How we support families
Our aim is to ensure families have access to information, advice and guidance in relation to the Special Educational Needs of their children and young people so they can make appropriate, informed decisions. We want to make sure that the views and wishes of children and young people are listened to and taken into consideration and that, along with parent’s views, can inform and influence the development of local SEN policy and practice
In order to provide as much support as possible to everyone who needs it, we have two main ways of offering support:
- You can find relevant information including detailed leaflets and FAQ’s on this website.
- You phone us or send a referral to us at our helpline service. Contacting us in this way means you will have access to a trained and experienced advisor who will give you independent, accurate and confidential advice and support.
The information and advice line is available Monday – Friday 9.30 am – 4.30 pm.
- We listen to your concerns
- We help you find appropriate information
- We provide information on how Special Educational Needs are identified and assessed by schools and the local authority
- We help you prepare for meeting and help you decide what questions to ask
- We help with paper work
- We can help you communicate with the school and resolve disagreements early on
Most families and young people find they can sort out particular issues following the advice given. You can return as many times as you like about a particular issue or any others that arise.
The Free-Phone number is funded by SNAP Cymru charitable donations and grants.
The company supplying this number allows a 10 minute ring time then cuts the caller off. Sometimes people get this repeatedly but the line is not faulty – just very busy and we do apologise.
The person who answers your call will take your details and arrange to ring you back – this is to save the charity money so that we can give more service.
Advice and support for referrals is not available on other SNAP Cymru numbers.
Some issues will require ongoing support from our casework team. If there is a waiting list for this service you will be told, otherwise you will be given an estimate of when a trained advisor will get back to you. Help at meetings is not always possible, however we will always help you prepare in advance and ensure you understand the process and have the right information.
Please fill in the secure ALN Enquiry / Referral form below if you would like specific help and advice for your child. One of our trained advisers will send you a reply by email or if required refer you to the casework service. We aim to provide you with the relevant information within five working days. Please read our Privacy Statement before completing.
Professionals contacting on behalf of families should support families to self-refer. If a parent is unable to self-refer professionals must have the parent’s explicit consent to complete a referral on their behalf. Professionals can also contact for general information and advice.
You can refer by completing the secure online referral form below:
We also work with schools, colleges Local Authorities and other agencies to help them develop positive relationships with parents. We are happy to provide information sessions and information points for schools and colleges. See our training pages for further information.
There’s lots of tips and advice in our FAQs section below on a wide range of topics and problems.
What opportunities and support are available after leaving school?
At 16+ there are various choices open to young people. They can go out into the world of work, undertake work related training, go on to further education or stay on at school.
Young people need advice and support at this time and this is especially so for those with Special Educational Needs (SEN). If a young person with a statement stays on in school the Local Authority (LA) has an obligation to maintain their statement until the end of the academic year following their 19th birthday.
If the young person leaves school and goes into Further education their statement is replaced with a section 140 Assessment of Need, sometimes called a Learning Skills Plan, which is resourced by the Department for Education and Lifelong Learning (DELLS). Children with statements get support from Careers Wales automatically via Year 9 and Year 11 Transition Reviews and a transition plan will be produced; each school has an SEN careers advisor.
What should I consider before leaving school?
The following questions may be helpful.
- Has the young person had any careers support?
- Have the parent and young person discussed what the young person would like to do when he/she leaves school?
- Have enquiries been made about what training opportunities are available?
- Has the school been asked about options they feel are available to the young person? Can they make any suggestions based on their experience?
- Have Careers Wales been contacted to discuss options?
Who should I contact for more information?
Whatever the situation Careers Wales is an excellent contact for all issues relating to 16-plus provision. They can draw attention to the choices available and help with issues such as funding and benefits. They have a wealth of knowledge and may signpost to other agencies that may be able to help.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy can mean different things to different people, depending on experiences and understanding.
Many think it is only to do with complaints. This is not always the case. Others think it is advice, but while advocacy may sometimes include some advice, it is more about listening and ensuring the views of children and young people are heard, regardless if the advocate agrees or not.
Advocacy is a process which helps someone have their views heard, to be able to access information and to know their rights and entitlements. Children and young people should be given access to support to be involved and be heard in decisions that affect them, for example in writing and reviewing IEP’s and PSP’s. Their views should also be sought during assessment including statutory assessment, and in evidence for PDC and exclusion appeals.
Is Advocacy optional or required?
For some children and young people the provision of advocacy is statutory. i.e. ‘vulnerable children and young people’ as defined within a Legislative Competence Order:
- Any child in need (including disabled or very sick children).
- Children on the periphery of care, in care, or who have left care. The following shows groups of children and young people who have a statutory entitlement to an advocacy service under current legislation:
- Children and Young People up to the age of 18yrs in care of NHS i.e. in Hospital or primary care (family doctor, dentist, etc)
- Children and Young People Leaving Care
- Children and Young People Looked After
- Children and Young People in need which includes:
- mental health problems
- disability (within the definition of the Children’s Act 1989)
- excluded from school,
- asylum seekers or refugees
- unaccompanied minors in refuge due to homeless status
- who are homeless or in unsatisfactory accommodation away from home
- in residential accommodation, schools, Secure Units and custodial setting
- in independent Hospitals,
- in the Youth Justice System
- young carers
- at risk of being abused or neglected
- school aged mothers
The Welsh Assembly Government’s vision is that access to advocacy becomes universal for all children and young people. The WAG is committed to offering a National Advocacy and Advice Service to provide a single point of contact via telephone or text, 7 days a week for children and young people in Wales – MEIC is now available.
