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Help - at a crossroads with NO idea where to turn.

(19 Posts)
SparkleSoiree Tue 11-Dec-12 13:16:32

(I did post this in the other SN section but have posted here too.)

Hi...can somebody please offer some constructive advice? It's long I'm afraid.

DD(5) was recently diagnosed with ASD (Aspergers). She turned 5 in September and should have started school but after being unsuccessful with our first 3 choices we refused the school that the LEA offered us as it has recently just come out of special measures and frankly not somewhere we want DD to attend. After discussing the wait list with one particular school we were hopeful that a place would arise there before the October half term. It has not transpired.

We returned from Australia in July after being out there for a few months and missing out on school application deadlines was the reason we didn't get offered our choices because all the places had been offered and accepted. DD's diagnosis process had already started in January before we left for Australia and it was restarted after we returned to the UK. After receiving the LEA's offer I have been in regular telephone contact with the admissions team from the beginning of term and since to check on DD's place on the waiting lists of the schools she was unsuccessful at. It was during one of these phone calls that the lady told me I could have appealed right up until a certain date (which had already passed) and that if we had mentioned in our application that DD was going through the diagnosis process then an appeal wouldn't have been necessary as there would have been a strong likelihood that she would have been prioritised and received one of our 3 choices.

(I'm just giving some history here so that I don't drip feed.)

Another couple of phone calls later and I find out that actually I should be making contact with the Special Educational Needs team in order that DD be considered for a statement. This was about 6 weeks before DD was officially diagnosed and it was advised by the local SEN team we should wait for the final report from the hospital before formally requesting an assessment as DD wasn't in school and is currently being home educated at the moment. She did say we could have put in a formal request then but it would have nothing to back it up so we followed her advice and waited.

Still been checking the wait lists and DD has not moved up on any of the lists, unusually for one particular school.

The hospital sends in their reports to the SEN team and I put a formal request in writing for an assessment. In the second half of November we received 2 visits from the Ed Psych to decide whether to make an assessment and the panel met last Wednesday to decide on whether or not they will Statement DD. The Ed Psych states that DD has sensory, social and communication issues and personal welfare issues however is extremely bright and would benefit from a challenging curriculum. (I also don't like the way the report was worded as it negatively portrays DD from a personal angle rather then discussing education challenges but I guess that's my issue.) The decision we received yesterday is that they will not statement her at this point in time as they feel they have insufficient information from a classroom setting. They have recommended we take up the place they offered us at the under performing school and put DD on the School Action + plan advising that they may not have to do anymore than that after monitoring DD for a while. The ofsted report states that this school has an above average amount of children with SEN and they meet minimal expectations for progress. The school is now scoring 3's as opposed to 4's until earlier in the year.

DH and I have so many doubts, questions and are wracked with guilt over this situation and I have rang Partnership with Parents who have a weeks leadtime to respond to our query in this area and the NAS for advice, who again will get back to us 'soon'. We feel that DD is being hugely failed but is it by ourselves or the LEA? We can't find any information on what to do from here. We feel our options are this:

Send DD to the under performing school
Home educate for the foreseeable future

Is there another avenue we can contact for further advice and support? I can't explain how upset we are about not being informed of our right to appeal by a certain date for a school place and now feeling we are being forced into accepting a place at a sub standard school before the SEN will consider assessing DD's needs. This year has been a nightmare and to be perfectly frank I feel WE are failing DD more than anyone but I don't know where to start resolving it.

Any constructive help would be really appreciated. (Be gentle!)

p.s.: Since posting this DH has suggested we seriously research home educating for long term...I'm not sure though.

WeWilsonAMerryChristmas Tue 11-Dec-12 13:24:28

OK. Stop. Take a breath. Yes, it is very unfortunate that all the stuff happened with the waiting lists and that you weren't given the information you needed but you are where you are. So draw a line and start looking forward.

The first question I will ask (with love) is have you been to see this underperforming school? If not, go. Tomorrow. Don't go on ofstead, that's not usually the right indicators for children with SN, unfortunately. Go on your gut feelings.

