The SEND Code of Practice (2015) sets out a graduated approach to SEND that recognises that children and their needs vary widely. Parents and young people have a right to be informed and involved at every stage. See the download section.
Quality First Teaching and Differentiation
All schools have to follow a broad and balanced curriculum e.g. maintained schools have to follow the National Curriculum and academies/free schools have more flexibility about what to teach. Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. Teachers are expected to use different materials and activities to suit the children they teach. Their lessons are planned to ensure that the children receive ‘Quality First Teaching’. Within this, teachers adapt the lessons for specific children or groups of children. This is known as 'differentiation'. Some children who have difficulties in particular areas or at particular times in their school life will get the help they need through differentiation, without being identified as having special educational needs. However, if the school decides your child has special educational needs and that they should give your child more or different help, they must discuss this with you.
Decisions about what level of help a child should get are based on the progress they are making and what help they are getting already.
Schools are able to identify if a child has SEN and information from parents can be important in this process. If a child has identified SEN, the school’s SENCO will work with the parent and class teacher to plan what to do. This could be a special programme of work, particular equipment, time with a teaching assistant or teacher individually or in a group. A plan is written e.g. a provision map or as an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and shows support which is ‘additional to or different from’ what other children need. The plan shows the targets your child will be working on and the extra support arranged. The IEP or provision map should be discussed with you and with your child, and be reviewed at an agreed date, often at least twice a year.
At times, school staff need to extend their expertise so they can further understand and meet the child/young person’s needs. This might include:
- receiving training
- asking for advice from SENCOs in other schools
- asking for advice from education professionals, e.g. specialist teachers or Educational Psychologists
- asking for advice from health or social care professionals who are involved e.g. Speech and Language Therapists
In order to support a child with SEN, schools sometimes need to access funding to buy additional resources or to increase their staffing.
Nottinghamshire has systems of funding for its schools so that the additional needs of children with SEN can be met quickly.
Headteachers and governors are responsible for deciding how their school funding is spent in order to ensure that children’s needs are met. Additional funding from outside the school which has been given for a particular child must be spent supporting that child.
School settings can:
- fund additional support from the school budget
- request Additional Family Needs (AFN) funding, which is held by the ‘Family of Schools’. All decisions about AFN funding are agreed using specific criteria. This is called ‘moderation’
- request High Level Needs (HLN) funding from the Local Authority, if the ‘Family of Schools’ agree that the child’s level of need is particularly
Schools in Nottinghamshire work in groups called ‘Families of schools’. The schools work together to share expertise and continue to develop their professional skills in working with and supporting children with SEN. This is all available at ‘SEN support’ and without an Education Health and Care plan.
Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments and EHC plans
If a child/young person has been receiving a high level of ‘SEN Support’ and is still not making satisfactory progress, the local authority may be asked to do an EHC needs assessment. This assessment is done when it may be necessary for a child/young person to have support which is only available with an EHC plan. Once the EHC needs assessment is completed, the Local Authority then has the information needed to decide whether an EHC plan is necessary. An EHC plan will be written if this is the only way that the special educational provision can be available. Children/young people with an EHC plan may attend a mainstream school or may attend more specialist settings. There will be a formal ‘annual review’ once a year. At this review the progress is reviewed and one discussion is about whether a different school placement should be requested.
The new EHC pathway has replaced the former statutory assessment and statement process.
Either the school or you as parent can request an EHC needs assessment. It is asked that, wherever possible, a request for an EHC needs assessment is made by both the school and parent together. This helps the LA make a decision as quickly as possible based on all the available information. The request paperwork supports this joint working between parents and schools.
For further information on education provision for children with an EHC plan please click here. Whether you are a county or city resident you can contact the Ask Us Nottinghamshire service for advice and support about working through this process. Ask Us can also help if you are unhappy with a decision, and give initial advice on how to appeal or make use of the local Disagreement Resolution process.
