DES Circular 1/83 (1983)

In this circular, the DES explained the implications of the 1981 Education Act and of the 1983 Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations for the assessment of a broad range of special educational needs.

Note Annex 2 was originally published as a separate document.

The text of DES Circular 1/83 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 10 March 2021.

Circular 1/83 (1983)
Assessments and statements of special educational needs

Department of Education and Science
London: 1983
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

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Circular 1/83
(Department of Education and Science)

Health Circular HC(83)3
Local Authority Circular LAC(83)2

(Department of Health and Social Security)
31 January 1983

Joint Circular from the








Initial Stages17
Seeking Advice21
Educational, Medical and Psychological Advice26
Other Advice31
Form and Contents of the Statement40
Preparation of a Statement49
Placement and Further Advice51
Keeping and Disclosure of Statements64






1. Advice on Special Educational Needs: Suggested Checklist
2. Statement of Special Educational Needs.

Further copies of this Circular and DES Circular 8/81 may be obtained from the Department of Education and Science, Honeypot Lane, Canons Park, Stanmore Middlesex.

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1. This Circular considers the implications of the Education Act 1981 and of the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983 for the assessment of a broad range of special educational needs. It offers advice* to assist local education authorities (LEAs) in reviewing and revising their procedures in consultation with district health authorities (DHAs) and social services department (SSDs). These reviews should take account of the requirements of the Act, of the legislation governing health and social services, and of local circumstances and existing patterns of provision. The Circular replaces DES Circular 2/75 of 17 March 1975 and it should be read in conjunction with DES Circular 8/81 which explains the provisions of the Act. Authorities are also reminded of the advice on the co-ordination of child health services in DHSS Circulars HRC(74)5, HC(80)8/LAC(80)3 and HN(82)9/LASSL(82)3.


2. Although the Act provides that LEAs shall maintain statements only where they are themselves required to determine and keep under review the provision that should be made to meet a child's special educational needs, it places a wider obligation on LEAs to secure that adequate provision is made for all children with special educational needs. The following general principles should apply in all such cases.

3. The main focus should be on the child himself rather than on his disability. The extent to which a learning difficulty hinders a child's development depends not only on the nature and severity of that difficulty, but also on the personal resources and attributes of the child, and on the help and support he receives at home and at school. A child's special educational needs are thus related to his abilities as well as his disabilities, and to the nature of his interaction with his environment.

4. The assessment of special educational needs is not an end in itself, but a means of arriving at a better understanding of a child's learning difficulties for the practical purpose of providing a guide to his education and a basis against which to monitor his progress. Whilst assessment should take account of provision, it is important that a clear distinction should be made in future between:-

i. the analysis of the child's learning difficulties;

ii. the specification of his special needs for different kinds of approaches, facilities or resources;

iii. the determination of the special educational provision to meet these needs.

*A Circular cannot be regarded as providing an authoritative legal interpretation of any of the provisions of the Act as this is exclusively a function of the Courts.

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5. Assessment is a continuous process. The procedures followed as part of that process should make it possible to draw on as much advice as each case demands. In most cases, it will be for the school under the guidance of the LEA to decide, in the circumstances of each case, how a child's special educational needs should be assessed and met. Where the interventions made at school do not seem to meet the child's needs, further investigation will be required. If it seems that a child has, or may have, complex or severe learning difficulties which would justify making a statement under section 7 of the Act, the procedures set out in section 5 and in the Regulations must be followed. This action may often arise from school-based assessment, but it may also result from a request by the child's parent, a recommendation by the LEA psychological service, or referral from other sources.

6. In looking at the child as a whole person, the involvement of the child's parent is essential. Assessment should be seen as a partnership between teachers, other professionals, and parents, in a joint endeavour to discover and understand the nature of the difficulties and needs of individual children. Close relations should be established and maintained with parents and can only be helped by frankness and openness on all sides. The feelings and perceptions of the child concerned should be taken into account, and the concept of partnership should wherever possible be extended to older children and young persons.

7. Professional advice on a child's special educational needs should include enough information to explain fully the nature of the case and to lead to a proper understanding of the child's needs. The arrangements for assessment under section 5, and the form of the statement prescribed by Regulations require the professional advice given to LEAs to be available to the child's parent.


