DES Circular 22/89 (1989)

This circular updated previous advice to local education and health authorities on the making of assessments and statements for children with special educational needs. It replaced DES Circular 1/83, Health Circular HC(83)(3) and Local Authority Circular LAC(83)2.

The text of DES Circular 22/89 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 16 March 2021.

Circular 22/89 (1989)
Assessments and statements of special educational needs: procedures within the education, health and social services

Department of Education and Science
London: 1989
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

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Department of Education and Science
Elizabeth House York Road London SE1 7PH

Circular 22/89
29 September 1989

Department of Health
Richmond House 79 Whitehall London SW1A 2NS

Annex to HN(89)20
Annex to HN(FP)(89)19
Annex to LASSL(89)7

To: All Local Education Authorities
Regional Health Authorities
District Health Authorities
Special Health Authorities for London Post-Graduate Teaching Hospitals
The Directors of Social Services
Family Practitioner Committees
Community Health Councils
Governors of Grant-Maintained Schools




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1. Advice on Special Educational Needs: Suggested checklist

2. Statement of Special Educational Needs

3. Appendices to the Statement of Special Educational Needs

4. What LEAs need to tell parents of children with special educational needs

i. About the 1981 Act

ii. About the Education Reform Act 1988

The guidance in this circular does not constitute an authoritative legal interpretation of any of the provisions of the 1981 Act and other enactments and regulations; that it exclusively a matter for the Courts.

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1. The Education Act 1981 (the 1981 Act) made important changes to the law on the provision of education to children with special educational needs (SEN). It gives duties to local education authorities (LEAs), District Health Authorities (DHAs) and school governing bodies. Its provisions require the involvement of parents in assessment procedures and give scope for the involvement of voluntary bodies. Under Section 5(1) of the Act LEAs have a duty to make an assessment of those children in their area with special educational needs which require or may require the LEA to determine the appropriate special educational provision. Section 7(2) of the Act requires LEAs to arrange that the special education provision specified in a statement is made for the child unless the parent has made suitable arrangements. Section 2(4) of the Act places LEAs under a duty to keep under review their arrangements for special educational provision.


2. The purpose of this Circular is to review the implementation of the provisions in the 1981 Act relating to the making of assessments and statements of special educational needs in the light of experience since 1981; of the report of the House of Commons Education, Science and Arts Select Committee "Implementation of the Education Act 1981"; and of the provisions in the Education Reform Act 1988 (the 1988 Act) concerning the introduction of the National Curriculum, local management of schools and the establishment of grant maintained schools. Its purpose is to offer advice to LEAs, working in conjunction with DHAs and Social Services Departments (SSDs), in reviewing their procedures concerned with the making of assessments and statements. The new elements in the circular are not intended to require additional expenditure. This circular replaces DES Circular 1/83, Health Circular HC(83)(3) and Local Authority Circular LAC(83)2. A separate Circular is being issued in Wales. Circular 8/81 remains in force.


3. Under Section 1 of the 1981 Act children have special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for them. Learning difficulty is defined in terms of children who have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of their age; and/or have a disability which either prevents or hinders them from making effective use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided in schools in their LEA area for children of their age; or who are under the age of 5 years and are, or would if special educational provision were not made for them, be likely when over that age to fall within the terms above.

4. Special educational provision in relation to a child over 2 means educational provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children of the same age in schools maintained by the LEA concerned. For children under 2 it covers educational provision of any kind (see para 78).

S. Gifted children without special educational needs as defined under Section 1(1) of the Act are excluded from the Act's provisions. For a pupil whose mother tongue is not English, the child's lack of competence in English must not be equated with learning difficulties under this Act.

6. Medical advice. For the purpose of this Act, medical advice is to be taken in its widest sense and includes coordinated information from all the doctors concerned in the assessment of the

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child's special educational needs, together with the advice, in full, from other non-medical specialists. The latter might include speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, school nurses and health visitors.



7. The House of Commons Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in its report of May 1987(1) made recommendations following evidence from a wide range of organisations. Statutory and voluntary bodies, and others concerned with the rights of children with special educational needs, have made representations. Parents and children and their representatives have also revealed problems and sought remedies through complaints, appeals and through recourse to legal action. Results of research projects and surveys, both local and national, have highlighted a number of difficulties and proposed improvements in procedures, many of which have been adopted in this Circular.