How to get extra help
If you are a parent and are worried about how your child is getting on at school, start by talking to their class teacher or form tutor. They may share your worries and you can discuss how to help your child make progress, what extra help can be offered and whether some expert advice is needed. You can also ask to speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) – the teacher who has overall responsibility for special needs. Every mainstream school has a SENCO. Often it helps to ask for a meeting with the SENCO so you can explain your concerns and discuss what action the school will take. All mainstream schools have to follow the guidance in the SEND Code of Practice. It is a good idea to put things in writing and keep a record of all your contacts with the school. The headteacher and governing board have overall responsibility for make sure children get a good education, including children with SEN.
Choosing a school
Most children with special educational needs go to a local mainstream school. Even children with complex needs may be happily included with the right support. In both Nottingham and Nottinghamshire there are a number of special schools which some parents consider to be the best option for their child.
Parents can nominate up to four mainstream schools they would prefer for their child when they first go to school and when they move schools because of their age e.g. to secondary school. They are not guaranteed their first choice but it helps to apply early and make sure multiple choices are selected. For more information about school admissions click on the following link: school admissions
If the child/young person has an Education Health and Care Plan, the Local Authority will work with you to identify a school place. Parents have the right to ask for a particular school including mainstream and special schools. The Local Authority will explain how decisions about the school placement is made for children with an EHC plan. School places for a child/young person with an EHC plan are decided by the Integrated Children’s Disability Service.
If you are a County resident click on the following link: Apply for a school place on the Nottinghamshire County Council website.
If you are a City resident please click on the following link: School admissions on the Nottingham City Council website.
Types of school
In Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, all parents can ask for a school place at:
- Mainstream schools: most children in the county and city are educated in mainstream schools and this includes most children with statements and EHC Plans.
- Academies (mainstream): Academies are independently managed schools. They are set up by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and the local authority.
- Foundation schools: Foundation schools are run by their own governing body, which employs the staff and sets the admissions criteria. Land and buildings are usually owned by the governing body or a charitable foundation.
- Free Schools: Free Schools are non-profit making, state-funded schools that can be set up by a wide range of groups – including charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, teachers or parents
If your child has an EHC plan, you can also ask for other schools, for example:
- Local authority (maintained) special schools: There are a number of special schools and a number of enhanced resource units in the county and city. These are listed in the Local Offer. Some of these schools are now academies.
- Specialist units: a few mainstream schools have special units or facilities which cater for children with certain types of special needs such as autism, speech and language difficulties, hearing impairment, specific learning difficulties or dyslexia. Children spend some of their time in mainstream classes and some in the unit or facility.
- Other placements: very occasionally a child is placed in a special school not run by the LA. These schools may be in or out of the area, and may be residential. They are a very expensive option for the LA, and Nottingham or Nottinghamshire schools are always carefully considered. An important consideration is whether the placement is an efficient use of LA resources.
Ask Us Nottinghamshire
Ask Us Nottinghamshire can offer advice about what to look for when choosing a school. It aims to give impartial advice about schools and may help with completing application forms.
If your child has an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan
If your child has an EHC plan there will be discussions about options for schools as part of the process. The local authority will consider your preference very carefully. They will agree the request unless it would prevent the efficient education of other children in the school, the school is unsuitable for your child, or if it would not be an effective use of their resources. When your child moves from primary to secondary school, their EHC plan will be amended. This involves the parent stating a preference for a particular school, if they wish to.
If your child does not have an EHC plan but is being assessed for an EHC needs assessment at the point when you need to apply for a school, you should apply for a mainstream school as if the process wasn't taking place. This makes sure that your child does not miss the chance of a place at the mainstream school you would have chosen - you can always discuss any other options later.
Admissions and disability discrimination
Schools cannot refuse to offer a school place because a child/young person has special educational needs. The Equality Act 2010 applies to schools and admissions. There is a school admissions code that all schools and admissions authorities must follow. This also states that schools cannot take into account reports from previous schools about past behaviour, attendance, attitude or achievement and must not discriminate against or disadvantage disabled children and those with special educational needs. If you feel your child is being discriminated against for something to do with their disability, you can contact Ask Us Nottinghamshire for advice, e.g. if you are told they can't start school because they are still in nappies.