Who can help me find out more about Advocacy?
For further information on the development of advocacy in Wales contact either SNAP Cymru or the following:
NSPCC Wales Division
Tel: 029 2026 7000
NYAS – National Youth Advocacy Serivce
99-105 Argyle St
Tel: 0151 649 8700
12 North Rd
St David’s Court
68a Cowbridge Rd East
Tel: 029 2022 2127
How do I know if my child is being bullied?
Bullying is defined as deliberately hurtful behaviour that is repeated over a period of time.
Bullying can include teasing remarks and name calling, threats and physical violence, damage to personal property, leaving a child out of social activities, spreading rumours and cyber bullying.
Can my child’s school stop the bullying?
By law head teachers and governing bodies must produce a policy to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. This policy must be made available to parents/carers on request.
Welsh Assembly Government circular 23/2003 ‘Respecting Others: Anti Bullying Guidance’ details strategies aimed at preventing and reacting to bullying incidents.
What can I do to put a stop to the bullying?
Here are some things that you can do that may improve the situation.
- Ask the child to explain what is happening
- Have you approached the school to discuss your concerns?
- Have the child’s feelings been explored?
- Has the school explained their position and understanding of the situation?
- Is the school willing to support and work with parent/carer and child?
- Has the Local Authority been contacted about the situation?
- Has the parent, child or school been keeping a record of any incidents as they occur?
Request a copy of the schools anti-bullying policy and arrange to speak to an appropriate member of the schools staff. The school and Governing Body have a duty of care for their pupils. The school should make every attempt to implement strategies to overcome the situation.
If after a period of time you or your child feel this is failing, inform the school, and if necessary consider contacting the Governing Body and the Local Authority.
Who can give me more information on dealing with bullying?
You can contact SNAP Cymru for details on how to handle incidents of bullying or you can get further advice from the following:
Welsh Government guidance
Advice for parents
Find support for Young people www.meiccymru.org
I don’t feel my child’s school is listening to me? What can I do?
A breakdown in communication between parents, schools and the Local Authority (LA) can have a major impact on issues and their solutions. The SEN Code of Practice for Wales places an emphasis on the need for parents, schools, LAs and others to work in partnership so that children and young people with SEN reach their potential.
The Code of Practice recognises that parents have ‘key information’ about their children and play a ‘vital role’ in establishing what will be in their best interests. It also recognises that ‘partnerships can be challenging’ and that at times ‘additional support’ may be required.
The LA must ensure that advice and information is available to parents through Parent Partnership Services.
Where parents are experiencing difficulties with communication, Parent Partnership Services can support them in discussions with the LA, and assist the process of developing partnership working.
How can I resolve communication breakdown over my child’s needs?
Some questions you can consider are:
- Have the child’s feelings been established?
- Has the school been approached to discuss any concerns?
- Have the child’s feeling been explained to the school?
- Has the school been asked for their point of view and perspective on the situation?
- Is the school willing to support and work with both parent and child?
- Has the LA been contacted about the situation?
- Has the parent been made aware of Parent Partnership Services in their area?
Finding the answers to these may bring about a resolution.
The school are still not listening to my concerns. What can I do?
If there is an issue with the child’s education the initial approach is to the school. They may be unaware of the issue or may already be taking steps to address it.
If the school has been approached and have been unsuccessful in resolving the issue, the next step could be to contact the Local Authority (LA) to discuss these concerns. The parent may involve their local Parent Partnership Services at any point.
Details about Parent Partnership Services are available from the LA.
What is Disagreement Resolution?
Disagreement Resolution is occasionally necessary when discussions between parents/carers, schools and the Local Authority have become difficult.
In these cases an independent facilitator with experience in the matters under discussion can be made available. Both sides will be invited to express their points of view, with the facilitator identifying any areas of agreement and helping to identify any options to resolve the differences.
The facilitator will ensure that undue pressure is not placed upon either side in the attempts to come to an agreement.
Who is involved in Disagreement Resolution?
In order to avoid or resolve disagreements between parents and schools regarding the special educational provision made for their child, The Education Act and the COP requires Local Authorities to provide disagreement resolution services. These should demonstrate independence and credibility, and early and informal resolution of disagreements.
Arrangements for these services, including how to access them, should be made known to parents, head teachers, schools and appropriate others.
Does Disagreement Resolution replace appeals to the Special Educational Needs tribunal?
Parents must be informed that their right of Appeal to the SEN Tribunal is not affected by participating in disagreement resolution.
What should I consider before engaging in Disagreement Resolution?
The following points should help you decide whether disagreement resolution is right for you:
- How has the disagreement come about?
- Have these issues been discussed with the school/Local Authority?
- Is it felt by both parties that the disagreement could be resolved?
- What do you hope to achieve.
- Have all attempts been made to resolve the disagreement?
- Do you feel wish to/ have you already lodge and appeal with SENTW of SENDiST
If you feel disagreement resolution is an option for you, contact your Local Authority to establish who provides this service in your area.
What is Discrimination?
Discrimination is the less favourable treatment of an individual.
It is unlawful to discriminate against those with a disability. Disability discrimination is a failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for an individual, putting the individual at a disadvantage due to their disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 placed duties on schools with regard to children with Special Education Needs and disabilities which includes accessibility of the environment and admission of pupils with disabilities into schools.
How will I know if a school is discriminating against my child?
If you answer the questions below it should become clear whether the school is being discriminatory.
- How do you feel that your child is being unfairly treated?
