What happens if you think your child has SEND

If your child is not in school or nursery: contact our special educational needs team or your doctor

If health problems are affecting your child's learning: contact your doctor (for example hearing loss).

If your child is in school or nursery

Always speak to your child's teacher or keyworker first if you think your child is learning more slowly than they should. They will let you know what they are doing to address your child's area of weakness.

If your child doesn't progress despite well-targeted teaching, you or the teacher should speak to the person in your child's school or nursery responsible for special educational needs (the SENCO).

What will happen

The SENCO will work with your child's teacher to assess whether your child has special educational needs. They will do this by talking to you and your child and looking at your child's work, progress and behaviour. This is not the formal education, health and care assessment.

The school or nursery must tell you if they think your child has special needs and about what action they plan on taking.

There are different stages for helping children with special educational needs depending on each child's needs. If your child is doing well they may not need to go to the next stage. If their needs are severe or complex they may go straight to the assessment stage.

The stages are:

  • SEN support (this used to be called early years / school action and action plus)
  • assessment (education, health and care assessment)
  • education, health and care plans (EHCPs). These have replaced statements of special educational needs.

If a school or nursery decides your child has special educational needs they must write an SEN support plan. This plan identifies your child's needs, the action needed and planned outcomes.

If your child's needs are severe or complex they may miss out SEN support and start a Education Health and Care (EHC) assessment.

What SEN support may include

SEN support can take many forms, including:

  • a special learning programme for your child
  • extra help from a teacher or assistant
  • making or changing materials and equipment
  • observing your child in class or at break and keeping records
  • making sure your child has understood things by encouraging them to ask questions and to try something they find difficult
  • supporting your child with physical or personal care, such as eating, getting around school safely, toileting or dressing.

Extra support through LIFT or Early Years Lift

Your child's nursery or school may decide that they can not meet all your child's needs. They can then ask for advice from the Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT or Early Years LIFT), which is is made up of specialists and other schools.

The school or nursery must ask for your consent before they discuss your child at a LIFT or Early Years LIFT meeting.

They will look at the problems facing your child and discuss how to help them. They may decide they need support from professionals such as:

  • educational psychologists (who work to promote the emotional wellbeing of children and young people)
  • child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)
  • Specialist Teaching and Learning Services or SEND support services (for example teachers qualified to work with children who are deaf, blind or have problems communicating)
  • speech therapists or occupational therapists.

LIFT will also look at your child's needs outside of education, such as health or social needs. They may recommend your child is seen by a specialist such as a paediatrician, if they think a diagnosis is needed.

Reviewing the SEN support plan

The school will review the SEN support plan regularly. The review will help identify whether your child's progressing and if the amount of support needs to change.

Involving you and your child

You and your child are central to deciding what action to take, what you want it to achieve and whether it's working.

The school must:

  • work closely with you and your child to identify your child's needs and support
  • take into account you and your child's concerns, views, agreed outcomes and next steps
  • include you in any decision to involve specialists
  • share details of the support plan with you and agree a review date
  • ask you and your child for your views when reviewing the SEN support plan.

Your child may need an education, health and care needs assessment if the extra support they are receiving is not helping or they have severe or complex needs.

If we agree your child needs to be assessed we'll do it within 16 weeks.

We'll give you a named case worker who will arrange a meeting with you. They'll also contact:

  • teachers or staff at your child's school
  • an educational psychologist
  • specialist teachers from the specialist teaching and learning service
  • a medical professional (usually a doctor, but may also include speech or physical therapists)
  • social services (who will only give advice if they know your child)
  • anyone else we need to talk to or you think we should talk to.

We'll get information from them about your child's needs and how they affect their ability to learn.

What happens after the assessment

If we feel your child's needs can't be met by the current school arrangement we'll write an education, health and care plan for your child. These used to be called statements of special educational needs.

If we decide not to write an education, health and care plan for your child we'll tell you why and how their needs will be met inside or outside the school. We will also tell you how you can appeal to a tribunal.

Involving you and your child

You and your child should be at the centre of the assessment process. We'll make sure you have time to prepare for meetings and give you time to share your views.You can come to any examinations or assessments your child needs.

Parents, teachers, doctors, health visitors, family friends and 16 to 25-year-olds themselves can all ask for assessments

If you think your child needs an assessment

You can request an assessment directly from us.

Contact one of the SEN area teams to find out what information we'll need to help us decide whether to assess your child.

If we decide to carry out an assessment

We may ask you for:

  • any reports from your child’s school, nursery or childminder
  • doctors’ assessments of your child
  • a letter from you about your child’s needs.

If we decide not to carry out an assessment

We'll tell you why within 6 weeks and will share with you information that we used to make our decision, such as feedback from professionals.

We'll also let you know how you can appeal. You must appeal within 2 months

The following organisations call all help you through the assessment process, including if you have questions beforehand.

Information, Advice and Support Kent - Providing a confidential and impartial service by trained staff.

Parents Consortium - all enquiries are answered by a trained Independent Supporter.

If you are unhappy with the assessment process you have the right to appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal.

Some children will have additional educational needs (AEN). This includes children who are gifted and talented, having help to catch up, in care or have English as a second language.

Children with AEN do not go through a formal process to assess their needs and do not need SEN support.

Speak to your child's nursery or school if you think they have AEN, to see what support they can offer.