DPDC Discussions: SEN Statements and dealing with your Local Education Authority (LEA)

Question: A family explained that they were planning  to move south, they wanted to get the statement for their 3 ½ year old child agreed first before moving but it was turned down so they need to appeal.

The family explained that they want to send their child to a deaf school in borough ‘A’, but the house prices in borough ‘A’ are too expensive. Living in borough ‘A’ would ensure a straightforward process with the statement because the deaf school is in the same borough.

The family want to live in borough ‘B’ where house prices are more affordable, but there is a risk that the LEA for borough ‘B’ would not agree to fund the place for their child at the deaf school, as it is in a different borough. The family would like some advice from the parents in the room.

We did a quick head count to see how many parents in the room has had to appeal against a LEA decision, the answer was one parent.

One parent said that the family had time on their hands and that they should consider moving now and dealing with the statement in their new LEA, so if they needed to appeal there would be enough time to do so before their child needed to start at school. One parent said that the LEA’s ‘mantra’ when dealing with school placements is to agree to ‘the nearest suitable provision’.  It is important to prove that your chosen school is the nearest suitable provision.

One family discussed their recent experience with their LEA. Their LEA decided that their child should go to a school which was not near them and also unsuitable. Their LA also refused to agree to a Level 6 interpreter.  The family obtained evidence to show that their child needed a Level 6 interpreter, and put a strong argument forward (using government advice) that making their child travel 60+ minutes to and from school was unfair and damaging. The family collected evidence to show that their preference not only was better for their child, it was also cheaper for the LEA. As going to a local school meant the LEA would not need to pay for a taxi + escort which amounts to approx £30,000 per year. The family collected all evidence of poor admin and bad practice from the LEA, as for example the LEA sent a Teacher of the Deaf to assess their child at his/her school without the permission of the parents. A report of the assessment was also not sent to the parents – this breaks all kinds of rules.

A family friend stepped in to help the family after hearing of the struggles, and sent a strong email to the LEA, threatening to tell the papers about their poor treatment of the family and the bad decisions that had been made at the public’s expense.  The Director of Education at the LEA quickly agreed to meet the family within weeks and after seeing all the evidence and getting an understanding of the child the LEA agreed to meet the needs of the family in every way possible, so the child now goes to a local independent school and has a Level 6 interpreter, and deaf instructor who teaches BSL to the children, staff, school community and parents.

Helpful advice that came out of this discussion:

  • Keep all correspondence (emails and letters) and make notes of any delays or poor practice on the LEA’s behalf.
  • If the LEA make amendments to your statement, it is recommended that you ask for the amendments to be tracked so you can make sure nothing is removed or added without you knowing. As this happened to one family, one very important paragraph was removed but was not captured in the tracking so it pays to analyse every amended statement.
  • Do not trust the LEA with the statement, very often we as parents know what is best.
  • You are in control of your statement, make sure you own it and understand every word in it. The statement is your childs passport to the education that they deserve!
  • Always back up your preferences with evidence. For example if you want your child to have a Level 6 interpreter, use BSL reports/evidence or commission an independent assessment to show that your child needs this.
  • If you do not want you child to travel a long way to school in a taxi, use government guidelines to show that the LA’s decision is against the guidelines. http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/g/2007%20h%20to%20s%20travel%20and%20transport%20guidance.pdf
  • Contact the NDCS Family Officers who can help and advise you with your statement. They can help you with amendments, and give you advice when it comes to appeals and tribunals. NDCS Family Officers: helpline@ndcs.org.uk
  • Don’t hesitate to email or arrange to meet DPDC parents, friends, professionals or even post questions on social media websites to ask for help/advice. People will help you!

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If you have further advice, questions, resources or information we would love it if you could share this with us in the comments section beneath the post. Thanks!
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