8. The 1988 Act lays down new requirements for the school curriculum. It requires all maintained schools, including special schools, but not hospital schools or Children's Homes with Education, to provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. The curriculum is to be relevant to the full range of pupils' needs. It requires every maintained school to provide for each pupil of statutory school age, as part of his or her curriculum, 10 foundation subjects (9 from age 5 to 11), each with nationally specified objectives - attainment targets - and programmes of study. Pupils' progress compared with the attainment targets will be monitored and formally assessed and recorded by prescribed methods throughout compulsory schooling and must be reported at the end of each of the four key stages - ie for most pupils at the ages of 7, 11, 14 and 16. External qualifications offered to pupils of compulsory school age must be those approved by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and the syllabuses associated with them must be those approved by the School Examinations and Assessment Council. Information about pupils' programmes and about their attainments as individuals and collectively must be made available co parents and others, and local arrangements established for the consideration of complaints. In advance of full implementation of the National Curriculum, pupils will be required to be taught each foundation subject for a reasonable period of time. The Act requires provision to be made for religious education and collective worship for all registered pupils at maintained schools, except maintained special schools. Separate arrangements for religious education and worship in special schools are made through Section 12(4) of the 1981 Act as amended by paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 to the 1988 Act.

9. The National Curriculum will be introduced progressively from the start of the Autumn Term 1989. Detailed guidance is set out in the Department of Education and Science (DES) Circular 5/89 and in the booklet "From Policy to Practice". The Secretary of State for Education and Science believes that all pupils, including those with SEN, should follow the National

(1) "Special Education Needs: implementation of the Education Act 1981" HC 201-1 (ISBN 0 10 293487 8) and HC 201-2 (ISBN 0 10 294187 4).

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Curriculum to the maximum extent possible. The levels of attainment defined will cover a wide spread of achievement and will enable pupils of very different abilities to demonstrate progress in relation to the same curriculum. The National Curriculum framework, and specific provisions within it, provide wide scope for teachers to deal with the full range of individual pupils' needs.

10. The basis for this is Sections 17-19 of the 1988 Act. These, and the powers to make Orders under Section 4 prescribing attainment targets, programmes of study and assessment arrangements, offer three main ways of taking account of SEN:

i. by Orders or regulations under Sections 4 and 17 respectively which allow the Secretary of State for Education and Science to modify or disapply parts of the National Curriculum and related assessment arrangements in specified general cases or circumstances. The attainment targets, programmes of study, assessment arrangements, or the requirement to study foundation subject(s) may all be modified or disapplied as necessary. For example, where the National Curriculum requirements would involve certain kinds of physical or practical work, alternative arrangements might be allowed for those whose physical disabilities could put at risk their own safety or that of others. Such arrangements might apply to pupils with or without statements;

ii. for individual pupils, by a statement of special educational needs. Section 18 of the 1988 Act provides that such a statement may modify or disapply any or all of the requirements of the National Curriculum if they are inappropriate for the individual pupil concerned. This ensures that any departure from the National Curriculum will be decided only after a full assessment of the pupil's needs and in the light of all the evidence available, including the views of the parents. The statement should indicate in Section 3 any modifications to the National Curriculum necessary to meet the child's special educational needs, in terms of programmes of study, attainment targets and assessment and testing arrangements. Similarly, where it is considered essential to exempt the child from one or more foundation subjects, details should be stated. Whether modification or disapplication is involved, the foundation subject(s) affected should be identified clearly so as to ensure that unambiguous information is available to any school the child attends.

iii. by regulations under Section 19 as detailed in DES Circular 15/89. These regulations enable a headteacher to give a general or special direction to modify or disapply the National Curriculum for an individual pupil on a temporary basis and for a period of no longer than 6 months in the first instance. The regulations specify the cases and circumstances in which general and special directions will apply. General directions may apply to any pupil including a pupil with a statement at an ordinary or special school who develops temporary problems which it would not be appropriate to reflect in the statement. What distinguishes a general direction from a special direction is the expectation that, after expiry of the specified period, the pupil may expect to return to the National Curriculum or whatever aspects of it applied to him or her before the general direction came into force. Special directions have a much more limited application and may be used by a head teacher to modify or disapply the National Curriculum for up to 6 months where the head is of the opinion that an individual pupil has special educational needs which require the LEA to assess the pupil with a view to a statement. A temporary exception will not always be necessary when a headteacher refers a pupil for assessment. Head teachers should consider in each case if there is a clear case for a short-term exception, and should not assume that this will be the case or prejudge the outcome of the 1981 Act assessment procedures. It will remain for the LEA to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for assessment.