8. The procedures for assessments other than those carried out under section 5 of the Act will be a matter for LEAs. Since every school is likely to have some pupils with special educational needs, LEAs should provide guidance to all maintained schools in their area on the arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting special educational needs. This guidance should relate to the identification of special needs, assessment procedures, channels of communication for referrals, and advice on the specialist services available for referrals.

9. The arrangements made by LEAs must take account of local circumstances. They should allow for the progressive extension of professional involvement from the class teacher to the head-teacher, a specialist teacher, the educational psychologist, the school doctor and nurse, and other professionals in the education, health and social services. The child's parent should be involved and kept fully informed at every stage.

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10. Schools should be asked to establish effective lines of communication between teachers and the school doctor and nurse to ensure that the teacher is informed of the implications of the health problems of his pupils. There should also be clearly identified channels of communication to enable schools to gain access to outside specialised support and advice when they require it. The aim should be to provide assistance before the situation becomes critical. Assessment should always be closely related to education, and other professionals should work together with the teacher. All parties should remember that assessment is not a single event but a continuous process.

11. Within individual schools, governors have a duty to secure that teachers are aware of the importance of identifying and providing for special educational needs, The teacher is directly responsible for his pupils and he is in a key position to observe their response in the classroom, to recognise the child who is experiencing difficulties in learning, and to try out different approaches to help meet the child's needs. Teachers should be encouraged to keep full records of their pupils' progress and to include information about professional consultations and assessments. The Secretary of State for Education and Science expects that LEAs will encourage in-service training to assist teachers in recognising and meeting special educational needs.


12. The Act lays down formal procedures for the assessment of children whose needs are, or probably are, such as to require LEAs to determine their special educational provision, and it gives children with such needs the protection of a statement. The advice which LEAs should seek in making assessments, the matters they should take into account, and the contents and form of the statement are prescribed in the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983. The Schedule to the Regulations sets out the form in which statements should be made.

13. Formal procedures should be initiated where there are prima facie grounds to suggest that a child's needs are such as to require provision additional to, or otherwise different form, the facilities and resources generally available in ordinary schools in the area under normal arrangements.

14. The deciding factors in determining what constitutes additional or otherwise different provision are likely to vary from area to area depending on the range of provision normally available in an authority's schools. As a general rule, the Secretary of State expects LEAs to afford the protection of a statement to all children who have severe or complex learning difficulties which require the provision of extra resources in ordinary schools, and in all cases where the child is placed in a special unit attached to an ordinary school, a special school, a non-maintained special school or an independent school approved for the purpose.

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15. Formal procedures are not required where ordinary schools provide special educational provision from their own resources in the form of additional tuition and remedial provision, or, in normal circumstances, where the child attends a reading centre or unit for disruptive pupils.

16. Nor are formal procedures required where the need for extra help is of short duration; or where the child is placed by agreement with the parent in a special school or unit for a short period as part of the assessment process; or where the child attends a hospital special school on a temporary basis as a result of having been admitted on medical grounds to the hospital to which that school is attached. They may, however, be needed for long-stay patients, for example if they have severe learning difficulties or complex disabilities.

Initial Stages

17. The serving of formal notice under section 5 of the Act should not be the first indication to a parent that his child has learning difficulties. Before the notice is issued, every possible effort should be made to effect initial contacts between the teacher, or any other professional making the referral, and the child's parent.

18. Section 5(3) of the Act provides that the child's parent should be informed of the procedures to be followed in assessment, that he should be given the name of an LEA officer from whom he could obtain further information, and that he should be notified of his right to make representations within a period which must be no less than 29 days. The LEA should aim to provide the parent with all the information he might require including any relevant information published under the Education (School Information) Regulations 1981.

19, As defined in section 114(1) of the Education Act 1944, 'parent' includes a guardian and every person who has the actual custody of the child or young person. Where the child is in care, it will be for the Director of Social Services to involve the child's natural parent according to the circumstances of each case.

20. Some parents may need to be helped in making representations. It will be open to the LEA to suggest the name of a voluntary organisation or an employee of a statutory body who could help in this way, or to offer the parent the services of a named LEA officer to whom he could make his representations orally. Where representations are made orally, a written summary by the LEA should be agreed with the parent concerned.

Seeking Advice

21. The LEA must seek educational, medical and psychological advice in every case in making an assessment under section 5 of the Act. The LEA must also seek any other

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kinds of advice which they consider desirable in particular cases in order to arrive at a satisfactory assessment. "Advice" must be written advice on the features of the case which affect the child's special educational needs and on the ways of meeting these needs. When they seek the advice of their professional advisers, LEAs must provide them with copies of any representations or evidence submitted by the child's parent including any written summary of oral representations.