- Has the child been asked to explain how they feel about things?
- Have these concerns been raised with the school and have these concerns been taken seriously?
- Has the school been asked for their perspective on the situation?
What can I do if I feel my child is being discriminated against?
Help and advice is available from SNAP Cymru, please contact us
Do Playgroups/Playschemes have to accommodate my child’s Special Educational Needs?
Early Years Provision relates to the years prior to formal education or statutory school age.
Provision could include; nursery, playgroup, mother and toddler groups, an early years assessment unit, a childminder etc.
The Family Information Service (FIS) in each county can provide a list of settings in each area.
An Early Years Setting in receipt of funding from the Local Authority must have regard for the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice for Wales 2002 and follow the guidance set out for identifying and meeting the needs of children with SEN. It is considered good practice for private settings to also have regard for the Code of Practice.
My child is undiagnosed and doesnt have a Statement. Should they still get support?
It is important that a child’s Special Educational Needs are identified as early as possible in order to provide the earliest possible interventions.
Questions you should ask include:
- Are there any concerns about the child’s development and what are those concerns?
- Has anyone, including Health Professionals, raised any concerns about the child’s development?
- Has the early years setting been contacted about these concerns?
- Has the early years setting been asked for their perspective?
Without evidence regarding the above questions it is unlikely that you would be entitled to additional support.
I feel my child’s needs are not being addressed. What can I do?
If the child attends an early years setting it is important to discuss the concerns with them and ask for their perspective.
If the child does not attend an early years setting, concerns should be raised with a GP or Health Visitor who may carry out some developmental tests. It may be necessary to refer the child to a paediatrician for further assessment.
What does the Local Authority (LA) do?
The Local Authority (LA) is responsible for coordinating education services within their county.
Their main responsibilities are:
- Improving educational standards through an educational development plan
- Working in partnership with Social Services, Health, Police and the voluntary sector to improve opportunities for those at risk of social exclusion and educate those who are excluded
- Providing effectively for those with Special Education Needs through identification, provision, funding and services such as education psychology and specialist support teaching services
- Making school transport accessible to those that need it
- Ensuring adequate pre-school places are available
- Monitoring the quality of teaching and learning within the county
- Monitoring schools and their policies such as admissions policies and school attendance
All LAs have a department responsible for services for children and young people with Special Education Needs.
All LA policies are available to the public and can be obtained by contacting the County Council directly or by downloading them from the County’s website. Specialist facilities can be found in the County Provision booklet.
What is a Fixed Term Exclusion?
A Fixed Term Exclusion is where a pupil is excluded for a set period of time.
Fixed Term Exclusions must not total more than 45 school days in any school year.
What are Lunch Time Exclusions?
Lunch Time Exclusions are a form of fixed term exclusion. Each lunch time exclusion counts as a quarter of a day.
Where a child is entitled to free school meals alternative provision must be made to enable the child to access lunch.
What is a Permanent Exclusion?
A Permanent Exclusion may take place where a pupil has had consistent and serious behavioural problems or may occur as the result of a serious breach of school policy. The school will permanently exclude the child and alternative education provision will need to be found.
What is Internal Exclusion?
An Internal Exclusion, where a pupil is removed from class, is not considered to be an exclusion. A pupil may be moved, with appropriate support, to another room or an alternative class.
What are Voluntary Withdrawals or Informal Exclusions?
A Voluntary Withdrawal or Informal Exclusion occurs when a parent/carer is asked to remove the child from school for any period of time.
How is an Illegal Exclusion defined?
An Illegal Exclusion is one which denies the right to question the exclusion through the appropriate channels.
How does a school go about excluding someone?
The head teacher must inform parent/carer, pupils (if over age 11 years) and, in the case of those attending a Pupil Referral Unit, the relevant person in the Local Authority, or, for those pupils looked after by the LA, their ‘home’ social services department, immediately the decision to exclude has been made, and in writing within 1 school day of the exclusion.
This letter must indicate;
- the period of exclusion
- reason for exclusion and rights around appeal
- the individuals’ right to a copy of the pupils school record
- the time and date set for returning to school
- contact details for advice and information regarding the right to take a case to a Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC)
- contact details for the clerk to the PDC
- the latest date the PDC would meet.
Where a pupil is excluded for more than 1 school day, schools must provide work but it’s the parent’s/carer’s responsibility to return it.
How do I appeal about my child’s exclusion from school?
Any appeals regarding school exclusions are dealt with by the Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC).
Under the Education (School Government) (Wales) Regulations 1999, the Governing Bodies of schools are required to set up a PDC.
PDCs comprise of 3 – 5 governors (not including the head teacher) and a Clerk to the PDC providing administrative support and advice on the exclusion process.
Head teachers have a duty to inform the PDC and the Local Authority of all exclusions which meet the following criteria:
- The fixed period exclusion totals 5 or less school days, or, 20 or less lunchtime exclusions. (PDCs informed once a term).
- Exclusions which result in a pupil missing a public examination.
- Exclusions totalling more than 5 school days or, more than 20 lunchtimes in any one term.
- All permanent exclusions.
Can I appeal if my child has been excluded for 5 days or less in one term?
Where all fixed period exclusions in any one term total 5 or less school days, the parents and pupils can make representation to the Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC) and its considerations may be entered on the pupils school record, but, the PDC may not direct reinstatement.
Can I appeal if my child has been excluded for between 5 and 15 days in one term?
Where all fixed period exclusions in any one term total more than 5 but not more than 15 school days, parents and pupils can, if they wish, make representation to the Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC).