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11. The 1988 Act requires every LEA to prepare a scheme for local management of schools (LMS). The Department of Education and Science Circular 7/88 offers detailed guidance on the implementation of this part of the Act and sets out criteria for the approval of such schemes by the Secretary of State. To secure approval, schemes must be consistent with the continuing statutory responsibilities of LEAs and Governing Bodies, including the requirements of the 1981 Act.

12. Under local management schemes LEAs will have discretion as to whether or not they delegate provision for pupils with statements of SEN in ordinary schools and special units organised as a part of ordinary schools. Where such provision is delegated the formula for allocating resources to schools must take account of the need to channel resources to meet the particular needs of pupils in such schools. The LEA will retain its duty under the 1981 Act to ensure that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for pupils with statements, and will be expected to reflect this in the conditions of the scheme. It will be for the school to consider how best to deploy its overall resources in order to offer the necessary provision, but it will be obliged to offer what is specified in the statement.

13. Where the costs of pupils with statements are delegated, the LEA will retain responsibility for identifying, assessing and determining the provision required for individual pupils with statements, and will be able to allocate additional resources as additional children are so identified. The LEA remains responsible for annual reviews and mandatory re-assessments and for ensuring, through inspection if necessary, that appropriate provision is made and maintained. Since reviews may also lead to adjustments of provision the LMS scheme should be flexible enough to enable any necessary additional resources to be made available without delay, both in-year and between years.


14. The 1981 Act followed the 1978 Warnock Report(1) and embodied a number of the recommendations in that report. The Warnock Report proposed that for educational purposes the concepts of "handicapped pupils" and "special educational treatment", which were incorporated in the 1944 Act, should be replaced by the concept of "children with special educational needs". The report estimated that nationally as many as 20% of children had special educational needs for which some additional provision might need to be made at some time in their school career from within or outside the resources of the ordinary school. That proportion will vary between individual schools. Section 8(2)(c) of the 1944 Act was therefore amended by the 1981 Act to place a duty on LEAs "to have regard to the need for securing that special educational provision is made for pupils who have special educational needs".

15. Since the implementation of the 1981 Act, attention has tended to focus on the 2% of the school population who have statements and the statutory procedures to be followed for this. This emphasis has in some areas drawn attention away from the larger group, for whom nonetheless LEAs and school governors have duties under the Act. For these children many schools have made special provision, whether on their own initiative or as part of a range of developments organised centrally by various LEAs.

(1) Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People: Cmnd 7212: ISBN 0 10 172120 X

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16. There remains a need for LEAs and governors to take steps to satisfy parents of children without statements that appropriate educational provision will be available in schools to meet their particular needs. Schools should publish information for parents indicating their special support provision for children with SEN, but with no statements. Parents will need an explanation of the way in which the introduction of the National Curriculum applies to the education of their children. LEAs will look to health authorities for provision of services for children with medical problems and for those requiring professional nursing or paramedical help in ordinary schools; and for advice and guidance for those children who require prescribed drugs or other medication or care.


17. When it is thought that a child may need special educational provision, the positive and constructive approach is to focus on his or her needs rather than on disabilities. The feelings and perceptions of the child concerned should be taken into account, and older children and young persons should be able to share in discussions on their needs and any proposed provision. The extent to which a learning difficulty hinders a child's development does not depend solely on the nature and severity of that difficulty. Other significant factors include the personal resources and attributes of the child as well as the help and support provided at home, and the provision made by the school and the LEA and other statutory and voluntary agencies. A child's special educational needs are thus related both to abilities and disabilities, and to the nature and extent of the interaction of these with his or her environment.


