Checking the statement
You should check the proposed statement very carefully. It is your child’s legal guarantee of additional help so it is important to get it right. It is also vital to give an accurate picture to school staff of your child and the help they need.
Before you start it’s a good idea to make a separate copy of the statement that you can write on.
Your child’s statement will be in six parts
1. personal details – check these are correct. It’s not unknown for a busy caseworker to cut and paste the wrong child’s details
2. special educational needs – your child’s particular difficulties
3. special educational provision – the help your child must have – this is legally binding
4. name of the school – this will be blank in the proposed statement
5. non-educational needs e.g. health related
6. non-educational provision – this is not legally enforceable
Check the reports
In part 1 of the statement there will be a list of all the reports that the LA has used to draw up the statement. These are contained in the appendices to the statement. Check that you have copies of all of these. Any reports that you have send in should also be included. If anything is missing, contact the LA immediately. The reports are important, because they are the evidence on which the statement itself is based. You should go through the reports highlighting in one colour all the difficulties and strengths that have been identified and in another any recommendations for teaching methods, staffing, equipment or environment.
Check part 2
Once you have done that, go back to part 2 of the statement. Have all your child’s needs highlighted in the reports been included? Frequently part 2 is split into specific areas of development such as
- Learning and cognition – this will include play skills for younger children
- Language and communication
- Behaviour, social and emotional development
- Physical skills and sensory issues (hearing and vision)
Some children with Down’s syndrome have problems with hearing and vision or medical issues that impact on their ability to access the curriculum. These should be included as well as the child’s general learning difficulties.
Part 2 should give a clear picture of your child so that someone who does not know them well will be able to pick up easily what they can or cannot do.
Check part 3
Part 3 contains the help that your child must have to meet their needs. It’s important to get this right as it is your child’s legal entitlement to the help.
There are some important principles to bear in mind:
Every need in part 2 must be matched with provision in part 3. If you are confused about the difference between need and provision it may help to look on part 2 as the diagnosis and part 3 as the treatment. For example
Need – Mary has poor verbal memory
Provision – School staff will supplement spoken language with visual cues. Mary will be provided with a visual timetable to help her navigate the school day.
Need – John has no sense of danger and has a tendency to run off
Provision – A designated member of staff will be responsible for supervising John at break times and lunch times. John will require a safe secure environment
Go through all the needs you have identified in part 2 and check there is provision to match in part 3. Go back to the reports. Professionals may have made recommendations about staffing or teaching methods. These should be detailed in part 3. It is not good enough to say that the school should have regard to the advice in the appendices.
Provision should be specific and quantified
Part 3 should give details of how much help your child needs, who will give it, how often it will happen and for how long. This is the case no matter who pays for the provision.
You should also beware of words and phrases which sound good but have no substance. Phrases such as ‘would benefit from’, ‘opportunities for’, ‘access to’ are vague and unenforceable. For instance ‘James will have access to unstructured play opportunities’ does not tell you about the activities, situation or the support James might need. It could be interpreted to mean sending James out onto a busy playground on the same basis as any other child.
Such phrases should be changed to something more precise. Also beware of ‘regular’. ‘Regular’ speech and language therapy for instance could be once a year only.
Speech and language therapy
This can be a contentious issue, particularly at a time of cutbacks to services.
Most children with Down’s syndrome need speech and language therapy in order to learn effectively. It is therefore educational provision and must be in part 3 of the statement. The amount and frequency will depend on the individual needs of the child. The provision should be based on assessed need, not on what your local speech and language service say they can provide. Remember that if the therapy is in part 3 your LA is legally obliged to ensure it happens, even if it has to be bought in.
You should ensure that the speech and language therapy is specific and quantified for instance:
- How often will your child be seen in school by a qualified speech and language therapist? Will these visits involve setting targets, monitoring progress, staff training, liaising with parents?
- Does your child require direct therapy from a speech and language therapist – if so, how often and for how long?
- Is there a programme of speech and language therapy carried out by school staff? How often, how much, individual or small group?
- How are speech and language goals embedded into the curriculum?
- How will parents be informed about and involved in the programme?
If you are not happy with the statement, ask your LA to make changes. It is fine to suggest the exact wording you want. For the timescales and your right to ask for a meeting, see the page on the proposed statement.