This meeting must be held between the 6th and 50th school day after receiving notification of the exclusion. The PDC may direct reinstatement.
Can I appeal if my child has been excluded for more than 15 days in one term?
Where all fixed period exclusions in any one term total more than 15 school days a meeting must be held between the 6th and 15th school day after receiving notification of the exclusion. The Pupil Discipline Committee may direct reinstatement.
Can I appeal if my child has been permanently excluded from school?
Where a pupil is permanently excluded a meeting must be held between the 6th and 15th school day after receiving notification of the exclusion. The Pupil Discipline Committee may direct reinstatement.
Can I appeal if my child’s exclusion means they will miss an exam?
Where a pupil will miss a public examination as a result of exclusion, the Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC) must make all reasonable attempts to meet and review the exclusion before the date of the examination. In this case the chair of the PDC may conduct a meeting alone.
Can I appeal if my child has been excluded from a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)?
Local Authorities (LAs) have a responsibility to review all fixed period exclusions from Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and consider representations made by parents and pupils where fixed period exclusions total 15 days or more in any one term – the LA may direct re-instatement.
In the case of permanent exclusions, parents and pupils have the right to an independent appeal.
Following an appeal, my child has been excluded again. Can I appeal more than once per term?
Where a pupil receives further exclusions within one term, the Pupil Discipline Committee must meet for each exclusion and review the effectiveness of the support plans in place.
What must a PDC consider when reviewing a case?
When reviewing a fixed term or permanent exclusion a Pupil Discipline Committee must consider:
- Representations made by the parents, pupils or other representative.
- Whether exclusion procedures and Welsh Assembly Guidance were complied with before the decision to exclude was taken.
- Whether school policies regarding behaviour, anti-bullying, Special Education Needs, equal opportunity and race equality are current and appropriately applied.
- Whether the school has taken all reasonable steps to implement strategies of support aimed at helping the pupil to improve their behaviour, particularly the effectiveness of the pastoral support plan.
How can I prepare for my appeal?
When preparing to state a case to a PDC, parents, pupils and other representatives should consider:
- Whether the letter informing them of the exclusion from the head teacher met with the ‘key responsibilities’ as detailed in the exclusions section.
- Whether the head teacher has published the schools behaviour policy.
- What the pupil has to say about the event:
- What lead up to the event
- Where the event took place
- Who was involved
- What others said and did
- Exactly what the pupil said and did
- What other people have to say about the event:
- What the head teacher and other members of staff have said
- What any witnesses have said (witness statements should be forwarded to you as part of the process).
- Whether witness statements vary – highlight these variations, this could provide evidence of a misunderstanding.
- Whether all witness statements have been gathered – highlighting those which support the pupil’s version of events.
- About the pupil:
- Was this behaviour out of character?
- Are there any extenuating circumstances – has the pupil been under any additional pressure lately?
- Could the behaviour be a result of peer pressure?
- Do they have a disability which affects their behaviour and understanding?
- Is exclusion appropriate for their age and ability?
- Is the punishment in line with the punishment received by others?
- Where a pupil has a package of support e.g. a Pastoral Support Plan, have the procedures for review and amendment been carried out appropriately?
- Is the pupil considered to be ‘at greater risk of disengagement from school’? The Welsh Assembly Government Circular 47/06 states that children with additional learning needs are ‘at greater risk of disengagement from school’.
- Remember the pupils’ good points!
Additional Learning Needs include:
- families in difficult circumstances
- pupils who are gifted and talented
- young carers
- those changing schools
- those from minority ethnic backgrounds
- those looked after by the local authority
- those with a disability, SEN or emotional and behavioural difficulties
- medical needs
- school refusers, shool phobics and young offenders
- pregnant schoolgirls or young parents
- bullying because of sexual orientation
Where the pupil is on School Action, School Action Plus or has a Statement of Special Educational Need the school is obliged to make every effort to avoid permanent exclusion. This may involve; seeking specialist advice, strengthening existing measures of support and/or changing schools. In this case the head teacher should withdraw the exclusion.
When can I expect to hear the outcome of the appeal?
The Pupil Discipline Committee must confirm its decision in writing within one school day of the meeting.
If my appeal is successful when will my child return to school?
Where the Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC) decides to reinstate a pupil the return date should be within 5 school days. The PDC may discuss short term measures of support for reintegration with the Local Auithority.
What happens if my appeal is unsuccessful?
Where the Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC) upholds an exclusion of more than 15 days they should ensure the pupils continued education is appropriate. This could involve home tuition and/or specialist services.
Where the PDC upholds a permanent exclusion the letter must give details of the right to appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP).
What is an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP)?
An Independent Appeal Panel comprises; a chair person and a number of education practitioners and school governors. These will not be from the school the pupil currently attends.
Can I appeal against the Pupil Discipline Committee’s decision?
When a permanent exclusion is upheld by a Pupil Discipline Committee (PDC) or a pupil is permanently excluded from a PRU parents and pupils have a right to appeal to an independent panel.
Appeals must be lodged to the clerk of the panel in writing, stating the grounds for the appeal, within 15 school days of the date of the PDC’s decision.
Panels must meet within 15 school days of the appeal being lodged, although they may adjourn the hearing if they consider it necessary.
Who may attend the Independent Appeal Panel hearing?
An Independent Appeal Panel hearing should include parents, pupils, head teacher, witnesses, a nominated governor and an LA officer.
With prior agreement by all parties, representatives in the form of a legal advisor, an advocate (an advocate must be provided for the pupil when required) and other professionals may also attend.