18. The assessment of SENs is not an end in itself; it is the first step towards a better understanding of a child's learning difficulties for the practical purpose of providing guidance to the education needed and establishing a basis upon which to monitor the child's progress. When carrying out assessments, the LEA should ensure that clear distinctions are made between:

i. the child's relevant past and present levels of functioning, emotional states and interests and how these represent resources and deficiencies in relation to the educational demands which will be made on the child;

ii. the analysis of the child's consequent learning difficulties;

Iii. the specification of goals for change in the child and environment (including school, home and the wider community);

iv. the specification of the child's requirement for different kinds of approaches, facilities or resources, in order to facilitate access to the National Curriculum, with any modifications that are considered essential;

v. the perceptions and wishes of the parent and child;

vi. the special educational provision and services required to meet the identified needs.

19. The monitoring and assessment of each child's progress are continuous processes. They begin around birth and continue in the home and with the health and social services before the child becomes known to the LEA. The procedures followed as part of that process should provide a useful background to understand the child's educational needs. For the child under 5, paras 78 to 81 of this Circular refer. For the child of or approaching compulsory school age, it will, in most cases, be for the school or a suitably qualified teacher under the guidance of the LEA to decide

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how that individual child's needs should be assessed and met. Where the support provided by the school does not seem to meet the child's needs, the school will need to refer the child for assessment. Where it seems that a child's difficulties might justify making a statement under section 7 of the 1981 Act, section 5 of that Act and the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1983 SI 1983/29 specify the procedures to be followed. The statutory assessment procedures may result from school-based assessment, from a recommendation by the LEA psychological service, or through referral from another source. Parents may request assessment under Section 9(1) of the 1981 Act and LEAs must comply with such requests unless they are unreasonable in the LEA's opinion. Not every child who may have SEN and is assessed will need a statement in order to determine provision, except in the case of children of Service parents where their frequent moves between authorities can cause developmental delay if no statement is available to facilitate effective placement and provision within the new authority's schools.


20. Sections 5, 7 and 8 of the 1981 Act lay down the procedures under which parents may make representations and submit evidence to the LEA as part of the process of determining their child's SEN. To encourage the cooperation and involvement of parents, LEAs should provide them with written information about their rights and duties as parents, and the duties of LEAs together with details of the special educational provision available. Cooperation is likely to be improved if parents have written guidelines to assist them in their contribution to the assessment. LEAs should recognise, however, that premature references in their information to the 1981 Act enforcement powers can be regarded by parents as threatening and coercive. The published information should use straightforward, plain language and should include the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the various staff with whom discussions can be held during the assessment process. A check list of the main points to be covered is at Annex 4. LEAs, as many have already done, should make guidance leaflets available in other languages for ethnic groups. Special arrangements may be needed for parents with hearing, sight, reading and other difficulties, and occasionally for translation.

21. Parents, and the child, where practicable, should be helped and encouraged to participate in the assessment of the child's SEN as the 1981 Act envisaged. Frankness and openness between the parents and the providers will help the process significantly. The feelings and perceptions of the child should be taken into account, and the concept of partnership should wherever possible be extended to older children and young persons. Some parents may wish to bring an adviser or friend and translators for support at meetings where their child is being discussed. LEAs should welcome and encourage this and include appropriate information in their published guidance to parents.


22. The 1981 Act placed LEAs under a duty to secure that, subject to conditions specified in Section 2(3), children with statements should be educated in ordinary schools. This obliges LEAs to consider on its merits a parent's request for a place in an ordinary school. The Act also requires under Section 2(7) that the child with a statement should share in the activities of the school together with pupils without special educational needs. Many parents want their children with statements to be accepted by and remain within ordinary schools, and they also seek to obtain the best quality and balance of educational, social, health and other provision for their children. Parents need objective information about the range of suitable provision for their children. Situations and perceptions vary from one LEA area to another and thus different patterns of provision have resulted. Valuable developments include the increasing incidence of trained special needs support

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services, resourced provision in ordinary schools and extensive links between special and ordinary schools. The 1988 Act aims to raise expectations of all pupils, including those with statements. Its provisions are intended to ensure that these expectations are appropriate, so that all children, including those with SEN, can benefit to the best of their ability. In their schemes for the local management of schools (LMS) LEAs will have scope to target resources on pupils with statements in ordinary schools, either by excepting the relevant funds from delegation or by delegating resources through a specific factor. Whatever the way an LEA chooses to provide for children with statements, appropriateness and quality of provision are vital.


