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Preference, meeting needs and transport (sorry, long!)

(27 Posts)
bedelia Thu 16-Jun-16 11:07:16

Next week I'll be attending a meeting at which it will be decided if DS should have an EHCP in preparation for starting school this September. He has several reports from assessments (Ed Psych, Paed, etc) which aren't particularly great but do suggest he would be best supported in SS.

DS is 4.7 and has been diagnosed with ASD. Assessment shows his language and understanding to be very good, S&L have discharged him saying that no extra support is required, his needs are attributed to his autism rather than any S&L difficulties. Both Ed Psych and Paed mention his cognitive ability as being good, but that further investigation was not possible at the time of assessment due to a lack of co-operation.

His main needs are social and behavioural: rigid behaviours, impulsive, lack of danger awareness, inappropriate social skills and occasional violence towards adults and children. I'd be astonished if LA don't agree to an EHCP and SS.

I've been to look at two LA SS and had a third OOC Indie SS to view in case neither of these were suitable.

The first SS (let's call it School A) I did not get a good feeling about. The children there have different needs and disabilities (ASD, CP, DS) and I'm sure it is a remarkable school. Unfortunately, I don't think it can meet DS's needs: almost all children leave for secondary at 2-3 years below national average, many are on P grades. The reception and Y1 classes appeared to have little differentiation or regard to sensory overload, and I had some concerns about certain resources being underused (perhaps due to budget cuts).

So when I went to the second school (School B) I had low expectations and was very pleasantly surprised by the difference! Lots of differentiation according to need rather than simply grouping by age; much more understanding of ASD, resources used to full potential. I have a great feeling about this school and am sure DS would thrive there smile

School A is close to where we currently live (though we are planning to move to a larger, more suitable property within the next year). The distance is less than LA's policy would offer transport for (by 0.2 miles). So I would be expected to transport DS myself. School B is slightly further away, and DS could qualify for transport.

School B is likely to have much more competition for school places (especially due to "Outstanding" Ofsted status). It's likely that both schools will say they can meet DS's needs as they currently stand on paper.

IMO, the LA are more likely to name School A on an EHCP. It is more likely that there will be places available, and that without transport it will obviously cost less.

Or they could name School B and say it's parental preference to avoid transport costs - which it is, but that's because I feel the school are much more able to meet DS's needs!

DS is due to start school in September, but has not yet been offered any school place. Provided LA do agree to EHCP, it's unlikely to even be in draft form by the end of summer term or finalised before the start of the new school year. Technically DS's transition to school could be deferred until January (the term after he turns 5). I suspect LA may push this, though as he's been on severely reduced timetable at nursery (with no respite or alternative offered) I am keen for him to start ASAP.

If LA name School A, would DS need to attend there pending appeal? This would be mighty difficult to manage with no transport.

Looking ahead, is it possible to appeal content of an Annual Review? (Just in case School A proves inevitable, and it's easier to prove it can't meet DS's needs after spending time there).

I'd like to be well prepared to get my points across at the meeting next week, and would appreciate any advice offered.

vjg13 Thu 16-Jun-16 12:54:59

I don't mean to worry you but I think there is a very high chance the LA may want mainstream with some support. Most LAs want a child to 'fail' in mainstream before they even get an EHC plan.

If your son is due to start in September you would need to be much further along with this process to get a SS place IMHO, but it does all depend on numbers in the year group etc and your LA.

bedelia Thu 16-Jun-16 13:28:26

Thanks vjg13. I think it's fair to say DS has already "failed" in mainstream. He's been at his school-based nursery since September 2014 and for most of that time on a reduced timetable with ft 1-to-1. On school's advice we waited until January this year to apply for an EHCP (so there would be a backlog of evidence of interventions, DS had his diagnosis, etc). Then managed to overturn refusal to assess at mediation as LA had failed to read the paperwork and evidence the first time around confused

Current setting is very supportive of SEN with a much higher than average percentage of children with ASD (10% so I've been told) but have said outright that they will not be able to support DS in Primary, even with FT 1-to-1 support!

vjg13 Thu 16-Jun-16 15:19:10

I think at your meeting you need to quote all the advice saying that mainstream will not be appropriate and school B can meet his needs, both schools are fairly likely to be oversubscribed.