What will the Independent Appeal Panel consider?
In addition to all written statements and oral representations the panel must consider the views of the Local Authority and whether all legal aspects and guidance have been met.
How can I prepare for an Independent Appeal Panel hearing?
Preparing for an appeal should incorporate the same considerations as those for stating a case to a Pupil Discipline Committee with the addition of any new evidence.
When can I expect a decision from the Independent Appeal Panel?
All parties must be informed of the panel’s decision by the end of the 2nd working day.
The panel may reach the following decisions;
- uphold the exclusion
- reinstatement will not be directed due to exceptional circumstances
Where the panel decides to reinstate a pupil the return date must be within 5 school days.
Where a permanent exclusion is upheld the Local Authority must make the necessary arrangements for the continued education of the pupil. As with fixed period exclusions of more than 15 days this could involve home tuition and/or specialist services.
Where can I get more information about the exclusion process?
You can request more information by contacting SNAP Cymru or from the following organisations:
The Children’s Legal Centre. Helpline is open for parents Mon-Fri 8am to 8pm. 0808 802 0008
Welsh Assembly Government publication: Welsh Assembly Government publication: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units. Circular No. 001/2004 revised in 2015.https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-03/exclusion-from-schools-and-pupil-referral-units.pdf
Where can I find more information about the exclusion process?
SNAP Cymru can provide you with further information or you can contact the following organisations:
The Children’s Learning Centre have a helpline for parents open Mon-Fri 8am to 8pm. 0808 802 0008
Welsh Assembly Government publication: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units. Circular No. 001/2004 revised in 2015.
Available at: www.new.wales.gov.uk/topics/educationandskills
What is a Local Health Board?
Each Unitary Authority/County in Wales has a Local Health Board (LHB) which coordinates the local health and social care services for the area such as; GP Practices, Pharmacies, Dentists and Opticians.
There are also 9 National Health Service (NHS) Trusts which commission the more specialist services such as; Hospitals and Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAHMS).
Full details of the services of both the LHB and NHS Trust in an area can be found on www.wales.nhs.uk
What can I do if I’m worried about my child’s health?
If you are worried about your child’s health, addressing the questions below will help you make a decision if further action is required.
- Are there any concerns about any aspect of the child’s health? If so, what are those concerns?
- Have any health/education professionals indicated they have concerns about any aspect of the child’s health?
- Has the child been asked about any worries they may have?
- Have any issues been discussed with a Doctor?
- Have these concerns been discussed with the school?
Who should I talk to for advice about my child’s health?
It is important to raise any health related concerns with a doctor who will be the best person to explain which specialist services are available and make any referrals should they consider it necessary.
Any health concerns should also be raised with the family’s health visitor/social worker.
If the child is at school, discuss any concerns with them and ask for their perspective. They may be aware of the issue and be able to offer advice and support.
My child refuses to go to school. What can I do?
School refusal is when a child does not want to go to school or refuses to attend.
The cause needs to be identified and the issues resolved by working with the child and the school. School refusal can be more common at times of transition.
Parents are legally required to make sure their child receives full-time education until the end of Year 11. If your child is not attending school you may be contacted by the Education Welfare Service.
They should be able to help and support you, but sometimes they may seem more focused on the penalties and consequences to you if a child continues to refuse to go to school. Speak to the school if your child has problems attending.
Why might my child not want to go to school?
The following questions might help you get a better idea of what the problem could be.
- Has the child been spoken to and encouraged to express how they feel and what their worries are?
- Does the child have a specific fear or anxiety?
- Is the child concerned about their progress in a particular area?
- Is the child suffering from a lack of confidence and/or low self-esteem?
- Have there been any significant life changes which could be affecting the child?
- Is the child socialising with others and forming friendships?
- Is the child a victim of bullying?
- Does the child have a disability – obvious or hidden?
- Could the child have physical illness?
What steps can I take to encourage my child to attend school?
Here are some tips that may help.
- Have you spoken to your child about why they don’t want to go to school?
- Has the school been approached to discuss the situation? Remember to keep them fully informed of any difficulties as they arise as it is your responsibility to ensure your child attends.
- Can the school suggest and implement some strategies to help the child back into school?
- Has the Education Welfare Officer (EWO) been informed of the situation?
- Does the school feel that a referral to the Educational Psychologist (EP) is appropriate?
- Could there be a need for specialist help? If so the school or GP can make a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in their area.
- If the child has a social worker, has the issue been raised with them?
Can the school help if my child refuses to attend?
If a child is still refusing to go to school and has special needs, the school should be doing all they can to help.
One of the things the school can do is to offer what’s called “alternative provision”. So, instead of having to go back to school and continue with what obviously wasn’t appropriate, the school can put together a different package of learning, for example, some areas can now offer e-learning – where children can learn via the computer at home. Or a young person could do some extended work placements or go to college part of the week.
There are quite a lot of children and young people who reach their teens for whom school is just not working, and that’s why alternative provision has been introduced. Ask the school about it, and if they are not helpful, you can ring the Local Authority and ask for the person who co-ordinates alternative provision. SNAP Cymru can also be contacted for help and advice.
Are there any support services that can help?
A referral to CAMHS – the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services can also be made from your GP to see if the child or young person would benefit from some counselling or support from them.
Can I Home School my child?
School and the Local Authority should be supportive if a parent does decide to home educate their child.
Education Otherwise and the Home Education Advisory Service give information on home schooling to parents.
Can I access respite care for my child?
