements given?

The first stage in the process is called a statutory assessment, which is carried out by the local authority. This is a detailed investigation into your child's learning needs. The school or a parent can ask for a statutory assessment. If a school asks for one, they must inform the parents.

After a request for an assessment, the local authority has six weeks to decide whether to go ahead. During this time it will seek the views of the parents and the school.

If an assessment is necessary, the local authority will then seek the views of:

  • your child's school
  • an educational psychologist
  • a doctor
  • social services (if your child is known to them)
  • the parents

You will be told within 12 weeks whether or not a statement will be made. If it is, you'll be shown a draft and asked for any comments.

If you disagree with the local authority's decision you can appeal - how to do this will be explained in the local authority's letter.

If a statement is made, it will be in six parts. These are:

  1. Name and contact details of your child
  2. Details of your child's SEN
  3. What help your child should get, and learning goals
  4. What part your child's school will play
  5. Your child's non-educational needs
  6. How these non-educational needs will be met

What happens after my child has a statement?

Once your child has a statement, you have a right to say which school they should attend. The local authority will send you details of suitable schools in your area. Some may be special schools, but most will probably be mainstream schools because the education system aims to meet most special needs within this setting.

The local authority must check your child's progress at least once a year after a statement is made. This annual review includes a meeting with parents, who can take a friend or adviser with them if they want to.

If necessary, changes will be made to your child's statement after the annual review.

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