SEN: What To Expect From School

A mainstream school’s arrangements for assessing, identifying and supporting pupils with special educational needs, including dyslexia, should be agreed and set out as part of the ‘Local Offer’ [an information service, published by the local authority, detailing SEN and disability provision locally and nationally].

The SEND Code of Practice [6.16] states: ‘Schools should assess each pupil’s current skills and levels of attainment on entry, building on information from previous settings and key stages where appropriate. At the same time, schools should consider evidence that a pupil may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and, if so, what reasonable adjustments may need to be made for them.’

It is therefore important that all professionals listen and understand when parents express concerns about their child or young person’s development. They should also listen to and address any concerns raised by children and young people themselves.

What support should my child receive?

Support for learning difficulties will be required and should be planned for [SEND Code of Practice: Ch6.27] when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation. Specific learning difficulties [SpLD], affect one or more specific aspects of learning and encompass a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The purpose of identification is to work out what action the school needs to take, not to fit a pupil into a category.

The SEND Code of Practice states [6.27]: ‘The support provided to an individual should always be based on a full understanding of their particular strengths and needs and seek to address them all using well-evidenced interventions targeted at their areas of difficulty and where necessary specialist equipment or software’.

There is a range of information available on appropriate interventions for pupils with specific learning difficulties and associated training, which schools should use to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and expertise to use them.

Where pupils make less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances, despite responding with high quality teaching aimed at their areas of weakness, the class teacher, working with the SENCo, should assess whether the pupil has special educational needs.

What if my child is assessed as being disabled by their dyslexia?

All schools have duties under the Equality Act 2010 towards individual disabled children and young people. They must now make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage. Schools also have wider duties to prevent discrimination, to promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations.

If dyslexia is identified what approach should be taken by the teacher?

Where dyslexia is identified, early years providers, schools and colleges should put appropriate evidence-based interventions in place as part of their graduated approach, linking assessment to teaching. The approach that should be undertaken by the teacher can best be understood by the phrase ‘assess, plan, do and review‘:

  • Assess: The teacher should collect accurate information about your child’s attainment and progress [as soon as they enter an educational setting];
  • Plan: The teacher should have arrangements in place to improve your child’s progress and help raise attainment;
  • Do: The teacher should use Quality First Teaching using a universal, targeted and/or specialist approach and direct any additional adults in the classroom on how to adopt this approach;
  • Review: The teacher should accurately monitor the progress of your child on a regular basis.

What should good quality teaching look like?

A good quality graduated approach and ‘quality first teaching’ will be classed as Universal, Targeted or Specialist depending on your child’s need.

What does Universal Provision mean?

This is more generalised support and should include:

  • Quality First Teaching which develops children’s speaking and listening skills and phonological awareness;
  • Knowledgeable and sensitive teachers who understand the process of learning, the impact dyslexia can have and can adapt their teaching accordingly;
  • The whole school ethos should respect individuals’ differences and promote good communication between teachers, parents and pupils;
  • Access to additional learning programmes and resources to support development of key skills and strategies for independent learning.

What does Targeted Support mean?

  • Staff should use special interventions in small groupings.

What does Specialist Support mean?

  • Staff should seek expert advice from a qualified dyslexia specialist teacher for those not making progress because the child’s need is such that they require the skills of a specialist teacher;
  • Specialist support is for those children who require the personalised approach of a programme that is tailored to their specific, often severe, difficulties. It is usually taught as a one-to-one programme by a teacher or a member of the support staff who has undertaken some additional training for teaching children with reading difficulties;
  • Provision for children with special educational needs will usually be provided through the core budget and notional special educational needs budget. The notional budget is an extra amount of money, in addition to the general core budget, which is given to schools to help with special educational needs provision. It is called the ‘notional’ SEN budget because schools have the freedom to decide how best to spend this money to meet the needs of their special educational needs children.

The SEND Code of Practice now states:

Every school ‘must use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with special educational needs gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s special educational needs’.

What if you are not happy with the support your child receives?

If you are not happy with the support your child receives, first speak with your child’s teacher and/or SENCo, then head teacher if necessary, to see if the plan for your child can be reviewed and revised.

If you are still unhappy with the internal support/provisions offered by your school, a report from an independent Educational Psychologist or an appropriately qualified specialist teacher can offer further guidance as to the level of provision relevant to your child. Dyslexia Lincs offers a range of services that can assist in identifying the appropriate support required for your child, and provides screening and assessment reports that can be helpful when dealing with your child’s school.

Your Local Offer should also signpost additional educational services that are available locally and nationally. If you are still not satisfied then there is always the option of mediation.

Questions you can ask your child’s school:

  • Who is the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator [SENCo]?
  • How will my child’s teacher/school know if my child has special educational needs or a disability?
  • What provision do they make for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities?
  • How do they know that specialist interventions are effective?
  • How does the school develop its overall teaching and adapt its curriculum for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities?
  • How do they know if my child is making progress towards their targets?
  • How do they ensure my child has a successful transition between key stages and schools?
  • How does the school secure additional services and expertise?
  • How can you contact these services?
  • What additional expertise do staff have in supporting children with dyslexia?
  • What does the ‘School Offer’ look like?

What will Ofsted want to know?

Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] inspects all schools in England to provide information to parents, to promote improvement and to hold schools to account for the public money they receive.

Ofsted requires each school to show that each individual pupil is making progress. When evaluating the achievement of pupils, inspectors will consider how well disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs have progressed since joining the school.

When judging the quality of education provided in a school, inspectors must consider:

  • The extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school;
  • Pupils who have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010;
  • Pupils who have special educational needs.