Here some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.
The LA trying to discredit Educational Psychology report(27 Posts)
This report was commissioned by them! My daughter is having her EHC conversion and everyone knows that I am trying to get a change of provision. My daughter is 14, is severely autistic and with a number of other possible conditions. Her school has tried very hard to meet her needs (generic special school) but there is general agreement that while they can manage her and keep her reasonably happy, she is not really learning anything. She also has very challenging behaviours. The head of the school has been vocally supportive of my position but I doubt she would be able to put anything in writing.
The LA paid for an Ed Psych (not local) to assess my dd. The report has come back saying that she needs a class size of no more than 4, that the current classroom situation worsens her anxiety and that she needs ideally to have SALT and OT on site and that out of county provision should be considered and possibly residential. The LA representative turned up and said she doesn't agree with the report. I said 'why, because it doesn't say what you wanted it to?' We live in an area where the Ed Psych report pretty much rules out any local LA provision.
Has this happened to anyone else?
Good luck to the LA representative trying to claim she knows more than the EP. I can't say I've come across it, mostly because most LA EPs toe the party line.
Might the head be braver about supporting you now she has expert backing?
Yes I think she would have more scope to do so. But what I think they will do is name another school which is equally unable to meet her needs. The impression I got was that they have tried to get the EP to retract her report. Our authority no longer has in house EPs because they have been cut so they have to buy in independent ones. This person comes from a completely different location. I think this would actually make her more independent - she has no axe to grind.
The LA EP backed us about ABA over the SEN Officer a year after tribunal (at tribunal he sat on fence - LA hadn't wanted to call him but realised last minute over argument about SLT witness the Judge wanted them to bring the experts who had seen DS not the Heads of Dept).
SEN officer still threatened to take ABA off statement at AR but after meeting we wrote to Head of Childrens Services and pointed out no evidence to support that decision - that we would JR any decision to remove on basis SEN officer acting on own view and not that of any expert - that we would subpoena the EP - and that if it looked to us the sen officer was putting 2 fingers up to the tribunal decision it would look like that to the tribunal when we got back in front of them (we put it a bit more politely than that but that was essence of argument).
The LA then backed down and we heard no more about it and have sailed through every annual review since.
Threaten JR and see what happens (your child can get legal aid for JR in own right). You could argue waiting to appeal EHCP will take too long hence need for JR on basis SEN officer can only make decisions based on the expert advice obtained in assessment - not go off piste.
Hi Agnes - thanks for your advice. I'm sorry I don't fully understand what you mean though. At this point you couldn't ask for a judicial review even though no plan has yet been formulated?
No you have to wait until they make a decision e.g. issue the Plan naming an inappropriate school. You can only JR a decision.
Very occasionally you can JR rather than just appeal the EHCP if the decision is completely irrational rather than wait for the appeal to be heard if it means your child is going to be in dire straits in mean time.
We pre-empted their decision by writing to them saying if they went ahead and changed the Statement on the basis set out in the meeting we would JR them. Just the threat of it was enough to get them to drop that line. You can also tell them if you end up at SENDIST you will bring the EP they are ignoring as a witness even if you have to subpoena them - so they know they can't just ditch the EP
Thank you Agnes. That's what I thought. I'm just really frustrated that they are saying they are trying to get this EP to retract her report. Just because it rules out any of their own provision.
Follow up any such conversations in writing e.g. an email to confirm what was discussed today…
You will need this for tribunal
Some of us have resorted to secretly recording such discussions and meetings in the knowledge the comments will be refuted later on
Well if I email them I'm fairly sure they will just ignore my emails which is what they always do. They can't really pretend they didn't say it because I had an independent support worker with me at the meeting and dd's social worker was also there.
Wrt the LA I try to avoid contact with them, particularly if they are hell bent on keeping her in one of their inappropriate provisions. Do you think I need to contact them then?
Does anyone know what will happen if they try to get someone to do another report which says the opposite?
I have managed to get some legal advice from a solicitor. His opinion was that a tribunal panel will see through the LA's attempts to discredit the report. He said that the main thing is, I have a copy of it. He also said that I could argue that it isn't fair to do any more assessments on her as she is already suffering with her mental health and also, that it has been shown that when repeated assessments are conducted, it is counter-productive.
It doesn't matter if they ignore your email confirming what they said. If they don't come back to you denying it, it will be much more difficult for them to come back later and say they never said it. So get that email sent! It just needs to say something like "I'm writing to confirm the matters we discussed at the recent meeting, as follows ..." and then set it out.
At this stage, particularly if there were any other assessments (e.g. speech and language therapy) I think you're entitled to say no to a second EP assessment: any assessment is quite stressful for a child, and I think you're fully entitled to say they've had their chance and can't do another. In any event second EP would be restricted in the testing s/he can carry out, because there are a number of standard tests that can't be repeated within 6 months.