23. Whether or not a statement follows an assessment, all children who may have SEN stand the best chance of receiving the quality of education they require if their needs are identified in their first years at school, assessed thoroughly, and provided for promptly and appropriately. This calls for close cooperation between parents and all the statutory services, and a thorough understanding by each of the participants of the part which they and others play in this process. Where a child is kept out of school, the child can suffer educationally and emotionally as a result. LEAs should aim to ensure that a child's education is not disrupted during the process of assessment and statementing. Where a parent absents a child with SEN from school without the LEA's prior agreement, the LEA should be mindful of their duty concerning such attendance under Section 37 of the Education Act 1944. Authorities may need to give thought to arrangements which assist families from an early stage to establish and maintain effective relationships with the various services, eg through a named person or key worker.

24. The procedures for non-statutory assessments prior to statutory assessments carried out under section 5 of the 1981 Act are largely a matter for schools and LEAs. Under section 2(5) of the 1981 Act, it is the responsibility of the governors of county and voluntary schools to try to ensure that any pupils with SEN are identified and that appropriate educational provision is made for them. The 1988 Act extends this duty to the governors of grant-maintained schools. In order to fulfil this responsibility schools will need fully to involve their teaching Staff. Since every school is likely to have some pupils with SEN, LEAs will need to help governors to fulfil their duties by providing guidance to all county and voluntary schools in their area on the arrangements and procedures for identifying, assessing and meeting special educational needs. This guidance should include contact points for the specialist services to publicise referral routes. Grant-maintained schools will also need such guidance, and LEAs will need to formulate working arrangements with these schools, recognising their respective responsibilities. Policies are being developed in some areas to raise the awareness of all teachers in a school and thus to improve the provision made for children with special educational needs. Under such policies, every school should have a teacher designated to help and advise colleagues on the provision for children with SEN. The classroom teacher is in the key position to observe responses 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. Where the interventions made at school do not seem to meet the child's needs, further investigation will be required. Teachers should be encouraged to keep full records of their pupils' progress and to include information about professional consultations and assessments under the 1981 Act. The LEA Training Grants Scheme has among its national priorities in-service training courses for designated teachers who will act as coordinators in schools. Many LEAs also use local priority funding for courses to extend the knowledge and competence of such teachers; grant-maintained schools will be able to seek Special Purpose Grant funding from the Department to replicate grant provided under the LEA Training Grants Scheme, and will receive their share of any additional LEA funding as part of their Annual Maintenance Grant.

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25. Arrangements for assessment 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 headteacher, and then, as appropriate, to a specialist teacher, the educational psychologist, the school doctor and nurse, and other professionals in the education, health and social services, including therapists. Parental involvement in assessment is vital since information in the possession of the parent may be crucial to the assessment. The parent should also be kept fully informed at every stage.

26. Clearly identified channels of communication are essential to enable schools to gain access to specialised support and advice when required. This means close involvement between teachers, the school health service and social services departments. The aim should be to provide assistance before the situation becomes critical. Assessment should always be closely related to education, and teachers and other professionals should work closely together, bearing in mind that a child's special educational needs are likely to change and that assessment is not a single event but a continuous process.

27. The 1988 Act provides assessment arrangements for all pupils which differ in kind from assessment under the 1981 Act. Mechanisms for assessment under the 1988 Act will provide regular monitoring of each pupil's progress. Where pupils may have special educational needs, these new arrangements may help to identify such children. Headteachers should, nevertheless, continue to identify any child who, in their opinion, may need to be assessed under the 1981 Act, or whose current statement may need revision. Headteachers will have powers conferred by the regulations made under Section 19 of the 1988 Act to give directions to modify or disapply the National Curriculum for a temporary period of up to 6 months in specified circumstances.


