There are different ways to ask for a Needs Assessment, for example, you could email the local authority (LA), ask the school to apply, or use the LA’s online form, which can be found on the Norfolk Local Offer (LO) website.
In legal terms, you only need to make a ‘request’, which means that a LA cannot tell you that you must fill in forms, but you might prefer to make your request that way. It should not be a problem if you cannot answer all the questions because you have still made a ‘request’. You can also email the LA, write to them or telephone them. Contact details are on the LA’s website.
When you make your request, make sure that you have proof that you have done so. Email is very good for this, but if you decide to write a letter, do send it so that the LA must sign for it. Don’t do this on a Friday as it is unlikely anyone will sign for it on a Saturday!
You do need to show that your child may have SEN and it may be necessary to write an Education, Health and Care plan (1). The word ‘may’ is important as this only suggests that there is a possibility, not a probability or that you need to prove your child has special educational needs (SEN).
The LA will need something to go on. Help the LA as much as you can by sending in supporting documents, such as a GP/consultant’s letter, SEN Support plan, Portage report etc. Your child does not need a diagnosis of anything, nor do you need to have an Educational Psychologist’s (EP) report or have gone through the ‘Graduated Approach’ (Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycles) before applying. Your child does not need to be academically behind, they may have SEN in other areas, such as attention, social communication, high anxiety or a physical disability.
Make a note of when you applied. The LA has 6 weeks to look at your application and decide if it will assess or not. The LA must let school (nursery or college), commissioning body (health) and social care officers (2) know that a request has been made.
If the LA decides not to assess, it must give clear reasons why (3), and inform you of your Right of Appeal to tribunal, as well as giving details of the Mediation Service and where you can go for advice and guidance. It must also set out the timescales for appeal (4).
1 Children and Families Act 2014, s36(3)
2 Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014, reg 4(2)
3 Children and Families Act 2014, s36(5)
4 Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014, reg 5(3)