22. A person from whom the LEA seek advice may consult others before submitting his advice, and he must consult any other persons specified by the LEA as having relevant information or knowledge about the child. The advice submitted will be the responsibility of the professional adviser.

23. In order to promote the adoption of a common approach to advice on special educational needs, the Secretaries of State recommend that each professional adviser should aim to give the appropriate professional view of the child's needs in terms of:-

i. the relevant aspects of the child's functioning, including his strengths and weaknesses, his relation with his environment at home and at school, and any relevant aspects of the child's past history;

ii. the aims to which provision for the child should be directed to enable him to develop educationally and increase his independence;

iii. the facilities and resources recommended to promote the achievement of these aims.

24. Annex 1 offers a checklist of the points to be covered as part of this approach. The checklist is intended as an aide-memoir. It will be open to individual professionals to select the points which are relevant to their own specialisms and to the circumstances of particular cases, and to advise whether some of the needs they have identified are more important than others or require more urgent attention.

25. The Secretary of State for Education and Science does not intend to prescribe the form in which professional advice should be presented. The SE Forms are withdrawn. If the LEA consider it desirable, it will be open to them to provide structured forms for the collection of professional advice, in consultation with the professions concerned.

Educational, Medical and Psychological Advice

26. Regulations 5, 6 and 7 of the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983 define the sources of educational, medical and psychological advice.

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27, Where possible, educational advice must be sought from the head-teacher of a school the child has attended at some time in the preceding 18 months. If the head-teacher has not taught the child within that period, he must consult a teacher who has. Where it is thought that the child may be deaf or partially hearing, or blind or otherwise visually handicapped, the head-teacher's advice must be given after consultation with a person who is qualified to teach the deaf or blind, as the case may be, if the head-teacher himself is not so qualified.

28. Where the child has not yet attended school, or where for any reason, advice cannot be sought from a head-teacher, educational advice must be sought from someone who has experience of teaching children with special educational needs, or knowledge of the different forms of special educational provision to meet such needs, and who has, or has acquired, an adequate understanding of the child's learning difficulties.

29. Medical advice must be sought from the medical officer designated for this purpose by the District Health Authority in the terms outlined in paragraph 13 of DHSS Circular HN(82)9. Before submitting his advice, the designated medical officer will co-ordinate information from all the doctors who have a contribution to make to the assessment of the child's special educational needs. Advice about specialised support services provided by the DHA (eg speech therapy and physiotherapy) should also be sought through the medical officer.

30. Psychological advice must be sought from an educational psychologist employed by the LEA or engaged by the LEA for the purpose of any particular case. Where other psychologists (eg a clinical or occupational psychologist) have relevant knowledge or information about the child, they must be consulted by the educational psychologist. Any psychiatric advice will, however, be included in the medical advice.

Other Advice

31. When the LEA notify the parent of their decision to assess a child a copy of the notification should be sent to the nursing officer designated in the terms outlined in paragraph 13 of DHSS Circular HN(82)9 and to an officer nominated for this purpose by the Social Services Department (paragraph 74 refers). This is intended to enable nursing and social services to consider whether they know of any problems affecting the child in their respective spheres and to indicate to the LEA whether they have information relevant to the assessment of the child's special educational needs.

It will also be open to the LEA to seek advice from these services where it has not been volunteered.


32. Professional assessment may be organised in a variety of ways according to local circumstances and the requirements of individual cases. In many instances, it will

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be sufficient for professional advisers to submit their advice separately to the LEA. It may be desirable for professional assessment to proceed in sequence, educational advice being followed by medical advice and then by psychological advice. Each report of advice should be copied to all the professionals advising on the child's needs.

33. In some cases, the precise identification of a child's needs may best be achieved by consultation among the professional advisers at a case conference. Authorities are reminded of the advice given in DHSS Circular HC(78)5 that District Handicap Teams (DHTs) should strengthen the multi-disciplinary approach to the needs of severely disabled children including under-fives. Where they exist, DHTs may offer a suitable vehicle for the assessment of these children's special educational needs. Community Mental Handicap Teams may have a role to play in relation to children with mental handicaps. The local child, adolescent and family psychiatric services, whether hospital or community-based, may be an appropriate source of advice about children with emotional or behavioural problems. The specialist assessment facilities established by some authorities in schools, units and nurseries will also continue to serve these needs.

