Because of the complex nature of our young people, it can be difficult to find appropriate educational settings for them. Sometimes they can find themselves out of school due to exclusion. Sometimes a placement move. Sometimes it is the case that parents have felt no choice but to off-roll their young people because their setting ‘doesn’t get them’.
Recently, media has focussed on the number of ‘electively’ home schooled young people with SEND – some of whom, their carers would argue, were certainly NOT at home through choice.
If you are in the situation where you are trying to find and secure a place in an educational setting, there are a number of things you can try.
- If your child is adopted or looked after, contact your Local Authority Virtual School Head. They are a great source of advice and support and can be a valuable advocate.
- Ensure that you have a CAF in place for your family. The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a tool to record your story and unmet needs, and should mean that you only have to explain your story once, as the form can be accessed with your permission by professionals. Different areas have different names for this document. The CAF should have a lead professional who can then arrange a Team Around the Family (TAF) meeting. The Lead Professional could be a support worker, social worker, education professional, link worker, CAMHS or health professional for example. At the TAF meeting, an action plan is drawn up to work towards meeting the unmet need. TAF meetings should take place around every 6 weeks until the identified needs are met.
- If your young person has an EHCP, contact their SEND Officer or caseworker. Your Local Authority can help with this but their names will probably be on EHCP paperwork. The authority should be providing education for your child at an alternative provisional through tutoring until a place can be identified. If you do not have an EHCP, you can request an assessment yourself as a carer. You will need to contact the Local Authority for forms and be prepared to find lots of evidence to prove the educational difficulties. If you need help and support, IPSEA are great.
- Take it to the top. Don’t be afraid to make a nuisance of yourself. Write to the Head of Children’s Services in your area, your MP – or to seek support from your local SENDIASS service who provide information and support for anyone affected by SEND. There are local advocates too – Barnados for example and of course your own post adoption or fostering support services.
- Check the legislation. It’s very difficult to argue with the law, so make sure you check out some key documents. IPSEA are great for this and will point you towards the key legislation regarding SEND, exclusion and medical needs. Check your Authority Local Offer and make sure you have been proactive in finding a couple of placements you feel would be suitable. Authorities will always steer you towards their own settings but remember that independent schools are also an option if you can prove that the school is the one that best meets your young person’s needs.
The more professionals you can muster and the more legislation you can quote the better. Call a professionals meeting yourself if needs be – get everyone round the table.
Be proactive, belligerent and tenacious. It’s hard, hard work and deeply frustrating but necessary to ensure the outcome you want, and that your young person deserves.