Learning disabilities: requesting a statement

If your child has a learning disability and is not making adequate progress at school, you can ask your local authority to assess them. In some cases the local authority will issue a statement of special educational needs, stating what should be done to meet these needs.

The statement, which outlines what your child's special educational needs are and how they can be met, is reviewed every year. It can state, for example, how many hours of teaching support your child should get each week, or how often they should have speech and language therapy support.

Not every child with learning disabilities is assessed or receives a statement of special educational needs (often just called a statement) from the local authority. But if you feel your child's needs are not being met at mainstream school, you can ask for an assessment.

Based on your application and information from people involved in your child's education and care, the local authority will decide whether or not to assess your child or issue a statement. If it decides not to, it will explain why and suggest other ways to meet your child's needs.

You can challenge this decision if you want to. The authority can tell you how to do this and let you know of local arrangements to help you come to an agreement.

You can also go to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), an independent body that reviews the information and decides whether the authority's decision should change. You can get an information pack on challenging a decision not to assess from the Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) website.

Applying for an assessment 

You or your child's school or early years setting (such as a nursery) can apply for an assessment. The application has to be made to the special educational needs department of your local authority. You will be required to fill in forms about your child and why you think they need an assessment.

If you need support with this, contact either the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at the school or nursery, or a local support group or a voluntary sector organisation such as Mencap. Your local Information, Advice & Support Services Network is available to provide impartial advice about special educational needs.

The authority will read your application and let you know within six weeks whether it will carry out an assessment.

The assessment

If the assessment goes ahead, the local authority will talk to a number of people about your child and his or her needs, including:

  • you and your child
  • their school or nursery
  • a doctor
  • an educational psychologist
  • social services, if they know your child
  • anyone else the authority believes can help

You can suggest other people or organisations the authority can talk to. You can tell the authority what support you feel your child should have, such as speech and language therapy or special training for their teachers.

The statement

'I was told to get a statement in place before my son started full-time education. Wise words! I had qualified headteachers check it over too' 


Netbuddy parent tip

Once the authority has collected all the information it needs for the assessment, it will either:

  • write a statement of your child's needs and the support your child should have, or
  • decide not to give a statement

If a statement is issued, this will be reviewed every year throughout your child's education. It describes clearly the support that your child should have.

A parent's view

Monica Rivers' daughter Ayesha, six, received a statement in May 2008. It was the second time that Monica and her husband applied for it.

"It was time consuming and, to be honest, depressing doing the application," she says. "You have to break down every aspect of your child into a document. For me it brought back some of the difficult times and challenges I didn't want to revisit.

"We were refused the first time, but reapplied the next year. This time I met the woman at the special educational needs department of the local authority who was overseeing Ayesha's application. We went through the whole statement together, outlining what Ayesha needed.

"I had also started working at a charity within the learning disability community, so I was more aware of what was needed. This time we got it. Ayesha is in a mainstream school, and the statement says she should get 25 hours of extra support a week. She is really benefitting from it."

Read Monica's story.


Children with disability

Dr Sheila Shribman talks about how parents and health professionals can work together to support children with disability.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 31/05/2013

Next review due: 31/05/2015


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Media last reviewed: 11/03/2013

Next review due: 11/03/2015

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