And do you want to Home Ed? It's not something to be entered into lightly - although there are passionate advocates for it both here and on the Home Ed board.

bjkmummy Tue 11-Dec-12 13:30:04

have you tried contacting IPSEA or SOS SEN? they can usually give you advice there and then. another good place is advocates for children. have you contacted your MP? You can of course now they have refused your request for a statement start the appeal process. The cyncial part of me would say - youput her inthe under performing school and she will stay there indefinately. i cannot say how good the school is but you risk that she will just stay on school action plus and you need a school these days to be incredibly proactive and supportive in helping to get a statement. if you do not get this vibe from the school then i would avoid it. it feels that they are making you daughter fit into the school rather than can the school actually meet her needs and support her. i would always say that your gut instinct is the best judge you will ever get - i have ignored it in the past to my peril and now always listen to it!

bjkmummy Tue 11-Dec-12 13:32:12

yes and deffo visit the school - just because a school has a bad ofsted report may not be the true picture - i know many friends who have sent to a child taht didnt have an excellent ofsted rating and have been very very happy and have also witnessed children go to the outstanding schools and had a terrible time - every school is different and unique and sometimes an ofsted report doesnt give a true picture

mariammama Tue 11-Dec-12 14:15:00

Was the 'assessment' been a formal statutory assessment of special educational needs? If so, they will now write to you making their 'no' official, and you can then appeal to the SEND tribunal. There's usually a bunch of general recommendations enclosed called a 'note in lieu'.

If this has been a half-hearted set of ordinary assessments, look up IPSEA and print out the letter asking for a formal assessment of SEN, so that they can formally refuse. And appeal to SEND as above.

You're probably a year off getting her a statement (assuming she needs one). Sometimes the apparently dodgy schools are much better for our dc than the more popular ones. The yummy-mummy families are generally the worst behaved, and are sometimes unkind to dc with SEN. It wont be faster coming from a school, if anything it may be slower. Relying on this bunch for 'help' is slower and less efficient than getting the system moving yourself.

bochead Tue 11-Dec-12 14:45:03

Oftsed is a political tool & not a judge of school quality. Especially since all this academy & free school nonsense got going.

Often many schools are rated outstanding partly because they've pushed out any "challenging" children or those with statements. They will have a wonder vegtable patch (paid for from money meant for SEN) to impress VIPs. Meaning those poor kids all wind up in the school down the road with a lower official rating but staffed by those with a sense of compassion & common decency.

Go look at the school and judge it with your own eyes before you pass judgement. Also there is nothing to stop you appealing the refusal to assess.

Or putting her in the school and then applying again for a statement once she's done 6 months. A statement would then enable you to name the school you DO want in part 4. (Often part of the unofficial criteria for getting a statement involves being seen to fail). Sadly lack of school choice in Key stage 1 is very common with restricted class sizes and a rising birth rate. Just because she starts there does not mean she has to stay there long term.

Your other option is independent school for now, and a statement application in 6 months time so it can be demonstrated how she copes in a classroom setting without support. DLA might partially help to fund this if you apply. (Average fees are £3k per term)

StarOfLightMcKings3 Tue 11-Dec-12 16:29:34

If and when you get a statement you can name the school of choice, EVEN if you are at a different school.

SparkleSoiree Tue 11-Dec-12 22:16:39

We have had previous dealings with the school and its not an option. We haven't just taken an instant dislike to the school based on the Ofsted report but I have referred to the report being an offical reference rather than just our opinion.

I have never heard of IPSEA or SOS SEN so will google those and get in contact. We really want to speak to someone who understands and can say 'this is what you can do or this is what you can't do".

We are Home educating at the moment and its good but I don't know if I have the ability to do it long term and it certainly was not in our long term plans for our family dynamics. DD is not social at all with other children and avoids them as much as possible so a home environment is working well at the moment.

The assessment was not the formal assessment of statutory needs. It was the first stage where they decide if an assessment is required. They have said no at this point because they do not have enough information on DD. They want to see her in a classroom setting. We have already provided all the nursery paperwork that we received from them at the LEAs request. Why go through meeting these deadlines and appointments if they knew in the beginning they could not make a decision without seeing her in class when they know she isn't in school..

We already have our daughter in independent secondary and are not in a position to increase our financial committment at this point so that's out until September at the earliest.

I haven't heard anyone tell me of a positive experience with their LEA for one reason or another and I do regard myself as new to this subject despite DD being picked up at aged 3 for her behaviour. Getting involved with this whole process is something I have dreaded because everything seems so protracted and drawn out. Today I feel like giving up before I've even started which sounds really defeatist and very unlike me but I'm just constantly jumping through hoops.

Thanks for the advice everyone, I really appreciate you taking the time to reply.

mariammama Tue 11-Dec-12 22:43:13

Right then, just bung in your formal request for statutory assessment now, before throwing in the towel. It doesn't need to be long, nor good, they've ignored your evidence so far and retyping it isnt going to work magic wink.