28. The 1981 Act lays down procedures for the assessment of children whose needs are, or probably are, such as to require LEAs to determine their special educational provision. 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. Annexes 2 and 3 to this Circular give guidance on the form and content of statements. Provision for children under five is dealt with in paragraph 78.

29. Lack of progress by a child points to a need to inmate assessment procedures. The Act lays down formal procedures for this purpose. These procedures focus upon a group of children within the larger group of children with special educational needs. It is not possible to prescribe precise limits for this smaller group. The factors which will influence the LEA's decision whether or not they should determine the special educational provision for an individual child will vary from area to area depending on how the LEA aims to meet SEN, either through central provision (by means of special schools or the use of support teams, for example) or through support already available in mainstream schools. Formal procedures under Section 5 should always be initiated where there are prima facie grounds to suggest that a child's needs are such as to require educational provision additional to, or otherwise different from, that made generally in LEA maintained schools in the area.

30. LEAs have a duty under Section 7(1) of the 1981 Act to afford the protection of a statement of special educational needs to any child they have assessed under Section 5 of the Act, if that assessment leads them to conclude that they should "determine the special educational provision that should be made" for that child. It has been held [by the Court of Appeal in R. v Secretary of State for Education and Science ex parte Lashford (1988)] that an LEA's decision under

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Section 7(1) of the 1981 Act as to whether it should determine the special educational provision that should be made for a child is a decision whether the authority will, in the exercise of its. discretion, determine the special educational provision required, or will leave the determination of that provision to others - for example the Headteacher and Governing Body of the school which the child attends. If the LEA decides, following an assessment under Section 5, that it will determine the provision that should be made, eg by placing the child in a special school and prescribing the special educational provision to be made for the child in that school, it will then be under a duty to make and maintain a statement in respect of that child. For the child with a statement, extra resources, which might commonly include additional support or equipment, may be provided from resources held centrally by the LEA or, where the LEA has delegated to schools provision for pupils with statements, through the operation of the LMS formula. In the latter case, grant-maintained schools will receive the equivalent funding as part of their Annual Maintenance Grant.

31. The Secretary of State would expect that children in special schools would normally be afforded the protection of a statement. Statements may not be needed where ordinary schools themselves determine and make special educational provision from their own resources. Nor would statements be required where children from ordinary schools attend for short but regular periods at tuition centres away from the school; or where the need for extra help is part-time and of short duration; or where as part of the assessment process and by agreement with the parent the child is placed temporarily and for a short period in a special school or unit.

32. Statutory assessment procedures under Section 5 of the 1981 Act may be required for some children with learning difficulties in hospital, other health care provision or being educated in a social service setting such as a residential care home, for example:

i. if the child has a medical condition likely to affect future learning ability;

ii. if the child has been admitted in connection with a social condition which is likely to affect future learning ability (such as social deprivation, whether negligence, neglect or child abuse);

iii. if a child is receiving treatment likely to affect future learning ability;

iv. if the child has been admitted to a children's or adolescent psychiatric ward.

In all these circumstances, the hospital authorities should liaise with the DHA-designated Medical Officer, so that he or she can inform the LEA, and the LEA can form a judgement as to whether the child should be assessed or reassessed.


33. Parents may request an LEA to undertake an assessment of their child's educational needs and the LEA are bound to comply unless they regard the request as unreasonable. Where the LEA initiate the action, the serving of a formal notice under section 5 of the 1981 Education Act should never be the first indication to a parent that the child has learning difficulties. Before the notice is issued there should usually be a period of initial assessment and every possible effort should be made to effect initial contacts between the teachers, or any other professional making the referral, and the child's parent.

34. Wherever possible, assessments should take place in surroundings familiar to the child, either at home or at school. A supported mainstream placement may be appropriate for assessment. In exceptional circumstances the use of a special school placement for assessment purposes may, if

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parents agree, be appropriate. Children should not remain for long periods in assessment placements and their progress should be monitored. Such placements should not be used as a long-term solution for disruptive or disturbed children with or without statements.