Families who have children with disabilities can access respite or shared care through their local Social Services Department (SSD), through specialist Health Visitors or through the voluntary sector.
If requested, Social Services will carry out a ‘core assessment’ or ‘child in need’ assessment to determine whether the child’s needs meet the criteria for accessing respite/shared care services. Respite and shared care are valuable experiences for families of children with disabilities as they allow the child the opportunity to experience new relationships and mainstream activities.
Respite can be for a few hours, a few days or more depending on the need and what is available. Each County/Authority has its own arrangements and criteria for respite and shared care.
Under the Children Act 1989, children with disabilities should be offered the same access to good quality play and leisure activities as everyone else. It is unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 for service providers to discriminate against disabled children and all efforts must be made to accommodate any child with a disability.
What do I need to consider when requesting respite or leisure services?
Here are some things to bear in mind before making your request.
- What service would you like to access?
- Does the child have a disability or a special educational need?
- Is support being received from any professionals that may be able to help access the service required?
- Have there been any dealings with Social Services or a Specialist Health Visitor in the past?
- Are you aware of what your entitlements to such services is?
How do I go about requesting respite or leisure services?
Families may need to contact their Social Worker or Specialist Health Visitor in order to access respite and shared care.
If the family do not have Social Services or Specialist Health Visitor involvement they should contact the Duty Officer at their local Social Services Department and request that a core assessment is carried out in order to identify what services the child is eligible to access.
The Child Disabilities Team (SSD) should be able to provide information regarding leisure activities available within the County for children with difficulties of any kind.
My child’s needs are changing as they get older. How does this affect their Statement or Individual Education Plan?
Teachers regularly monitor and review pupil progress. In addition to these informal reviews there are specific occasions when formal reviews are undertaken.
These formal reviews, of which there are 3 types, ensure provision for a child is adequate and appropriate.
These reviews are;
- The Individual Education Plan Review
- Annual Statement Review
- Transition Review
What is the Individual Education Plan (IEP) review?
These reviews are used to monitor the content of the Indivdual Education Plan (IEP), to see if progress is being made and set targets for the next IEP. Parents should be involved along with the child.
An IEP should be reviewed three times a year as without regular review it ceases to be a working document.
What is the Annual Statement review?
A statement must be reviewed every year to ensure it remains appropriate.
The school must coordinate the meeting though parents have the right to request a review at anytime if they have serious concerns about the level and type of provision their child is receiving.
The Head Teacher will invite parents and relevant professionals and all those invited are asked to prepare written reports to be considered.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss progress, provision, targets and the needs of the chid. It is also an opportunity for anyone to voice their concerns.
A summary will be available to all those present, with a copy sent to the Local Authority in order to make recommendations regarding amendments to the statement. If parents are unhappy with any amendments they can appeal to SENTW (for more information on appeals refer to Appeal and Tribunals).
What is the Transition review?
Transition refers to a change of educational stage or setting.
A Transition Review replaces an Annual Review prior to transition.
Schools are encouraged to hold the transition review in the Autumn Term before transition is due to occur in order to allow adequate time for planning.
If the child is moving schools then a representative, usually the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) of the receiving school should be invited.
For the transition review prior to 14+ and 16+ transition there needs to be involvement from Careers Wales, a social worker if appropriate and the young person themselves.
How can I best prepare for these reviews?
Check the following.
- Do you have copies of IEPs
- Is it clear who will be attending the review?
- Have you received written reports prior to the review?
- Do you know of any issues likely to be raised by the school?
- Have you any issues/concerns that you would like to be discussed?
- Have the views of the child been ascertained?
Contact the school to ensure they have invited the appropriate people. If they have not, request this is done. If it is important they are present but they cannot make the meeting, ask for the meeting to be rescheduled, or at least ensure that their written advice is available.
My child has been refused a place in the school of my choice. Why is this?
Occasionally a family may apply to a school that is not their catchment school on grounds of preference and that school will refuse admission for that pupil.
The most common reasons for this refusal are that the school is full or the school feels it cannot meet the needs of the child concerned. If a child is refused a place at the school then the parents have the right to appeal against that decision by following the appeals procedure set out by the school.
How can I best prepare for the appeal?
The following questions may help with your appeal:
- Has a formal notification of the decision with reasons been received?
- Is the school named on your child’s statement?
- Does the parent have other children at the school?
- Would the school go more than 10% over its quota of pupils if the child was to be accepted? Schools cannot accept a pupil if they would go more than 10% over their agreed number of set places
- Does the child live within the catchment area of the school concerned?
Also: Contact the school/or Local Authorirty and request information on how the appeal process works. It would also be advisable to arrange a meeting at the school to ensure all relevant factors have been taken into account when the school have made their decision.
My child finds it difficult to keep up with their schoolwork. Is there any help available?
Parents may be unsure of the extra help their child is receiving at school or feel as if their child is not getting enough support.
There are different stages and levels of support schools can provide. To cater for the range of abilities in a class a teacher may provide simpler (or more challenging) work for some children – this is called differentiation.
Children who have a greater level of need can be placed on the Graduated Response as set out in the Code of Practice for Wales 2002.
My child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP). What is the next stage?
If a child has an IEP in place and is being supported by staff within the school i.e. class teacher, Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCo), Learning Support Assistant (LSA) they are said to be at Early Years/School Action.
If, through monitoring, the child demonstrates that they are making little or no progress then they may move to Early Years/School Action Plus.
My child is being moved to Early Years/School Action Plus. What does this mean?
