School Isn’t Meeting My Needs

  • Your views should be taken into account when decisions about the right kind of education for you are being made – and decisions should always be based on what is best for you
  • If you live with a condition or a disability that makes it hard for you to learn, or which makes it harder for you to participate in school life, your education should take account of any extra help and support you might need
  • Lots of children and young people can get the right sort of education for them at a mainstream school – and if not, there are special schools to support children with complicated needs

Your right to education doesn’t change because you find it harder to learn than other children or young people. Every child learns differently, and every child progresses at different rates, so schools and teachers need to take account of this. For some children and young people, it is harder for them to get the right sort of education.

You might have special educational needs which means that you need extra support to help them learn effectively. This could mean that you also have a disability. You might have no problems learning, but you might still have a disability which makes it harder for you to participate fully in school life. If you have special educational needs and/or a disability, your school needs to help you so that you don’t face barriers at school.

What are Special Educational Needs?

Special Educational Needs is the term that’s used to describe it when someone has difficulties learning but it can mean a lot of different things, including having difficulties with:

  • some or all of the work you have to do in school
  • reading, writing, number work or understanding information
  • expressing yourself or understanding what others are saying
  • making friends or relating to adults
  • behaving properly in school
  • organising yourself

You might have some kind of sensory or physical needs which may affect you in school.

It’s important to remember that every child is different so just because you find some things difficult, or you think you aren’t progressing in the same way as some of your friends, it won’t necessarily mean that you have a special educational need.

Who will find out if I have Special Educational Needs?

You might be born with a particular condition which automatically means you might find learning more difficult. Sometimes, though, it’s not as easy to spot if you will need a bit more support until you get to playgroup or school. You might have worked out a way to cope with some of the challenges you face too, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get help and support.

Your parents might be worried about how you are getting on at school, or a teacher or classroom assistant might spot something that’s different. If you are feeling upset or worried about how things are going at school, you should talk to your parents about it, and they should take it up with your school. If you can’t talk to your parents, try and talk to your teacher or another adult at school who you trust.

What should happen if I have Special Educational Needs?

There is a document called the SEN Code of Practice for Wales which sets out what will happen to make sure your needs are met. This Code of Practice includes how all the people involved in this process should behave. You may have to talk to different people while they work out what your needs are and how you should be supported. You will know some of these people from school, but there may be people from outside school involved too. Sometimes you will be with your parents when you talk to these people, but sometimes, people will want to talk to you on your own.

Your views should be listened to and taken into account (as well as the views of your parents) while decisions are being made about how your needs will be supported.

Once they have spoken to everyone, your school teachers and Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator for the school should create an individual education plan to support you so that you can get all the help you need in school.

What is a Statement of Special Educational Needs?

This is another way of making sure you are getting the support you need to learn. If you have lots of different needs, or if you aren’t making the progress that would be expected under your Independent Education Plan, you may be assessed for a Statement of Special Needs. This is a document that will be prepared by the Local Education Authority which looks at all your needs and how to meet them.

After the assessment, the Local Education Authority might decide that you don’t need a Statement of Special Needs. If this happens, the Local Education Authority should write down anything useful that it has learned from the assessments and send it to your school and your parents. This is called a Note in Lieu.

A Statement of Special Needs is a legal document (a Note in Lieu isn’t). It will describe all your needs and all the additional help that you need.

Does this mean I will change schools?

Part of the Statement will include details of the school you should go to so that your needs are met. This could be a school you already go to, or it might be a different school that your parents think will be better for you. The LEA has to agree with your parents’ choice of school, unless the choice they have made isn’t suitable for you, or would end up having an impact on other children at that school, or there is a better way to meet your needs.

If you have a statement of Special Educational Needs which names a school where you should go, that school has to give you a place.

What if I don’t have a statement of Special Educational Needs?

If you don’t have a statement of Special Educational Needs, or you have a statement but it doesn’t name a particular school, you can apply to a school under the normal admissions policy of that school. You shouldn’t be treated any differently and you shouldn’t be refused a place at that school because the school doesn’t think it can meet your needs.

What happens if I don’t agree with what’s been decided?

You can appeal directly to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales if you disagree with a decision that has been made about you. You will have to do this in a written application form, so you might need to get someone to help you. You can have a ‘case friend’ to help you if you want to appeal yourself.

Your parents can also appeal about a decision that has been made about your special educational needs and your education. They can appeal about a decision even if you have appealed in your own right.

Will I be told that I can appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales?

Yes. Because you have the right to make an appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales yourself, you should be told by your Local Education Authority when you have this right.

Can I appeal if my parents have appealed too?

Yes. You can appeal a decision even if your parents have too. You may have different reasons for your appeal, or you might want a different decision. Your parents can help you with your appeal even if they have made their own appeal.

What if I’m being treated unfairly because of my Special Educational Needs?

The reason (or reasons) why you have Special Educational Needs might also be a ‘disability’. There is a legal definition of ‘disability’ which includes things that affect your body and your mind which makes it extra hard for you to get involved with normal activities. Your school and your Local Education Authority have to make sure you aren’t treated unfairly because of a disability, unless there is a good reason for it. You can find out more about this in our section about being treated unfairly at school.

What if school isn’t helping me when I have a disability?

Having a disability doesn’t mean you have special educational needs. But you might have other needs that your school should take into account so that you can participate in school life and have a full education. You might find it difficult to walk, or you might use a hearing aid. You might have a condition like epilepsy or cancer. If you have a disability, you shouldn’t be treated unfairly at school because of it. Your school also has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make sure it’s not making it difficult for you to go to school and receive your education.

What are reasonable adjustments?

What is a reasonable adjustment will depend on your disability and how it affects you. It might be as straightforward as letting you use a particular piece of equipment to help you learn the same as everyone else. Sometimes, getting into a school building may be a problem for you – so an access ramp might make it easier for you if you are a wheel chair user, or you might need to lift so that you can get up to different levels in school. Your school doesn’t have to do everything – but it must do what is reasonable. It might not be reasonable to do something if it will cost a lot of money and only improve things a small amount for you.

Do I have to ask for reasonable adjustments to be made?

Your school should think about how to make it accessible for you before you come to school and come across problems. It ought to consider the sorts of things that might be difficult for disabled pupils and work out how to tackle them. Even though your school has to try and work out in advance what would help you, it may not have thought of everything, If your school hasn’t done something that would help you, you can talk to them about it – they may not have realised how it would help you.

Can a school say that I can’t go because I am disabled?

Schools are not allowed to treat you unfairly because of any disability you might be living with. The school can’t discriminate against you at the admissions stage, and should anticipate how it could make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make the school easier for you to access and get around.

What can I do if I’m being treated unfairly because of a disability?

If your school hasn’t helped you or you have been treated unfairly because of your disability – even if these aren’t Special Educational Needs - you can make a claim to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales. Read more on our page about being treated unfairly at school.