35. Section 5(3) of the 1981 Act provides that the parent should be informed of the LEA's proposal to assess the child and the full procedures to be followed in assessment. The parent should be given the name of an LEA officer from whom further information is available, and be notified in straightforward language of the right to make representations within a minimum period of 29 days after the date of notification. When notifying parents of this right, LEAs should encourage representations from parents, pointing out the importance of their contributions. LEAs may invite parents to indicate formally if they do not wish to make or add to representations, in which case parents should be told that the LEA understands that the right is not to be exercised and assessment can proceed without delay. Where parents do wish to make representations, they may need help in doing so. Where representations are made orally to the named officer, a written summary by the LEA should be agreed with the parent concerned. Alternatively, the LEA may suggest to the parent the name of a voluntary organisation, an Education Welfare Officer, or an employee of a statutory body who could help in this way. Voluntary organisations may be contacted on the parents' behalf if the parent consents. Outcomes tend to be more satisfactory for all parties when such bodies are involved at an early stage, so as to avoid misunderstandings.

36. 'Parent' is defined in Section 114(1) of the Education Act 1944 (the 1944 Act) to include a guardian and every person who has the actual custody of the child or young person. It is important to recognise the width of this definition. In this Circular the word 'parent' should be taken to include:-

a. both of the child's legal parents;

b. any guardian appointed by deed, will or order of a court;

c. any person, eg a foster parent, with whom the child is living, whether or not a custody order is in force in that person's favour;

d. when the child is in the compulsory care of a local authority under a care order, a committal to care made in divorce or other family proceedings or following a parental rights resolution, that local authority or in the case of a child in a children's home, the key worker; and

e. when the child is in care of a voluntary organisation, in whom the parental rights and duties have been vested by resolution, that voluntary organisation.

It should be noted that where a child is in the voluntary care of a local authority, that authority is not the 'parent'. Moreover, where a child is a ward of court it should always be remembered that no major step in the child's life should be taken without the prior permission of the court. It is for the local education authority to decide at what stage a local authority's social services department or the wardship court should be consulted on the matters covered in this Circular. The Government are proposing in the Children Bill to amend the definition of parent in the 1944 Act and reference should be made to the Bill if it is enacted. This will be the subject of guidance in due course.


37. Under Regulation 4 of the 1983 Regulations, LEAs must seek educational, medical and psychological advice, together with advice from any other source they consider desirable in making an assessment under section 5 of the 1981 Act. "Advice" must be written advice on the features of

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the case which are relevant to and which affect the child's special educational needs and on the ways of meeting those needs. The LEA must provide all professionals with copies of any representations or evidence submitted by or on behalf of the child's parent, including any written summary of oral representations. It falls to the professional advisers to consult others, including any persons specified by the LEA, and to collect and collate any relevant information obtained from their area of responsibility and to submit it to the LEA. There is no prescribed form in which advice should be presented but, as required by the 1983 Regulations, it should be written. If LEAs devise structured forms for the collection of professional advice, they should draw them up in consultation with the professionals concerned, and provide adequate space for individual comment. Some LEAs have already provided checklists or profiles for parents to use to help them contribute to assessments. These can be helpful to parents although they should not restrict parents from giving evidence in some other format if they so wish.

38. A satisfactory and speedy conclusion to the assessment and statement process is in the child's interests. Any delay puts the child at a disadvantage. The Secretary of State for Education and Science therefore expects that the period of time from the initial notification by the school or the parents to the LEA that an assessment might be necessary to the production of the draft statement for the parent's consideration should not exceed 6 months. Where LEAs propose target dates for the providers of advice, those professionals should recognise the need for prompt action in order to comply. In the latter situation, where the parent is a Serviceman he should consent to the Service Children's Education Authority being informed so that the family does not become subject to a posting order during this very sensitive assessment period.

39. To encourage the continued use of a common approach to advice on special educational needs, it is recommended that within the area of his/her specialism each professional adviser should provide details as specified in paragraph 18. Annex 1 to this Circular offers a checklist of the points to be considered as part of this approach. The checklist is intended as an aide-memoir. Not all points will apply to each child and the checklist does not claim to cover all possibilities. It is 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.