34. By bringing together the skills, perceptions and insights of professionals in different disciplines, it should be possible to arrive at a more complete understanding of a child's special educational needs. Effective multi-professional work is not easy to achieve. It requires co-operation, collaboration and mutual support. Each professional adviser needs to be aware of the roles of his colleagues and should seek to reach agreement with them on their several roles and functions. It follows from this that his advice should reflect his own concerns, leaving others to concentrate on their particular area of expertise. For example doctors will draw attention to the implications of the child's medical condition, and to the support and facilities the child may require.

35. A similar understanding is required of the respective roles and functions of professional advisers and LEA administrators. Professional advice should not be influenced by considerations of the eventual school placement to be made for the child, since that is a matter to be determined by the LEA at a later stage. Because of this, any discussions individual advisers may have with parents about the child's needs should not be such as to commit the LEA, or to pre-empt their decisions about the provision and placement to be made for the child.

36. The relations between professional advisers and parents during the process of assessment are of crucial importance. Professional advisers will be aware of the views of parents (see paragraph 21), and parental involvement in assessment provides the opportunity to reach an agreed understanding of the nature of a child's learning difficulties. The Act gives the child's parent the right to be present at examinations carried out for the purpose of paragraph 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Act. This right does not extend to assessment by observation over a period of time in the classroom or other setting. Some forms of psychological testing may need to be

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carried out without the presence of observers, including parents. However, it will be part of the process of maintaining good relations with parents for all professionals to involve them in the process of assessment, even where some part of the assessment is undertaken in privacy or by observation.

37. The professional advice on which the LEA make their decision must be copied verbatim in the appendices to the statement. Professionals should be aware that their advice will be made available to the parent, and in the event of an appeal, to the appeal committee. The professional advice should relate to the assessment of the child's special educational needs and how these should be met. There should be no need to include other details whose communication might give rise to problems of confidentiality or professional ethics.

38. Professional advice should also be relevant and usable in an educational context, but it must remain the professional responsibility of the teacher to plan a detailed programme of education for his pupils.

39. The ultimate responsibility for assessing the child's special educational needs rests with the LEA. Where there is conflict in the professional advice submitted to the LEA, or where it is clear that further consideration is required to lead to a full understanding of a child's special educational needs, the LEA should arrange further discussions among the professional advisers to arrive at the resolution of any conflict or uncertainty about the child's needs. Where it has not proved possible to reconcile differences in the advice submitted to the LEA by their professional advisers, it will be for the LEA, as part of their assessment of the child's needs, to decide on the weight to be given to different kinds of advice.

Form and Contents of the Statement

40. The form and contents of the statement are prescribed in the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983, but the design and production of the statement document will be a matter for individual LEAs. Annex 2 illustrates one possibility.

41. The statement should be completed and signed by an authorised officer of the LEA after any necessary consultation with other agencies making provision for the child. It includes an Introduction (Section I) land the following main sections:-

i. Special Educational Needs (Section II)

ii. Special Educational Provision (Section III)

iii. Appropriate School or other Arrangements (Section IV)

iv. Additional Non-Educational Provision (Section V)

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i. Special Educational Needs

42. Regulation 8 requires the LEA in making an assessment of the child's special educational needs to take into consideration any representations and evidence submitted by the child's parent, the advice the LEA has obtained from professional advisers, and any relevant information provided by or on behalf of a DHA or SSD. Copies of all these documents must be appended to the statement.

43. The advice submitted by the professional advisers should take account of the views of parents. Where the LEA adopt that advice as their assessment, it will be sufficient for them to state this in Section II of the statement.

ii. Special Educational Provision

44. It will be open to the LEA, if they wish, to discuss the provision to be made for the child with some or all of the professionals who provided advice on the child's special educational needs. The LEA must specify in Section III of the statement the special educational provision to be made for the child in terms of the facilities and equipment, staffing arrangements, curriculum and other arrangements to be made to meet his special educational needs.

iii. Appropriate School or Other Arrangements

45. The LEA must describe the type of school they consider appropriate for the child, and name the particular school if known, or the provision to be made for the child's education if he is to be educated otherwise than at school.

46. Where the LEA has been informed that the child is being, or is to be, suitably educated under arrangements made by the parent and at his expense, the statement should not specify a particular school for the child. The school should be named in all cases where the LEA is prepared to meet the cost.

