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Autistic son didn't get the perferred reception school: considering appeal

(81 Posts)
TLSP Tue 24-Apr-12 13:10:13

Just found out that my DS2, who is autistic but do not have a statement, has not been offered a reception place at the any of the two schools which I really want him to attend. Prior to the application, I have visited the nearby schools and met their SENCOs to see what helps they can offer Autistic children and it was based on the info that I ranked these two at the top of my preferences. I have also ticked the "medical" box in the application and included a supporting information pack which contains a supporting letter from the Nursey's SENCO, the EP's report and my findings.

The local authority response was that they have considered my info and in their opinion any school will be able to provide my DS2's SEN needs, and therefore he has not been given any priority in the consideration.

I am considering an appeal as I thought Autism, being a mental disorder, is a medical condition. I also like to understand what processes the authority uses to arrive at the fact that any school will be able to provide his SEN's needs as autism has such a wide spectrum. I would really appreciate advices from parents who have gone through similar problem with school placement, and understand how they have gone about creating a successful appeal case. I am planning to challenge their sweeping statement that any school can provide his SEN needs.

MagsAloof Tue 24-Apr-12 13:11:49

Have you heard of IPSEA? Google them if not and give them a call.

Are you going to go for a Statement for your DS?

sinclair Tue 24-Apr-12 16:21:03

Were you refused a statement? If your DS needs additional support some schools will be reluctant to accept him on roll without the funding - or at least an interim funding agreement eg if a statement is being applied for.

If you have a statement you can name the school you feel best suits your child's needs and it is harder (but not impossible by any means) for the school to turn you away.

No idea how that works if you get statement during the application process - someone more knowledgeable will know if SEN overrides ICS rules.

prh47bridge Tue 24-Apr-12 17:53:18

Any concerns the school may have about funding do not enter into it. If the child gets a place using their admission criteria they have to admit.

Similarly if the child has a statement of SEN naming the school they have to admit even if they are full and regardless of ICS rules. In this case the child would be classed as being admitted outside the normal admissions round (because they didn't get a place in the normal way) with a statement, which means they don't count towards the infant class size limit. In theory the school can appeal but their chances of success are minimal.

TLSP Tue 24-Apr-12 17:59:44

Thanks MagsAloof and sinclair. We haven't applied for a statment yet as every man and his dog keep telling us it will be very difficult to get one, so my plan was for us to work with the SENCO of the reception school to apply for a statment. My DS main problems are Speech & Language (don't really speak, just the odd words now and then) and social interaction (don't interact with other children and has no friend in his nursey school). The two schools which we have ranked top but not been offered a place are particularly strong in these two areas.

I had a quick look at the IPSEA site just now and will give their advice line a call tonight.

MagsAloof Tue 24-Apr-12 18:05:16

Do NOT listen to the naysayers. They cannot have your son's best interests at heart if they are giving yo this advce sad

It probably will be difficult to get a Statement - I found it hard, took a year of fighting to get it, and had to see a whole host of professionals to get the reports tgether to satisfy the local authority - but it has been invaluable and absolutely wort the misery we went through to get it.

Most schools are scared of taking on an autistic child without a Statement and the funding it pulls down. Even if a school were to take him, the level of provision and support they could provide would inevitably change with staff and budget changes, and would be very unstable and inconsistent.

My DS (Asperger's) had a 1-2-1 full time TA funded plus monthly SALT when he got his Statement, and now has a place at a specialist unit, weekly SALT, monthly OT and transport to and from school - all paid for by the L.A and named in his Statement, which is legally binding.

IPSEA are brilliant, although the phone line is often jammed. Read the bit about applying for Statutory Assessment on their website.

TLSP Wed 25-Apr-12 12:39:53

Tried the IPSEA help line last night but couldn't get through; Ill carry on trying until I get through. Thinking about it now, I'll look at start the process for a statement assessment now rather than waiting.

Blu Wed 25-Apr-12 14:03:45

I do have experience of applying under SEN / medical criteria but without a statement.

In your supporting evidence, did the professionals say words to the effect of 'In my opinion this child needs to attend this school because...This is the most suitable / only school the child can attend because of these factors....' and naming factors which are particular to that school?

It is not enough simply to state the condition and have a professional verify or describe the condition, nor for that health professional to say 'the parent tells me that this is the best school because...'.

I would appeal, get your evidence strengthened with statements from your GP and the EP saying 'the child needs to attend this school because of the specific skills of the SENCO / he is used to the buildings and routine from attending pre-school there and does not cope well with change' or whatever is applicable.