Explain why his EHC plan has been delayed due to the LA's failure and demand an answer as to where he is going in Sept. They can put a draft EHC plan to their panel if you agree. I personally wouldn't delay until he is 5.

cansu Thu 16-Jun-16 17:20:17

Your d's cognitive ability is very relevant here. It sounds like school B has a more appropriate peer group and will be able to meet his academic needs whereas school A will not. It might also be worth hinting that you are considering school C but would be happy with school B. School C is undoubtedly more expensive so this might concentrate the LA mind.

bedelia Thu 16-Jun-16 19:06:02

Explain why his EHC plan has been delayed due to the LA's failure

Thank you vjg13, a very timely reminder smile LA have in fact made several documented failures which have resulted in this delay (and are known for taking 40 weeks on average to complete EHCPs and transfers...). I will make note and be sure to mention these in the meeting.

Sending Draft EHCP to panel is certainly something I'd consider to ensure DS could start in September. He can only attend nursery for two short sessions a week, which I'm sure has had an impact on his development ("early intervention" simply hasn't happened!). With no other means of childcare and absolutely no respite available, despite assessment from SS, I've had to cut my working hours right back. Also have two other children (including my adult AS son, with very high needs) to look after.

cansu - thank you for this! I've yet to visit School C, but will make arrangements to do so regardless. Peer group is important I'm sure, but I don't know how to evidence this. Same applies for his cognitive ability, though I've made enquiries with an organisation who would be able to help with assessment at much less cost than an indie Ed Psych report would be.

ouryve Thu 16-Jun-16 21:36:14

We'll be in a similar situation with DS2 when he starts secondary. He has been well supported and happy in mainstream primary, but needs SS for secondary - he's only just moving off P scales, is incontinent, is a runner, his language is only just emerging.... LA agree he needs SS then and we were relieved to find that most of them have specific autism provision.

I visited 4 schools.

Indie - fits the bill completely.
School B (only a few yards further from my house than school A which I gave up on as a bad job - been there before, it's been in special measures, it's still a shambles and its attitude to parents stinks. Will be closer than school A if we make the move we're planning on) is nice, has a lovely HT and great new site but ASD provision is tiny and likely to be full.
School C I nearly didn't visit but I was glad I did. It's absolutely fantastic with a great atmosphere and a fab ASD class - and they add more if needed. Might be our closest school when we move.
School D - on paper absolutely perfect but quite a distance away. I visited because of its communication specialism. I admire what they do but it's not the place for DS2. He's very exuberant and wouldn't fit in and would probably upset other kids. His socially able NT classmates are unfazed by his loud stimming and join in with his songs - he likes people who are useful to him. School D is actually all far too low key and drab for him! His 1:1 has visited before and agrees.

LAs are hot on matching peer group, partly because it's more efficient for them if they do!
An OT will be your friend when it comes to evidence against a placement which doesn't meet his sensory needs. They will often have a good knowledge of local schools and the environment they provide.

vjg13 Fri 17-Jun-16 08:27:07

Sometimes taking some additional form of representative to these meetings can be useful. Parent partnership etc. They are pretty rubbish here but even if they don't add anything it can make you appear clued up and is another person on your team.

Your LA sounds similar to mine in taking 40 weeks for an EHC plan or transfer and it will be useful to mention the timescales that should have been adhered to. There seems to be no accountability when these are not met. Good luck, let us know how you get on. smile

Is there any chance social services will give you direct payments to organise some support. We had a low amount when my daughter was younger but it helped. She has just had her first overnight respite session and is 18!

Fairylea Fri 17-Jun-16 09:55:44

If you are in Norfolk (and I suspect other councils will be following suit) they are changing the structure of special schools so that all the schools have to accept a variety of types of special needs and the schools have to accommodate different abilities. This means that children applying for special school places will be allocated their nearest special school. This is the ehcp process I have just gone through with my son who is (was) supposed to be starting school in September. We were declined spaces at the two as we felt were more appropriate (more moderate rather than severe and profound- our nearest one) and we have also been declined spaces at all mainstream schools. Norfolk council have named ds nursery on the ehcp and sent it back to us and told us to appeal! angry

We know from several people that work in the council and from people who work in the special schools themselves that the council is trying to make sure all the special schools become mixed "special" abiltity and are taking their nearest pupils.

We have decided to keep ds home (at nursery) another year and reasses the situation then (he is only just 4). I don't want ds to be a Guinea pig for the new system - mixed in with the wrong peer group just to start the whole restricting process off.

Just thought I would share as it sounds like you may find yourself in a similar situation - they may well either name a mainstream or the nearest special school.

Fairylea Fri 17-Jun-16 09:56:41

*restructuring not restricting

bedelia Fri 17-Jun-16 10:32:38

ouryve - so glad LA agree with you about DS's need for SS smile Are you deciding for this year or next?

vjg13 - I'm not very trusting of PP in our area, but do have HV and MAST representative attending the meeting with me (they were fab last time, really helped fight my corner!). I am going to mention direct payments at the meeting in the hope of getting ANY respite/additional support. I'd already self-referred but was told that because I seem to be coping our family don't qualify confused

Fairylea - That's shocking behaviour from your LA angry Whatever has happened to "meeting the needs of the child"?