47. Close consultation with the Social Services Department is essential in arriving at decisions on the special educational provision and placements to be made for children in care or children under statutory or voluntary supervision.

iv. Additional Non-Educational Provision

48. In accordance with Regulation 10(1)(c), Section V of the statement must provide details of any provision which the LEA are satisfied will be made available for the child by a DHA, SSD or some other body (if not made available by the LEA) in addition to the child's special educational provision and as support for his education, and of which the LEA consider that advantage should be taken.

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Preparation of a Statement

49. There will be two stages in the preparation of the statement: a proposed statement, on which the parent's comments must be invited; and the substantive version. Wherever possible, the parent should be given the opportunity to visit the school being considered for the child before the statement is finally made.

50. Section 7 (3) of the Act requires the LEA to submit the draft statement to the child's parent informing him of his right to make representations and to ask for an interview to discuss the draft statement with an officer of the LEA. If the parent, having attended such a meeting, disagrees with any part of the assessment, he may require the Authority to arrange a further meeting with the person or persons who provided the LEA with relevant advice, or with some other appropriate person.

Placement and Further Advice

51. Every effort should be made to ensure that a permanent placement is arranged as soon as possible. In some cases however, it will be necessary or desirable to arrange a provisional placement for the child pending the making of the final assessment. Such placements may be made as part of the process of assessment where, for example, the child experiences severe emotional or behavioural problems, or where the assessment is likely to be protracted. Provisional placements should be made for a stated period only, at the discretion of the LEA.

52. If, after the parent of the child has been given the opportunity to exercise his rights under paragraph 50, the LEA decide to make a statement, section 7(9) of the Act requires them to send a copy to the parent, to inform him of his right of appeal under section 8, and to give him the name of a person to whom he can apply for information and advice about his child's special educational needs. The Act does not prescribe the identity of this person. The Secretary of State for Education and Science hopes that LEAs will ensure that the person or persons selected will have knowledge of the education service and be familiar with the kinds of difficulties experienced by children with special educational needs. It is also important that they should be able to establish good relations with parents.

53. It is hoped that the advice of the people who have been involved in the assessment will continue to be available after the statement is made, to help in preparing the child's programme of education, and in keeping his needs under review.


54. The procedures for assessment and, the preparation of statements offer the opportunity for the resolution of disputes. The Secretary of State for Education and Science hopes that appeals will seldom prove necessary and that they will be

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seen only as a last resort. Appeals under section 8 of the 1981 Act may only be brought in respect of special educational provision specified in the statement in pursuance of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) of Regulation 10(1). They will be made to an appeal committee constituted under the Education Act 1980. The Secretary of State expects appeal committees which are considering appeals under section 8 of the 1981 Act to include members who have relevant knowledge of special education. The statement and any representations made by the parent should be available to the appeal committee. If additional information is requested from a professional, it will be for the LEA to invite the person concerned to prepare a report for the appeal committee. Any reports presented to the appeal committee must also be made available to the child's parent. Similarly, any further evidence provided by the parent must also be made available to the LEA. Parents should be informed of their further right to appeal to the Secretary of State.


55. Paragraph 5 of Part II of Schedule 1 of the Act requires LEAs to review statements at least annually. This requirement entails the review by the LEA of the arrangements made for children who are the subject of statements. Reviews should normally be based on reports prepared by the school the child attends including where appropriate the views of teachers and other professionals who work with the child. They should be seen as part of a process of continuous assessment, and should include the views of the child's parent wherever possible.


56. A re-assessment will normally be appropriate where there has been a significant change in the circumstances of the child. A re-assessment may be made as a result of an annual review or in compliance with a request from the parent, but Regulation 9 prescribes that where the LEA maintain a statement in respect of a child whose educational needs have not been assessed since before the child reached the age of 12 years and 6 months, they should re-assess those needs during the period of one year beginning with the day on which the child reaches the age of 13 years and 6 months. This will enable attention to be given to the arrangements to be made for the child during the remainder of his time at school, to his preparation for the transition to adult life, and to the nature of the further education, vocational training, employment or other arrangements to be made for the child when he leaves school. This re-assessment applies to all children with statements, whether or not their needs have been assessed under section 5 under transitional arrangements.