From their pov and under the DDA it's true: any school should, in theory, support SEN. You have to demonstrate why your particular child can best be supported by that particular school.

TLSP Fri 27-Apr-12 11:35:10

Thank Blu. This is all very much appreciated. I have managed to get through to IPSEA last night and the advice is similar; highlight his needs and clearly cross reference them to what the school provides.

KatyJ26 Fri 27-Apr-12 11:41:50

Just think it is worth mentioning that YOU can start the process rolling for applying for a statement, you do not need to wait for the school. You can write to your local authority and request that your child goes through the statutory assessment process (school and other professionals will all also submit reports). Then, from the date your local authority receives your letter, they have to start the process and legally, the process should be complete within 26 weeks (whether or not they get the statement - i.e. all reports/info will be loooked at, it will be put to a panel to decide and you will know within 26 weeks). I hope this makes sense, good luck

asiatic Sat 28-Apr-12 14:52:13

This is a difficult situation.

Prh47brifge, again our experiences are totally different, we most be in different parts of the country.

Absolutly, anyone with a statement CAN be turned down, and it conceys very little advantage in the application process.

Most schools take autistic pupils, and would have a range of different ASD children on their role.

Whether or not you CAN get a statement depends on where you live, the are being phased out, and are already obsolete in many eductaion authiorities.

prh47bridge Sat 28-Apr-12 18:21:21

asiatic - I'm sorry but you are wrong. The rules are the same across the entire country. If your child has a statement of SEN naming a maintained school the school concerned MUST admit you even if they are already full. They have no choice in the matter. The Admissions Code (which has the force of law) emphasises this point repeatedly.

Pupils with a statement of SEN naming a school do not go through the normal admissions process at all. They are automatically admitted to the school. The 2010 Admissions Code makes it clear that admission arrangements must not imply that schools have any discretion over the admission of a child with a statement naming the school.

Ultimately if a school refuses to admit a child with a statement of SEN naming that school they can be ordered to do so by the Secretary of State. If they continue to refuse their funding can be withdrawn, effectively closing the school down.

Independent schools have a choice but maintained schools (including faith schools and academies) do not.

The LA can refuse to name the school chosen by the parents on the statement but their grounds for doing so are very limited and the parents have a right of appeal.

I am sorry that your experience was different. I don't know what happened in your case but if either the school or your LA failed to follow the above they were wrong and could have been forced to fall into line.

prh47bridge Sat 28-Apr-12 18:23:25

Also, statements are NOT being phased out (although the system in Scotland is different). They are not obsolete in ANY education authority.

MariahScary Sat 28-Apr-12 21:08:23

What ph47said.

PanelChair Sat 28-Apr-12 22:04:22

This is C&P from something I just posted on another thread, trying to explain how the medical/social need category works and how these things tend to be viewed at appeal.

There’s a difference between getting into the med/soc category for consideration of the initial application – as I mentioned earlier, that’s usually a decision for the med/soc panel – and satisfying the appeal panel that your child needs a place because of a medical/social issue.

A child with mobility problems who needs to be at a school within the distance they can manage to walk could well be accepted as a social/medical need. Much depends on what the professional's letter says. A letter saying "Ms -- really wants her son to go to this school" won't help much. A letter saying "Master - has [medical condition] and can only easily walk x metres. This school is the only school within x metres so in my professional opinion he needs a place at this school" might well convince the panel, especially if it is one of several different arguments in favour of admission. However, you need to bear in mind that (depending on your circumstances) the LEA could well be arguing that your son could easily get to the allocated school by bus. This is a secondary appeal, isn’t it?

The distinction I’m trying to make is that there needs to be a demonstrable link between the need and what the school offers. Generally, as I said, that will be some sort of specialist provision but (probably most often for children with mobility issues) it could be proximity to home or (say) having flat access and no stairs.

What it isn't, though, is a general facility for children with a medical condition to get into their first choice school, when the preference is not related to any need the child has but is a preference based on (say) the school’s academic performance.

Autism is one of those conditions where most (maybe all) LEAs will take the line that all schools can provide for pupils' needs and provide appropriate support. The onus will therefore be on you to demonstrate why your son's needs lie outside the range that any school could cope with and only your preferred school would be suitable.

Will this be an infant class size appeal?

