Frequently asked questions (SEN Support)

1. What support should my child be getting in school?

Read our section SEN Support, which explains the process of identifying & assessing needs and planning & reviewing support.

You can find out what school offer by viewing their SEN information report, and SEN policies on their website. Talk to the SENCO about the difficulties your child is having, and together you can discuss and plan support.

Find out what is available locally for your child, for example voluntary, health or specialist services, by searching on the Local Offer webpages or calling their Local Offer Advisor on 0345 606 1490.

2. My child has SEN, how can I get involved in any discussions about support?

You should be involved in all discussion about your child’s SEN, the SEND Code of Practice is really clear on this. Make contact with the SENCO to arrange an appointment so you have an opportunity to share your views, those of your child, and find out what support the school have, or are planning to put in place.

Ahead of any meeting it can be helpful to let school know what you would like to discuss:

Download our Pre-meeting email template (Word document)

3. Can a child receive support even though they are making academic progress?

A child may have SEN, despite making expected academic progress. See also our information about ‘ What is a Special Educational Need

The SEND Code of Practice says that when identifying SEN in schools…

It can include progress in areas other than attainment – for instance where a pupil needs to make additional progress with wider development or social needs in order to make a successful transition to adult life.

it should not be assumed that attainment in line with chronological age means that there is no learning difficulty or disability. Some learning difficulties and disabilities occur across the range of cognitive ability and, left unaddressed may lead to frustration, which may manifest itself as disaffection, emotional or behavioural difficulties. 6.18 & 6.23 Code of Practice

Talk to school about what your child is finding difficult and ask what support might be put in place to help them. The schools own website could be a good starting point as may detail some of the programmes or interventions they offer.

4. School have said they cannot afford to provide what my child needs. What do I do?

Schools must identify, assess need and then plan support based on this information in a continuous cycle (assess-plan-do-review). Where school have identified what a child needs, this should be put in place. Schools can apply for the higher needs funding where they can evidence a high level of support is required, Read about this in our funding pages.

Sometimes it can be useful to discuss with school about what they could put in place, perhaps they are unable to provide a 1:1 at lunch but may be able to suggest a supervised club, for example.

5. Does my child need a diagnosis to get support in school?

A child does not need a medical diagnosis to be recognised as having a Special Educational Need (or SEN). SEN is about assessing and identifying the needs and then putting in place support for these (whether or not there is a diagnosis).

Teachers make adjustments so that they can meet the wide range of needs for all the children in any given class and this is known as ‘differentiation’.

Schools provide support for a child with SEN if they need further adjustments or support on top of ‘differentiation’. A disability which creates barriers to education may also be the trigger for additional support.

SEN is not always about a child’s academic attainment. Some children may have other barriers to learning.

Schools identify the needs and make ‘best endeavours’ to ensure a child with SEN gets the right support – read about the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ process, which is commonly referred to as the ‘graduated cycle’. They can make referrals into specialist education or health services for advice about how to support a child who is not making expected progress.

If you are thinking about exploring assessment or a diagnosis, we have some information on our website: ‘Identifying health needs‘.

There is also some government guidance for schools: ‘Supporting pupils with medical conditions‘, which highlights that schools should not wait for a formal diagnosis before providing support for a medical condition.

6. I have been told I need to go private for a Dyslexia diagnosis, can you advise me?

Some schools will have someone able to carry out dyslexia screening, which will give an indication of tendencies. Identifying Dyslexia is complex, there are so many reasons your child may be having difficulties. 

It is quite common for parents to seek a private diagnosis, however, schools should consider involving specialists for any child that continues to make little or no progress, despite targeted support. Follow these links to find out more about specialist services:

Suffolk Local Offer, for information on all services available including for example;

Psychology & Therapeutic Services

Specialist Education Services

7. My child is struggling, but school don’t see any difficulties. What can I do?

Some children will appear on the surface to be managing well but underneath may be finding things difficult and feeling too anxious or self-conscious to ask for help. It can be useful, ahead of any discussion with school, to try to find out from your child what they are finding difficult and what is going well.

Sharing this information with school should help plan what support might be needed. Read more in our information within the SEN Support section.