57. Irrespective of the arrangements for review or reassessment, schools should be sensitive to the changing needs or circumstances of their pupils. LEAs and schools should be ready to allow for the possibility of transfers from a special to an ordinary school when some of the child's problems have been met, or, in some cases, where his home circumstances have changed. In such instances, paragraph 6 of Part II of

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Schedule 1 of the 1981 Act provides the necessary flexibility. It allows the LEA to amend or cease to maintain a statement without further assessment, after consultation with the child's parent. In arriving at such a decision, the LEA should take account of the professional advice normally available to the child's school. The child's subsequent progress should be carefully monitored. If he is unable to make satisfactory progress in a mainstream setting, a return to a special school should be considered.


58. Regulation 12 prescribes that when a child with a statement moves from the area of the LEA who made the statement (the old authority) to the area of another LEA in England and Wales (the new authority), the old authority may transfer the statement to the new authority, and shall do so at the request of the new authority.

59. Under the Act, the new authority have a duty to identify the child under section 4 and to assess his needs under section 5. Where they propose to make an assessment of the child's special educational needs, the new authority must serve notice on the child's parent under section 5(3) of the Act.

60. Where the statement of the old authority was made within the period of three years immediately preceding the date of the notice, the new authority may, if the parent agrees in writing, seek advice on the child's educational needs from the old authority, if they decide to make an assessment of the child's needs.

61. Where the old authority consider that the child's special educational needs have not changed, it will be open to them to advise the new authority that the advice appended to the statement should apply, and to include any additional relevant information derived from annual reviews.

62. In such cases, the new authority shall assess the child's special educational needs in the light of that advice and of any new or additional representations and evidence submitted by the child's parent. If the new authority consider that the child's needs are such as to require them to determine the provision that should be made for the child, they shall make a statement in accordance with the requirements of the Act and of the Regulations.

63. Where a child covered by a statement becomes the responsibility of an education authority in Scotland, or of an education and library board in Northern Ireland, it is recommended that the LEA who made the statement should, if the parent agrees, send a copy of it to that authority or board for information. Reciprocal arrangements are being made for the Scottish record of needs to be copied to LEAs in England and Wales.

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Keeping and Disclosure of Statements

64. Regulation 11 provides that a statement should not be disclosed without the consent of the child's parent except for certain statutory purposes, or in the child's educational interests. The former category would include appeals under section 8 of the Act. The latter category would cover the provision of information to the child's school and teachers. Subject to the safeguards set out in the Regulations, LEAs may also give access to the statement to persons engaged in authorised research or studies on special educational needs. The arrangements for keeping statements must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that unauthorised persons do not have access to them. Paragraph 71 deals with the children of servicemen.


65. The Act's definition of special educational needs applies to children under five who are likely to have a learning difficulty when over this age, or whose learning difficulty would be likely to persist if special educational provision were not made for them. The Act makes a distinction between children under and over two.

66. Under section 6, a child under two may be assessed by the LEA if his parent agrees, and he must be so assessed if the parent requests it. Assessments for under-twos may take whatever form the LEA consider appropriate. It will be open to the LEA to decide whether and in what way to make and maintain a statement for a child under two, and the statement will not be subject to the provisions of section 8 of the Act. 'Special educational provision' for a child under two means any kind of educational provision including support and advice to help parents to help their children. Mother and toddler groups, opportunity groups, and other forms of provision by social services and voluntary bodies are relevant in an educational context. Maximum flexibility will be required in order to meet the needs of the child in a way which also provides support for his family.

67. The arrangements to be made for a child between the ages of two and five must comply with the requirements of sections 5 and 7 of the Act. Early education is of crucial importance for young children with disabilities. The Secretary of State for Education and Science hopes that LEAs will continue to give priority to children with special educational needs in admitting children to nursery schools and the nursery classes of primary schools. Where a child with significant learning difficulties is placed in such a school or class, the provision of any support services or additional help should be clearly specified in his statement. Liaison between the school doctor, school nurse, other specialists and the teacher is important, and such specialists should work together with the teacher in meeting special educational needs.

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68. Co-operation between the LEA, SSD, DHA and voluntary bodies will be particularly important in relation to under-fives with special educational needs so as to ensure that the best possible provision is made for the child, wherever or however it is provided.