I am aware that our LA is also restructuring, mostly in regards to banding/funding. Many units in mainstream are being closed down too. Luckily (I hope!) there are several SS in the LA: about half are mixed need, a couple are for severe and profound need (with more physical disabilities).

I really don't want DS to be placed in School A just because it's closer (and presumably will cost the LA less, especially without transport). It is a lovely, nurturing school and has children of mixed need with a specialism in ASD, but I feel very strongly that it's not the right school for him. In my mind I keep thinking of the quote in the COP regarding "best possible outcomes" which I just couldn't see happening for DS in School A.

OneInEight Fri 17-Jun-16 12:05:24

ds1 is older but the reason the LA agreed on a specialist school was on academic grounds as there was no local provision that could meet BOTH behavioural and academic needs. The SEN officer who agreed to take it to panel told us that arguing on the grounds of peer group was less likely to win the argument. So as long as you have some form of academic aptitude / achievement assessment that shows your son has the potential to achieve higher than P grades you should be able to argue successfully against school A. Arguing that school A is inappropriate because your son has an ASC is not going to work if they already take other children with an ASC and meet their needs.

ouryve Fri 17-Jun-16 22:14:06

For next, bedelia. He's just finishing year 5. I can't believe I had to say, quite firmly "mainstream secondary school is not appropriate for him" and then when his draft EHCP came back (transfer from statement that he's had since he was 2!) correct them on the reasons why not. He is so very obviously not like other 10 year old boys that we do not pass through anywhere without attracting attention!

We had similar issues with DS1, OneInEight. In our case, the LA wanted a dual placement which would simply have made life twice as hard for him as it already was.

bedelia Sun 19-Jun-16 21:36:29

OneInEight - Unfortunately we don't have any assessments/reports which specifically measure his aptitude yet. Ed Psych has referred (in writing, thankfully) to his "underlying cognitive ability", ability with puzzles, fascination with letters and numbers, but said that she was unable to assess this fully due to his age and lack of co-operation. The report is over 6 months old, and since then he's taught himself to read and much more.

I don't have the time (or the money) for a private assessment before the meeting, but am trying to arrange one ASAP. I'll try to have a quick chat with his 1-to-1 tomorrow and explain the situation. Unfortunately when I've tried to talk about DS's abilities, it's usually explained as his "exceptional memory", as though he couldn't possibly have any potential whatsoever because of his diagnosis, and that "I shouldn't raise my hopes" confused

There does seem to be a vast difference between what he can do at home/in a more relaxed environment to what he's like at nursery, where there are around 30 other children and he experiences sensory overload. IMO this reinforces the need for him to be in a specialist placement, but I can't prove what he can do in a supportive environment as most of the professionals have observed him at nursery.

We're 20 weeks into the EHCP process, so technically should already have a finalised plan yeah right. And that's if we count the weeks from when the LA agreed to assess... we've been at this since January...

ouryve - that's shocking! Did the caseworker initially pay any attention to what was written about DS' needs? Glad they agree with you now though.

cansu Mon 20-Jun-16 10:25:12

When preparing for my appeal I did some work with ds at home and put together a pack of work showing what she could do. this might be worth starting and I would keep it up your sleeve in case things get tricky.

bedelia Thu 23-Jun-16 10:03:51

So the meeting went ahead and for the most part it went really well. Between us all, I think we made a really good case for why DS needs to be in SS. There was a lot of focus on "outcomes" - is this normal?

Before the meeting, I asked SENCO and Head not to hold back out of concern for me, so it was a bit upsetting to learn for the first time that DS frequently hurts and marks other children and adults, and that there have been several complaints from other parents sad

LA asked if I had a particular school in mind, I said School B and explained why. There was no mention of School A whatsoever.

Before the end of the meeting, both SENCO and Head were separately called away (I think there was some emergency they needed to attend to). By this time we were discussing the next steps in the process. LA agreed to forward on information (reports, etc) to school B to push along the process as I had already named my preference, and would be writing up the draft. They explained that if School B could meet his needs and there was sufficient space, they could go ahead and name the school.

But if not, they would name the mainstream to which DS's nursery it attached shock

I reiterated that despite highly trained and experienced staff at nursery (DS's 1-to-1 is highly experienced with autism) they have been unable to meet his needs for 6 hours a week at nursery, how could the school be expected to meet his needs in a class of 30 for 30 hours a week?