In addition, when you have your next discussion, ahead of giving your examples as to what they are finding difficult you could frame it as ‘Of course you won’t have seen any of this as they mask this very well while in school…’.

See also our information ‘Working with school

8. My child finds it difficult to ask for help in school and doesn’t want to stand out as different.

This is very common. Children with SEN are often anxious about raising their hand in class and asking for help.  As they get older and start to become more aware of their differences they often don’t want to attract more attention to themselves.  You could acknowledge to your child that many young people find this tricky and that it is ok to explore with school ways of asking for help which your child will find easier.

For example, it could be agreed that your child shows they are struggling by placing an item on the table (this might be a coloured card system or a piece of school kit like a rubber) and the teacher or TA comes over discreetly, going to other children first to see if they are ok. 

In this way, your child doesn’t stand out.  Some young people prefer to speak to a key person at agreed times in the week to talk about what they are finding difficult and explore ways to make this better. 

You may also want to read our information about school anxiety.

9. My child is fine at home but school staff call every day about issues in the classroom.

It will be helpful to meet with school to discuss the issues, and consider any patterns of behaviour.  It is very common for children and young people to present differently at home and at school as the environments and activities can be very different. 

We recommend acknowledging the school view and experience – this does not make your experience any less valid.  It is important to look at the whole view to unpick what your child is finding most tricky and what might make things easier.

Share with school any strategies you use.  Often parents are using strategies without even realising and it can be less confusing for a child where the strategies at home and school are the same. 

Praising positive behaviour can be really effective, particularly when sanctions are not helping your child to manage things differently.  You can also explain if you are finding daily contact about issues stressful and agree how school will communicate with you in the future.

Where school have tried all strategies, and are unsure how to support, they should seek specialist advice. 

10. What can I do if I’m in disagreement with school over my child’s progress?

This comes back to the cycle of SEN Support. Once required outcomes have been agreed, progress should then be measured and support monitored as part of the cycle.

At the review stage the progress made should indicate whether your child has achieved the desired outcomes, and if not support should be reviewed and changed, with fresh targets set where necessary. If you are unclear or disagree with progress being made or the targets being set, discuss your concerns with the SENCO in the first instance.

11. School say they need more time so they can gather evidence, but my child needs help now.

If school have identified what your child needs help with, this should be put in place. The process of SEN Support is all about the gathering of evidence ie, support is put in place then continuously monitored for impact on progress.

Speak to school again to find out what progress is being made, the evidence of the impact of support in place so far and, where progress is not being made, what are the options for next steps.

You have the right as a parent to request an Education, Health & Care needs assessment directly with the local authority at any time. Read our information about EHC needs assessments & plans.

12. What can I do when a health professional has recommended a referral for an Educational Psychologist but school have refused?

It is for school to review support and decide what next steps might be appropriate. They should involve a specialist for any child who continues to make little or no progress, despite SEN Support.

They might consider a referral to an Educational Psychologist when reviewing, or they equally may have a different idea about what the next step should be. It will be important to find out why school have refused, what progress is being made, what impact the support in place is having, and what the next steps will be.

13. My child isn’t getting the support agreed in our meeting/school support plan.

It will be helpful to talk to school as soon as possible so that you can be reassured about what is happening. It could be that the planned support was not working and school have made some changes that you have not been told about, or maybe a temporary staffing issue due to illness. 

Sometimes staff are working on one of the agreed actions and intend to work on another action later, so as not to overwhelm a child.  We recommend checking and noting the timeframes for agreed actions when you are discussing a plan of support.  Ahead of any conversation try to find out your child’s views so this can be part of the discussion.

Sometimes parents and schools can have a different perception about what has been agreed in a meeting.  We recommend that you note down any actions agreed and check them back with the school before the end of the meeting or discussion.  We have a Meeting Planner in our ‘Making Meetings Matter’ leaflet (PDF) which parents have found helpful.  You might like to ask how the agreed plan will be shared with all staff working with your child.

We also offer a workshop called Making Meetings Matter which explores practical strategies for preparing for meetings and conversations, how best to manage these and how best to follow up.