69. In order to facilitate the early discovery by LEAs of children under five with special educational needs, section 10 of the Act places on health authorities a duty to inform the child's parent where they form the opinion that the child has, or is likely to have, special educational needs, and of the authority's duty, after discussion with the child's parent, to bring that opinion to the attention of the LEA. Normally this duty will be discharged by the designated medical officer of the health authority. Where the health authority considers that a child with special educational needs would be assisted by a particular voluntary body, they must inform the parent accordingly. Voluntary bodies have a special role to play in counselling the parents of children with special educational needs and they are being encouraged to provide full information about their services to DHAs and LEAs.


70. Under the Act, a child should not be taken to have a learning difficulty because the language or form of language of his home is different from the language of instruction in his school. The problems experienced by such children are essentially linguistic: they should not be equated with learning difficulties in the terms of the Act. LEAs may find it difficult to determine whether a child who is not yet fluent in the language of instruction may have special educational needs, and every attempt should be made in such a case to communicate with the child in a language with which he is conversant. In assessing the child's special educational needs, it is important to take account of the possibility that cultural differences may mask the child's true learning potential. Authorities should ensure that the language in which notices are served on the child's parent is one with which he will be familiar or, failing that, a language for which he could readily obtain an interpreter. It is hoped that LEAs will be able to make special arrangements to bring in a person with knowledge of the language and cultural background of the child and his parent in the various stages of assessment.


71. Where section 5 assessment procedures are initiated for a child whose parent is serving in the Armed Forces, the LEA concerned are requested to notify the Service Children's Education Authority (SCEA). A form (SEN 1) has been designed for this purpose and copies can be obtained from the Department of Education and Science. The consent of parents should be sought before the completed form is forwarded to

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SCEA. The form will give SCEA advance warning of children whom they might find it difficult to provide for because of their special educational needs, but the final result of the assessment in such cases should also be communicated to SCEA. This should include sending them a copy of a statement if one is made. SCEA may wish to obtain further information about the child's precise needs and it is hoped that LEAs will respond helpfully to such enquiries.


72. On 1 April 1982 the District Health Authorities took over most of the functions previously performed at Area Health Authority level. The Secretaries of State are determined that this reorganisation should not have adverse effects on collaboration and co-operation between education and health authorities, and the provisions of the Act entail that the health services will make an appropriate contribution.

73. Section 22 of the National Health Service Act 1977 requires health and local authorities to co-operate in exercising their respective functions, and it provides for the establishment of joint consultative committees to advise them. The requirement has been retained in the reorganisation of the N HS.

74. DHSS Circular HN(82)9 states that the best means of collaboration for each locality needs to be settled locally, but it draws attention to some important issues. In relation to child health services, it explains that there should continue to be appropriately qualified and experienced medical and nursing officers who would have among their functions specific responsibility for advising LEAs. These designated medical and nursing officers will have a crucial function in the process of assessment in coordinating the advice of their respective clinical colleagues, and in acting as a point of contact for LEAs. To assist liaison, the Secretaries of State urge LEAs and SSDs to make similar appointments and to nominate officers to act as the points of contact for the purpose of assessments of special educational needs.

75. Inter-authority and inter-professional co-operation and collaboration are essential for effective assessment. The precise arrangements for co-operation and collaboration between health and local authorities will need to be worked out at the local level. All services should therefore review their patterns of work and agreed procedures which will avoid unnecessary duplication of work and delays, and which will help to ensure that the appropriate professionals can be involved quickly at any stage. The Secretaries of State hope that effective and constructive co-operation will help to make the best use of available skills and resources in providing for children with special educational needs under the Act.

[page 16]

JA Hamilton

KR Stowe


(for action):

Local Education Authorities
Regional Health Authorities
District Health Authorities
Special Health Authorities for London Post-Graduate Teaching Hospitals
Boards of Governors
The Director of Social Services

(for information)

Family Practitioner Committees
Community Health Councils

Enquiries on this Circular should be addressed to:-

Children's Division C, Department of Health and Social Security, Alexander Fleming House, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6BY (Tel 01-407 5522 ext 7532 or 7716)

Special Education Division, Department of Education and Science, York Road, London SE1 7PH (Tel 01-928 9222, ext 3335)

[page 17]

Annex 1



1. Description of the child's strengths and weaknesses

Physical State and Functioning
(physical health, developmental function, mobility, hearing, vision)
Emotional State
(link between stress, emotions and physical state)

Cognitive Functioning

Communication Skills
(verbal comprehension, expressive language, speech)