This is where a child who has an Individual Education Plan, is being supported by the school and is also being supported by professionals from outside the school such as an Education Psychologist (EP), Speech and Language Therapist (SaLT), specialist teacher depending on the needs of the child.
Progress is monitored and if adequate progress still is not made a Statutory Assessment may be requested.
What is a Statutory Assessment?
This is a full and comprehensive assessment of the child’s needs which is coordinated by the Local Authority (LA).
The request is generally made by the school but parents have the right to make a request directly to the LA if they wish.
What can I do to make sure my child gets the additional support they need?
The following should help you figure out what additional support is available.
- Has the child got an Individual Education Plan and if so has it been shared with the parent?
- Have concerns been discussed with the school?
- Have the school raised any concerns/issues with the parent?
- Are you aware of what, if any, extra support the child receives?
- Has the child been asked to explain how they feel about school?
- Have any professionals from outside the school had any input into the child’s education?
- Do both the parent and the school agree about what the child’s difficulties are?
Once it is clear what stage a child has reached within the graduated response it is easier to see what the next step should be. Parents can then ask informed questions which can help to move the process along. It is very important for families to work in partnership with the school.
What can I do if I disagree with the statutory assessment process?
A parent can appeal:
- If the Local Authority (LA) refuses to formally assess or reassess a child’s needs (the LA will not consider a further request until a period of 6 months has passed following a previous request)
- If the LA refuses to issue or fails to maintain a statement of educational need
- Against the contents of Part 2 and/or Part 3 of the final or amended statement
- Against the school named in Part 4 of the final statement
- If the school is not named in Part 4 of the final statement
Where a parent disagrees with and wishes to challenge a decision made by the LA relating to any of the above, they have a right to appeal to the Special Education Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW). SENTW is an independent body set up to hear disputes between parents and LAs. SNAP Cymru can help guide you through this.
What can I do if I feel the school has discriminated against my child because of their disability?
Where a parent considers their child has been discriminated against or treated unfairly in any way due to their disability they have a right to make an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDisT). Contact SNAP Cymru to help with this process.
A Parent can make a claim to the tribunal about disability discrimination in Welsh schools including nursery schools and nursery classes in schools.
The Equalities Act defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on a person’s ability to perform normal day-to-day activities’.
How can I identify discrimination?
There are two ways to identify discrimination:
- Less favourable treatment – A school may be discriminating if it treats a child “less favourably” for a reason related to his/her disability, and it cannot justify that treatment.
- Failure to take reasonable steps – The school can also be accused of discrimination if it does not take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure your child is not at a substantial disadvantage compared to the other pupils at the school.
How long do I have to appeal?
There is a 6 month time-limit for making a claim which starts from when the alleged disability discrimination took place.
How will I know if my concerns are taken seriously?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Has confirmation of the decision been received in writing from the Local Authority (LA)? An appeal cannot be lodged until formal notification of the decision has been received or the final statement has been received
- Has a copy of the booklet for parents entitled ‘How to appeal’ for SEN appeals or ‘How to make a claim’ for Disability Discrimination Appeals been received?
- Has the LA been contacted to discuss concerns?
- Has the local Disagreement Resolution Service been brought to your attention or accessed?
Participating in Disagreement Resolution does not affect a parents right of appeal to SENTW.
What if I’m not satisfied with the Local Authority’s decision?
If, after discussion with the Local Authority, a parent wishes to lodge an appeal with SENTW or SENDisT, they have 2 months from the date they received the letter informing them of the decision or the final or amended statement in which to do so.
The whole SEN appeals process, from registration to hearing and the issuing of a decision, usually takes between 3 and 4 months.
Contact SNAP Cymru to help guide you with this procedure.
Who can I contact for information about appeals?
You may find the following organisations helpful in this area:
SNAP Cymru IPS service
The Law Society or local Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s will be aware of solicitors that could assist with the appeal where required; also, those solicitors who offer public funding. you can also see the register of providers on the Legal Aid Portal https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-legal-aid and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/directory-of-legal-aid-providers. For information regarding education appeals in Wales see:
Spa Road East
Telephone: 0300 025 9800
Fax number: 0300 025 9801
Do I need support from my local Social Services Department?
Many children with disabilities need the support of a Social Worker.
Each Local Authority has a Social Services Department (SSD) which is responsible for coordinating support and services for children and their carers.
Social Services duties include providing a social worker service, maintaining a register of disabled children, providing information about the services they offer and assessments of need for children and their families.
Each Authority’s Social Services Department will have a
- Child Disability Team
- Child Protection Team
- Children in Need Team
- Looked After children’s Team
- Adoption Team.
Social Services have a duty under section 17 (10) of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the interests of children in need. Children in need are identified as under the age of 18 years and ‘unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of the Local Authority’.
The law recognises disabled children as being in need.
Every child is therefore entitled to an assessment to determine if it is a child in need and this will identify the services considered appropriate and necessary. It is important as it can lead to shared care/respite opportunities and practical help at home.
- Why do you feel you need support from Social Services?
- Are you aware of the types of support Social Services can provide in your area?
- Has your child had any assessments by Social Services?
How do I request support from my local Social Services Department (SSD)?
To inquire about eligibility and/or what services are available in your area contact your local SSD.
Alternatively a family can access help from their GP, Health Visitor, Community Nurse, Paediatrician or through voluntary organisations that provide services in your area.
Just as a child is entitled to have a core/children in need assessment, a parent/carer is also entitled to their own assessment to ensure their needs are being met. Social Services will also be able to provide help and support relating to benefits and payments they may be entitled to for their child.