14. Is it right that colleges can only offer support with an EHC plan?

Colleges have a duty (explained in the SEND Code of Practice 2015) to ‘use their best endeavours to secure the special educational provision that the young person needs’ and ‘they must fulfil this duty for students with SEN whether or not the students have EHC plans.’

Support should be discussed with the young person and their ambitions and aspirations must be at the heart of any planning.

15. What if my child can’t attend school due to their anxiety?

It is common for children and young people with SEND to experience anxiety, but sometimes this can worsen and children start to feel they are unable to go to school. Speak to their school as soon as possible to let them know about the difficulties they are experiencing. You can also talk to their GP.

It can be useful to think about who you would like to talk to in school. School staff have different roles and you might want to change who you meet with as your child’s needs emerge or change.

Together you can discuss ways to support your child. Take a look at our page ‘School anxiety’ for possible support strategies, including involving specialist services and for useful links to other sources of information. See also our information within the Equality & Inclusion section ‘medical needs

Alternative provision

In some circumstances alternative provision can be used alongside mainstream or special education, to support vulnerable learners who may have health needs. Schools can complete an alternative provision referral form to request this.

Where there is an EHC plan

If they have an Education, Health and Care plan, you could contact the local authority to request an early review

The review will provide you with the opportunity to let the local authority know about the difficulties and discuss the support in place, and the progress being made towards outcomes. You can also ask for re-assessment if you believe your child’s needs have changed significantly since the plan was first issued, if you think the professional advice needs updating, or the provision is no longer meeting needs.

You will be able to propose any changes you would like to see made to the plan, for example with the support that is provided or with the outcomes.

You will also have an opportunity to request a particular school to be named, should the local authority decide to amend the plan following review. 

Read more about Annual Reviews of an EHC plan

16. School/local authority are not accepting a private assessment/diagnosis

Your views are important as you know your child best. It is also vital your child’s views, wishes and feelings are taken into account.

Share the reasons which led you to get a private assessment/diagnosis. For example:

  • What was your child having difficulty with?
  • Were they finding it really difficult to manage their feelings and emotions?
  • Did you worry their difficulties were worsening perhaps where you were refused, or were waiting for, an NHS or local authority specialist assessment?
  • Did you disagree with the assessment or recommendations from other practitioners?

Find out why the school/local authority disagree with the assessment findings or diagnosis and what their support plan is. It’s really important to understand their point of view as this will help you to ask the right questions.

Sometimes professionals have conflicting views about how to support a child, and the school or local authority will be using their best judgement when working through this specialist advice. If you disagree with a decision about support it might be helpful to allow some time to see if their suggested support has any impact, and agree to review at a later date.

You may find it helpful to look at our information ‘working with school’.

Let’s look at what you could do step-by-step:

  • Share with school/the local authority the reasons why you decided to go for a private assessment/diagnosis
  • Find out why the school/local authority disagree with this, and discuss how the support being proposed for your child differs from the recommendations within the private assessment/diagnosis report
  • Take some time to consider their point of view and the questions or points you would like to raise with them. It can also be helpful to look at the school’s SEN Information Report (to find out how the school identifies and supports children and young people with SEND generally).
  • You could request a meeting, or put your questions and concerns in writing to the school/local authority
  • If you still have concerns, you could make a formal complaint (see our section ‘raising concerns‘)
  • If you feel your disabled child has been substantially disadvantaged (within the last six months) you could consider complaining to the SEND Tribunal.

EHC plans

For disagreements about the needs or provision in a new EHC plan, you will have the right to mediation and appeal when the local authority send you the finalised plan.

For disagreements about the needs or provision in an existing EHC plan, you can request an early review. Following review, you will have the right to mediation and appeal.

See also:

Working with school (includes a pre-meeting email template)

SEN Support  (the term used to describe the process for identifying and supporting a child or young person with SEN)

Raising concerns (includes information about the complaints process for schools and the local authority)

How can I get the most out of my EHC plan?

Watch ‘Support for pupils with SEN’ video

SEN Support in mainstream schools

Download ‘SEN Support’ leaflet