Then suggestion that with mine and school's permission, he could attend there part time. I explained that DS had attended reduced hours at nursery since 2014, and that I wouldn't agree. He needs early intervention to address his needs.

Then suggestion of Integrated Resource Units... I had to come home and research that, but have more than enough reason to disagree.

This feels like bartering at a car boot sale. I made it very clear that I believe DS's needs can only be met in SS and that I would be forced to appeal anything less (there is already more than enough evidence to support it).

Now I have to wait for the draft and any news of whether school B could take him.

I've been to see School C which is a marvellous school and does have places for September. I'd still prefer School B as C took almost an hour to get to in the car. Also looking at another Indie which may be less travelling distance. Haven't mentioned either of these to LA yet as I'm gathering information in the hope I can use it to counter-barter.

Why does this have to be so hard? I'm exhausted already sad

vjg13 Thu 23-Jun-16 11:02:09

Well done! Catch your breath for a day or two, it is a hard process.

Sounds like you did really well expressing your views and backing it up. Do keep 'nagging' away at the LA, follow up next week if you haven't heard, it is getting so close to the end of term.

I have just had a draft EHC plan checked by sossen for £75 and they did a really thorough job so would recommend. I just need to get the LA to agree to the changes, still in my 15 days.

venys Thu 23-Jun-16 20:45:09

If I were you I would mention all the schools that you would be happy sending your son to now as there is very little time left in the term. My son has had a statement since 2 yo so we haven't had that to contend with but for our Reception year I just named all the schools, and the ones interested 2/3) came to his nursery to assess suitability. He was offered a place in both schools so I selected the best. I don't think you can afford to wait and have the ms school offered as default when it's not suitable.

bedelia Sun 26-Jun-16 18:53:26

Thanks vjg13 I'll call them tomorrow. I don't live near the offices or where any of the workshops are based, do you know if they would be able to check a draft via email?

venys I've now looked at 4 "potential" schools and would only be happy with DS attending one of them (school B). One of them is an Indie school which I would consider only if School B cannot offer DS a place. It is a very long drive for a small child to make every day of the week, but am certainly keeping it in mind for when he is older. The other two (one LA SS, the other an Indie) are simply not suitable in terms of peer group and ability.

vjg13 Sun 26-Jun-16 22:53:35

Yes Bedelia, I just got it checked by sending an email copy. They did it really quickly both times too.

bedelia Sun 03-Jul-16 17:43:35

So we're now on week 23, and no sign of even a draft. I'm so fed up with this sad

Called case worker last week, was told draft had not even been started yet. It might be ready by the end of next week but not to hold my breath. School A apparently has been contacted with a view to possible placement, but due to "funding issues" no decisions at all have been made about any children being placed there from September. Was advised that DS does have a school place at local primary, and that LA would look at arrangements for him to attend there from September... That a placement could be possible after October half term rather than for a September start...

Some questions:
How long after EHCP is finalised do LA have to put it in place?

If School A (or potentially a different school) is named, but there are no places available, would he have to attend local primary until a place becomes available?

What can I do if LA keep putting off the draft/delay finalising? (complaints procedure, leading to Onbudsman?)

Is this situation something I could take legal action about, by getting legal aid in DS's name?

SisterViktorine Sun 03-Jul-16 18:32:30

In my authority your DS would definitely be placed in MS first- regardless of behavioural issues in nursery.

When this placement broke down (which takes time) he would be placed in a MS resource base like mine. He would not be placed at a SS at any point due to his cognitive ability.

JudyCoolibar Sun 03-Jul-16 23:08:03

Write to them and point out that they are well beyond statutory time limits and if you don't have the draft by, say, Wednesday you'll have to go for judicial review. If that doesn't work, contact SOS SEN to get a formal letter done - some people have reported on here that they will do them and it is getting results. If you did have to go to court, it would be on legal aid in your DS' name, but they probably wouldn't risk that.

vjg13 Sun 03-Jul-16 23:27:18

Do ensure you have everything in writing, 'funding issues' sounds like vague BS to put you off, ask them to confirm everything in an email.

I waited about 24 weeks to get a very poor draft of my daughter's EHC plan and then the LA pushed to finalise it as it was over the time limit. I think it is a strategy to put parents under pressure to rush through a really crap meaningless plan.

AllPizzasGreatAndSmall Sun 03-Jul-16 23:34:19

Like SisterViktorine says, from what you have said about your son, he would definitely be placed in mainstream in my LA. His cognitive ability and communication skills would mean SS would not be considered appropriate at 4yo; nothing you have said about his behaviour sounds that difficult to manage either.

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