What is Statutory Assessment?
A Statutory Assessment is a comprehensive, formal, multiagency assessment of a child’s needs and it is coordinated by the Local Authority (LA).
Assessment is generally requested by the school or other professional but parents have the right to make a direct request in writing to the LA if they wish.
If a child is ‘looked after’ by the local authority the request must be made by whoever has parental responsibility.
How long should it take?
The process takes approximately 26 weeks from start to finish.
How is a Statutory Assessment carried out?
During the first stage the Local Authority (LA) will gather preliminary information from parent and professionals before deciding whether to proceed to full assessment.
If the LA refuse to assess, parents and the school are informed in writing and parents can appeal to SENTW if they disagree with decision. (for more information on appeals and SENTW see Section 1 Appeals and Tribunals).
If the assessment goes ahead the LA will request more detailed information from everyone involved. This detailed information is considered by a panel of professionals, they may decide to issue a Note in Lieu or a proposed/draft Statement of Special Educational Needs.
A Note in Lieu sets out the child’s needs in a very similar way to a statement but is not a legal document. Parents can appeal at this point against the decision to not statement. A statement is a legal document and it is the responsibility of the LA to deliver the provision outlined.
Once parents are happy with the content of the proposed statement, a final statement is produced. If parents are unhappy with the final statement they can appeal to SENTW.
Before going to the tribunal contact SNAP Cymru for guidance on how to proceed.
How do I prepare for a Statutory Assessment?
Thinking about these questions will help you before an assessment takes place.
- Why do the parents/school feel a Statutory Assessment is necessary?
- Has the school been asked to explain the process to you?
- Have the parents been asked for their views?
- Have the parent/school asked the child for their views?
- Have all appointments, especially medical ones been kept?
- Has the LA been approached about any disagreements there may be?
How can I make sure the assessment will be as successful as possible?
Talk to the school about the situation as working in partnership means the request is more likely to be successful.
All Local Authorities (LAs) have a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Department though the title will vary from County to County. Some LAs have parent liaison officers who can help but even if they have not there will be someone who can discuss your concerns.
SNAP Cymru has information about the Assessment Timetable, Statements and the Note in Lieu in our Help & Advice section.
What is Transition?
Transition means change. Within education it is a change in the pupil’s key stage or a change of educational setting.
Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) may find periods of transition particularly difficult, therefore, sensitivity may be required.
Sharing of appropriate information when a pupil changes school is a necessary part of any transition, for those with a statement of educational need it is good practice for the receiving schools SENCO to attend the pupil’s annual review to familiarise themselves with the pupil’s needs.
From Year 9 the drawing up and annual review of a transition plan is compulsory for those pupils with a statement of educational need. The Local Authority is responsible for the drawing up of a transition plan for all children and young people who have a statement of educational need. This includes those who are not educated in school i.e. those with health difficulties or disability, those attending a Pupil Referral Unit and those educated at home.
Career Wales have a responsibility to identify and re-engage those who are not receiving a formal education.
What will a transition plan contain?
A general outline of a transition plan would include the following:
- Post 16 education choices including FE and HE education and specialist colleges.
- Work place and training opportunities.
- Transferring from children’s services to adult services in health and social services.
- Getting help to develop independent living skills.
- Information on leisure activities money and health.
- Planning for independent living accommodation, housing etc.
Who should attend the Transition plan meeting?
The essential attendees at a Transition plan meeting are:
- Parent/Carer and Child
- Head or their representative, usually the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)
- Careers Wales
- Social Services i.e. Child Care Disability Team/Community Support Team, Looked After Children Team
Others present could also include, where appropriate:
- Education Welfare
- Educational Psychology
- Occupational Therapy
- Youth Offending Teams
- Parent Partnership Services
- Voluntary Sector Representative.
How do I prepare for the transition meeting?
Consider the following before attending the transition meeting so that you are not caught unawares by anything.
- What would you like to see happen?
- Do you feel you are being included in the transition process?
- Has the SENCO passed all relevant information to the appropriate people?
- Have you been to visit any possible next placements?
- Have you had the opportunity to discuss your needs with the next placement?
- Do you feel happy with the way the planning is progressing and do you feel you are being listened to?
Once the child’s views have been established we would recommend the following:
- Speak to the school to establish options and their recommendations
- Contact the Local Authority to establish which schools would be suitable for the child and arrange to visit them
- Speak to the careers advisors to establish what options are available to the child and what the child will need to do to access those options.
How do I secure transport for my child to the school of our choice?
The Local Authority (LA) is responsible for providing children who live within that Authority with a full time educational placement in an Authority school.
Each mainstream school has a catchment area and, as a rule, a child will be educated in their catchment school.
If a family chooses to send their child to an alternative school to the one on offer they are themselves responsible for transport arrangement and costs.
If, however, it can be shown that the catchment school is not the most suitable placement for the child then the LA will provide transport to the nearest placement within the Authority that is suitable.
Reasons for a school being unsuitable could be that the school does not have the facilities or expertise to meet a child’s educational needs or that the school is English speaking and the family requires a Welsh medium education.
Copies of the transport policy for each area are available from the LA.
How can I prepare my request for transport?
The LA should be contacted to request a copy of their transport policy to clarify what is expected from them.
Once the local policy and procedure is understood, parents will be in a much better position to construct an argument or raise any issues that is felt relevant.
By speaking to the school and other parents, you may find you are not alone in your request and it may help if you feel you are not challenging a decision on your own.