Q My daughter, 4, has for some time been showing communication and language difficulties. Four months ago, I asked my local education authority to prepare a statement for her. They wrote back telling me that they would undertake a statutory assessment but I have heard nothing. How long do I wait?
A The law relating to assessments and statements of special educational needs is laid out in detail in Part 4 of the Education Act 1996 and in associated regulations. Further guidance is spelt out in the Special Educational Needs Codes of Practice. Local education authorities who decide to undertake an assessment and prepare a statement must usually do so within 26 weeks.
This 26-week period can be broken down: six weeks to decide whether or not to do an assessment, 10 weeks to undertake the assessment, two weeks to produce a draft statement and eight weeks to produce a final statement. The law permits some periods to be exceeded under certain circumstances (for example, if the LEA is waiting for reports from other agencies).
Check with the LEA at what stage they are at. In any event, they should, by now, have concluded the statutory assessments (unless one of the exceptions to that time period arises) so that you should, very shortly, be receiving a draft statement, or at least a decision telling you that the LEA are minded not to produce a statement. Take this up with the local authority and, if you do not get a satisfactory outcome, there are a number of alternative remedies available, including complaint to the Government ombudsman, complaint to the secretary of state for education and skills and, should this be necessary, possible court proceedings.
David Ruebain is a partner specialising in education and disability discrimination at the law firm Levenes. www.levenes.co.uk
* Please email questions to SNExtra@tes.co.uk or write to TES Extra for Special Needs, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London ElW lBX.
Neither writer can correspond with readers.