So just cut & paste what you've done already onto the IPSEA template and print, then put your feet up while the bureaucratic wheels turn grin. LEAs take 6 weeks to say 'no', and you then have 8 weeks to appeal the refusal.

mariammama Tue 11-Dec-12 22:49:08

During all this process, I presume no-one mentioned you were still entitled to 15h/ week nursery education free till Christmas because dd wasn't yet of compulsory school age? You could even have put this towards a private school reception place. I think this 'need to see her in a classroom setting' is bogus.

SparkleSoiree Tue 11-Dec-12 22:51:36

Ok mariammama Now I'm confused because that is just what has happened....but they said that stage is just to decide whether they will assess her for a statement and their decision is no for all reasons already stated. That took 6 weeks and they say we have 8 weeks to appeal but on what grounds? They say that they can't decide until they see her in school yet they have known all along she is not in school and have kept pushing us forward...

SparkleSoiree Tue 11-Dec-12 22:52:47

Nobody has told us that she is still entitled to 15/h a week

I feel totally blind!

SparkleSoiree Tue 11-Dec-12 22:54:14

And our gut instinct is that the school setting thing is bogus too. The first time the Ed Psych left our home she said she would strongly recommend DD be assessed for a statement - she spent 2 hours in my daughter's company and couldn't get any communication from her at all yet they want me to just pop her into school straight off with no support in tow.

mariammama Tue 11-Dec-12 22:56:58

Just re-read your OP, if the 'refusal to assess' letter is less than 8 weeks old, it's worth appealing now. Fighting you at tribunal will probably be more hassle for them than just caving in and assessing her.

And you must go to see the poor school, if only to make a list of exactly why it will be specifically useless for your dd. Avoid "under-performing" (even in your head, just in case it slips out) and replace it with "unsuitable for her particular needs".

Delalakis Tue 11-Dec-12 23:28:32

I agree- provided that it is less than two months since the date of the letter refusing statutory assessment, you should get on with an appeal to the tribunal. The fact that there is no school-based evidence available at present is not a valid reason for refusing to assess.

bochead Wed 12-Dec-12 12:00:13

The only way to guarantee access to theraputic services your child might need in the next few years is via the LEA statement process & school. This is a major factor in why I am not currently home edding, and don't advise others to in the Primary years (developmentally there's a window of opportunity for many ASD theraputic interventions).

e.g My ASD son gets the SALT & OT support he needs via the school system. There is no mechanism that currently exists that would ensure he got this NHS help if I home educate. (I pay for some private therapies but cannot afford it all alone).

For this reason alone I highly reccomend that you appeal via Tribunal the descision not to assess. If your child is awarded a statement, then statemented children bypass normal admissions rules & regs and you could name your first choice school and win a place. (Even though that won't be the school the child attends when the statement is awarded).

If you are unwilling to consider a short term placement in grotty school to facillitate turning on the lights at the LA, then this seems to be the best route for you to follow.

It's worth noting that many LA's turn down all first applications for statements in the first instance purely as a filtering exercise to help them manage their budgets & delay having to pay for support. It's only the kids of those parents demonstrate their willingness to fight for support who seem to get anywhere like a fair crack at the whip for kids at the higher end of the ASD spectrum.

The IPSEA website will walk you through the correct steps to take to appeal the refusal to assess, but you do need to crack on fast before you go over the time limit.

SparkleSoiree Wed 12-Dec-12 23:01:30

We only received the letter yesterday so we are well within the 8 week limit of appealing. DH is due home next week for 3 weeks so we will do the necessary then and get the ball rolling.

Bochead I wasn't sure how to take your comment where you mention us being unwilling to consider a short term placement in a grotty school. I don't see why ANY parent should consider any school for their child that is performing well below the average.

This whole process is new for us and there is lots we are trying to come to terms with so whilst we may be not as knowledgable or have our strategy planned out like other parents we will get there.

Thanks again for the pointers and support. smile

mymatemax Thu 13-Dec-12 00:22:12

Ok, so the schools you would lime her to go to are full. So you either keep her at home or send her to the school you dont want her to go to. Your choice! They are offering her a school place & ATM the lea are obliged to do no more. Appeal the lea decision to assess, if they agree to assess then a statement may help bump her up the list but only if one of the preferred schools is named in her statement.

SparkleSoiree Thu 13-Dec-12 12:40:29

Thanks mymatemax.

We will appeal the recent decision and in the interim it looks like we will be continuing to home ed.

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