PanelChair Sat 28-Apr-12 22:04:50

Oops. Ignore the crossings-out.

asiatic Sat 28-Apr-12 22:38:00

prh47bridge, I don't know what the yules and the law are, I do know what the practice is. Also my education authority stated formally 5 years ago that it would issue no further statements.

prh47bridge Sun 29-Apr-12 00:13:24

Which LA are you talking about?

prh47bridge Sun 29-Apr-12 08:43:46

Just to add that any LA that says it will issue no further statements is being extremely foolish. It cannot enforce that. Any parent who is unhappy with an LA's refusal to issue a statement for their child can appeal to SENDIST which is a branch of the courts (and is actually now the HESC Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal, but most people still call it SENDIST). SENDIST will not be interested in an LA's argument that it does not issue statements. It will also not be interested in arguments by the LA on financial grounds. If SENDIST conclude that the LA is failing to meet its statutory responsibilities it will be ordered to issue a statement.

SENDIST will also intervene if the statement is inadequate, the LA refuses to name the school chosen by the parents, the school refuses to admit the child, the LA/school fails to provide the support specified in the statement and so on.

As SENDIST is a branch of the courts its orders are binding. Unless they manage to appeal successfully against the order the LA/school must comply or face heavy penalties.

This is the law. Individual LAs and schools cannot opt out of compliance with the law.

asiatic Sun 29-Apr-12 09:48:19

don't want to be too identifiable, but all LEAs I've worked for have been in the SE., Kent, Essex, N and W London, Surrey.

The LEA authority I mentioned hasn't issued any further statements.

I ran an annual review 2 weeks ago for a statemented student who had had no annual review for the previous 2 years, as he has just transferred from an area which does not recognise statements.

We are told annual reviews are optional, for older students who still retain statements. ( There are no younger ones with statements)

We run annual reviews, as we find them helpful, although obviously they are not exactly annual reviews anymore, as we are not reviewing targets and progress since a previous annual review if there wasn't one.

I've got another in a few days actually, again a student who has transferred to us for 6th form, and has retained his statement, but didn't do annual reviews in his secondary school, so there is no continuity of overview, in that sense.

asiatic Sun 29-Apr-12 09:51:33

Additionally, during enrollment, a statement would carry no weight what so ever, and have no influence at all in whether I judged someone suitable for the school, ( beyond being part of the portfolio of previous acheivement and information to be judged against demands of courses) In fact I have never ever come across any suggestion that it should, except from you , prh47bridge, and I do enrollment!

MariahScary Sun 29-Apr-12 10:08:20

They are breaking the law!@asiatic. If that is really the case, they are breaking the law and all it takes is one person to challenge that. I cannot believe nobody has?

I also live in London and work in education in London, and everything prh47 has said is correct. In fact, the borough of London I live in is one of the most notoriously difficult wrt issuing statements, detailing a high level of support in a Statement etc - and even they pale in comparison to the claims you make. I would be interested to now where you live...

MariahScary Sun 29-Apr-12 10:08:42


asiatic Sun 29-Apr-12 10:08:53

Now I'm wondering if they do still issue statements? I'm not connected to that side of it. I work in schools, and with ss. I do know of students with statements whos statements are disregarded in terms of funding, reviews, etc etc, to the point that a teacher mightr not even be told if a student has a statement, I know no little ones ( below say, year 4) are recorded as statemented, I know it would have no meaning if they were, but I don't know that they are not.

One of my schools a few years ago took ONLY statemented children, (and no, havinga statment was no garantee of getting in, we took fewer than half those who applied) after the LEAs decision on statements we started taking NON statemented children, whose needs were such that they WOULD have been statemented a year or two years earlier. We didn't take STATEMENTED children, because there wern't any.

Anyway, that is my experience, and certainly statements no longer figure in any way in any school I am involved in, in terms of procedure, information, funding or anything.

Certainly the same in the SW where my sister teaches, who has statemented children in her class, but it is not attached in any way to funding forthe school, I know this because one needs some TA input, and her union tried to make the school arrange it, but the outcome of this was she, and the union having to accept that it coulodn't happen because it was outside the realms of possibility financially. The school was recieving not a penny of funding related to this child being statemented, nor annual reviews, or any such thing.

MariahScary Sun 29-Apr-12 10:11:05

'he has just transferred from an area which does not recognise statements'

I don't understand what you mean by this?

You don't have a choice in the matter. If there was a choice, do you think anyone would 'recognise' Sattements, knowing the price attached?

I am having trouble believing this, sorry.

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