Perceptual and Motor Skills

Adaptive Skills

Social Skills and Interaction

Approaches and Attitudes to Learning

Educational Attainments

Self-image and Interests


2. Factors in the child's environment which lessen or contribute to his needs
In the Home and Family

At School


3. Relevant aspects of the child's history



[page 18]


1. General areas of development

Physical Development
(eg. to develop self-care skills)

Motor Development
(eg. to improve co-ordination of hand and fingers, to achieve hand - eye co-ordination)

Cognitive Development
(eg. to develop the ability to classify)

Language Development
(eg. to improve expressive language skills)

Social Development
(eg. to stimulate social contact with peers)

2. Any specific areas of weaknesses or gaps in skills acquisition which impede the child's progress
eg. short-term memory deficits
3. Suggested methods and approaches
Implications of the Child's Medical Condition
(eg. advice on the side-effects of medication for epilepsy)

Teaching and Learning Approaches
(eg. teaching methods for the blind or deaf, or teaching through other specialised methods)

Emotional Climate and Social Regime
(eg type of regime, size of class or school, need for individual attention)

[page 19]


1. Special Equipment

(eg. physical aids, auditory aids, visual aids)
2. Specialist Facilities
(eg. for incontinence, for medical examination, treatment and drug administration)
3. Special Educational Resources
(eg. specialist equipment for teaching children with physical or sensory disabilities, non-teaching aids)
4. Other Specialist Resources
(eg. Nursing, Social Work, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Psychotherapy. Audiology, Orthoptics)
5. Physical Environment
(eg. access and facilities for non-ambulant pupils, attention to lighting environment, attention to acoustic environment, attention to thermal environment, health care accommodation)
6. School Organisation and Attendance
(eg. day attendance, weekly boarding, termly boarding, relief hostel accommodation)
7. Transport

[page 1]

Annex 2 to Circular 1/83 (DES), HC (83)3 /LAC (83)2 (DHSS).

Statement of Special Educational Needs

I - Introduction

1. In accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1981 and the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983, the following statement is made by the _____ council ("the education authority") in respect of the child whose name and other particulars are mentioned below.


Home address

Date of birth

Other names



Home language

Child's parent or guardian

Home address

Other names

Relationship to child

2. When assessing the child's special educational needs the education authority took into consideration, in accordance with Regulations 8 of the Regulations, the representations, evidence and advice set out in the Appendices to this statement.

[page 2]

II - Special educational needs

(Here, set out in accordance with section 7 of the 1981 Act, the child's special educational needs as assessed by the education authority.)

III - Special educational provision

(Here specify, in accordance with Regulation 10(1)(a), the special educational provision which the education authority consider appropriate to meet the needs specified in Part II.)

[page 3]

IV - Appropriate school or other arrangements

(Here specify, in accordance with Regulation 10(1)(b), the type of school and any particular school which the education authority consider appropriate for the child or the provision for his education otherwise than at a school which they consider appropriate.)

V - Additional non-educational provision

(Here specify, in accordance with Regulation 10(1)(c), any such additional provision as is there mentioned or record that there is no such additional provision.)

(Signature of authenticating officer)


A duly authorised officer of the education authority.



[page 4]

Appendices to the Statement of Special Education Needs

Appendix A : Parental representations

(Here set out any written representations made by the parent of the child in pursuance of section 5(3)(d) of the Act and a summary which the parent has accepted as accurate of any oral representations so made or record that no such representations were made.)

Appendix B : Parental evidence

(Here set out any written evidence either submitted by the parent of the child in pursuance of section 5(3)(d) of the Act or submitted at his request or record that no such evidence was submitted.)

Appendix C : Educational advice

(Here set out the advice obtained in pursuance of Regulation 4(1)(a).)

Appendix D : Medical advice

(Here set out the advice obtained in pursuance of Regulation 4(1)(b).)

Appendix E : Psychological advice

(Here set out the advice obtained in pursuance of Regulation 4(1)(c).)

Appendix F : Other advice obtained by Education Authority

(Here set out any advice obtained in pursuance of Regulation 4(1)(d) or record that no such advice was sought.)

Appendix G : Information furnished by District Health Authority or Social Services Authority

(Here set out any such information as is mentioned in Regulation 8(d) or record that no such information was furnished.)


The above list follows the wording of the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983. The educational, medical and psychological advice will be reproduced in Appendices C, D and E respectively. Appendices A, B, F and G will consist of copies of the relevant documents, or where none have been submitted, of a note to that effect.