They might just instruct another EP just to observe your DC in class and produce another report based on that, and I suppose they might say that they think that one is more reliable and therefore it's that one they're going to follow. They're supposed to explain their reasoning in the EHCP if they decide not to follow any particular advice, not that many LAs ever seem to comply with that part of the rules. However, they must know that if they're claiming that a report based only on observations is more reliable than one based on a full assessment, they are on extremely weak ground.
They must be very well aware that it is inevitable that if you go to tribunal you will produce the first one and will certainly be making the point that they've only got a second one because no.1 was inconvenient, and that they will be in difficulties in countering that argument. EP No.2 is also, I would hope, aware that if s/he doesn't come up with some pretty solid reasons for taking a different view s/he will be torn apart in tribunal. If you got your own report agreeing with the original LA EP report their EP will have even more difficulty in saying why s/he knows better than the other two.
It sounds to me as if the solicitor you spoke to is absolutely right.
Gruntledone - thank you. The report does not have scores though - it was based on observation at school. My dd is very difficult to get scores for because she won't comply with the tests. At the moment this is particularly the case and she has severe self injurious behaviours.
The only time we've been able to get scores for her was when she was about 3 and in those days she was more passive. And, in any case no LA report I've ever had actually used tests - only when we paid privately. If we have to go to tribunal I certainly will be getting our private EP to do a report anyway.
The LA caseworker said the report doesn't talk about her learning style. But it does - it says 'needs small, incremental steps to learn'
The caseworker also said to me something like 'oh well it may be that we name the independent school you've asked for but that would be based upon parental preference and you would be expected to meet the costs of transport.
The independent school I would like dd to be moved to phoned me yesterday and said that based on the EP report they feel they would be an ideal setting for my dd.
Good grief, they just love this parental preference nonsense, don't they No doubt you've been spun the line that a special school is a special school is a special school, too.
No advice, but I'm further back in the chain facing the same nonsense on behalf of a younger child who most definitely is not going to slot painlessly into the regulation class of 12 with 3 adults and I can only wish you luck.
If they try that transport dodge, point out that you're choosing a school in accordance with their EP's recommendation and therefore it's not parental preference. If they finalise the EHCP saying that, take it to tribunal and make them name the school that they claim would be able to meet DD's needs.
Thank you for your responses. Ouryve - I'm sorry that you are going through this. I have had a lot of experience of what our LA staff are like! They have been very unreasonable in the past.
Gruntled one - do you think I should say I don't want any more assessment? She did also have a SALT assessment around the same time.
If they ask for a second EP assessment, I think in your place I would certainly refuse. They've had an assessment and they shouldn't demand that you put your daughter through another one just because they don't like what their own EP has recommended.
They will probably send someone into school without even telling me - I had no idea about the last assessment and neither did the school until she arrived. So if I send a request to say that any assessment must be put to me in writing do you think that would help?
I think insisting on everything in writing is a must, anyhow. and if they do phone, contact by email or letter to confirm the conversation.
I'm also thinking that in my situation, and possibly yours, making the distinction between special and specialist provision is key because that refutes the "any special school should be adequate" argument that would then be used to argue, by the LA, that the school chosen is a matter of parental choice and not one of meeting very specific needs ie very small groups, very low stimulus environment.
Well, you see the special school she is at is actually a lovely school and can meet a lot of children's needs. They are always trying to do more and to be honest have bent over backwards for my dd to try to make the placement work. Her class is still relatively small (11) but even then she is not making any progress and I have the annual reviews as proof of that. They have to study things which are totally meaningless to her, like 'The Tempest'. . The head was saying as well that she has rarely come across a child with such severe self injurious behaviours.
I really agree with you though ouryve, I have stated in my family conversation that she needs highly specialised and structured provision and a quieter, more open environment.
Tell the school that you do not give permission for anyone to assess your child, and that if anyone contacts them intending to assess they cannot let them near your child without your permission. Emphasise it, if necessary point out that if they allow an assessment you will regard it as a very serious issue and will register formal complaints all over the place and will consider legal action.
As noted above, that doesn't stop someone doing an observation, but that will not carry the weight that a full formal assessment would.
Thank you Gruntled - I have spoken to IPSEA today and now feel a bit more reassured. Most people seem to think it will be difficult for them to refute this report. But I will make sure that I have a paper trail for everything from now on.
One of the local SS has its class curricula published online and even the smaller "nurture" group one is way over DS2's head. He's barely out of EYFS, academically. Reading, for him is picking out the odd word in Kipper the Dog or Thomas and Friends books, in year 5. We never thought he'd ever get to this point. Oliver Twist in year 7 is out of the question, though, never mind comparing it with another story!
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