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16 My child has difficulty learning and may need some more support in school. How do I ask for this?

You should ask to speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), the teacher who arranges extra help. Explain why you are concerned and what you think might help. Schools should provide extra help for children with learning difficulties in whatever way meets their needs. This could mean using different teaching methods with your child, offering them the support of a teaching assistant or counsellor or providing your child with special equipment.

Remember that learning difficulties can include emotional and behaviour problems as well as problems in understanding. 

The school may decide to provide support called School Action. If this help is not enough or if the school needs advice about your child’s difficulties, they may call in expertise from outside. This higher level of school help is called School Action Plus. Generally the help and targets for your child’s progress will be written down on an individual education plan. You should be involved in reviewing this.

If your child’s needs cannot be adequately met by school support alone, you or the school have the legal right to write to the local education authority to ask for a statutory assessment. This is a formal process where the education authority seeks advice from various agencies and professionals, as well as the parents, to assess a child’s needs.  After carrying out a statutory assessment the authority may decide to draw up a statement. This is a legal document which lists your child’s needs and matches each of them with the extra help required.

Parents have important rights of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal if they disagree with certain decisions made by the local education authority about assessments and statements.

This is a complicated area. If you need help with understanding the procedures or wish to appeal, we recommend that you speak to one of our education advisers on 0845 345 4 345 for specialist advice. Telephone specialist advice is only available if you qualify for legal aid.

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