40. Where possible, educational advice must be sought from the head teachers of all the schools the child has attended at some time in the preceding 18 months. Evidence from assessments made under the National Curriculum arrangements may be relevant. The headteacher may consult other teachers who have taught the child during that period, and must do so where he or she has not personally taught the child. Where it is thought that the child may have a sensory impairment, the headteacher's advice must be given after consultation with a person who is qualified to teach deaf or blind children, if the headteacher is not so qualified. If the child is not attending school, educational advice must be sought from someone with experience of teaching children with special educational needs, and knowledge of the different forms of special educational provision which might meet the needs of that child.

41. All medical and other health advice should be sought from the medical officer designated for this purpose by the DHA. Advice should be concise and relevant to the child's educational needs. Before submitting advice the medical officer should co-ordinate information from all the doctors concerned in the assessment of the child's special educational needs which will be attached at Appendix D to the Statement. Any psychiatric advice will also be included in the medical advice,

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either verbatim or in summary form, if its provider is content. It is helpful to the LEA if the designated medical officer indicates by name and profession those medical specialists from whom advice has been sought.

42. Advice about non-medical support services provided by the DHA eg. all therapy and nursing services, should also be sought through the medical officer and collected and passed in full to the LEA to be attached at Appendix G to the statement. The complexity of needs of some individual children may call for involvement of additional professional help including the family doctor.

43. DHAs should continue to strengthen the multi-disciplinary approach to the needs of severely disabled children, including under fives. Where they exist, District Child Development Teams, District Handicap Teams or Community Mental Handicap Teams may offer a suitable vehicle for the assessment of these children's special educational needs. The local child, adolescent and family psychiatric services, whether hospital or community based, may be an appropriate source of advice about children with emotional and behavioural problems. The specialist assessment facilities available in some schools, units and nurseries will also continue to serve these needs.

44. 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 in accordance with Regulation 7(2) of the 1983 Regulations be consulted by the educational psychologist, and their advice recorded. LEAs will provide the services of educational psychologists to pupils in grant-maintained schools as to those in other schools in their areas.

45. Parental representations may be submitted direct by the parent or may take the form of evidence submitted by another person or organisation acting on the parent's behalf. The parental contribution, based on informal, intimate and detailed knowledge of the child's personal characteristics and needs, may include the opinion of others known to the child; it provides an important complement to the professional advice.


46. When the LEA notify the parent of their decision to assess a child's special educational needs, a copy of the notification should be sent to an officer nominated for this purpose by the Social Services Department. This is intended to enable them 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. Any advice furnished to the LEA will be attached at Appendix G to the statement. It will also be open to the LEA to seek advice from these services where it has not been volunteered.

47. The complexity of needs of some individual children may call for the involvement of additional professional help including the family doctor. Authorities are reminded of the advice given in DHSS Circular HC(78)5 that District Handicap Teams (DHTs) (or District Child Development Teams where they exist) 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. 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. Where sensory

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impairment is part of a complex of needs, the advice of a specifically qualified teacher may be needed. Education Welfare Officers may often have relevant knowledge.


48. Professional assessment under the 1981 Act requires a systematic yet flexible approach. It may be organised in a variety of ways according to local circumstances and the requirements of individual cases. All contributors will need to bear in mind the need for prompt action and the expectation that assessment be completed within 6 months. Professional advisers may submit their evidence separately to the LEA, copying their advice to other colleagues involved in the assessment. It may be desirable for professional assessment to proceed in sequence, educational advice being followed by medical advice and then by psychological advice, but this is not obligatory. Adherence to this sequence should not be allowed to delay the process of assessment.

49. The relations between professional advisers and parents during the process of assessment are of crucial importance. Parents should be encouraged to feel that they are partners in the process. Paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act gives the parents the right to be present at examinations for assessment purposes and prescribes a penalty which may be payable by parents who refuse to allow their child to be examined. It is better for the LEA to seek the parent's cooperation, rather than to advise him or her at the outset of statutory penalties for failing to allow the child to be examined. Parents should be made aware that some forms of psychological testing might best be carried out without the presence of any observers, although they may insist on exercising their right to attend.

50. In some cases professional advisers may find that, after their individual consideration, a case conference may best help them achieve the precise identification of a child's needs. LEAs may involve various groupings of professionals. Although parents have no legal right to attend such case conferences, there are obvious advantages, in terms of maintaining trust and cooperation, in parents being invited to attend, with a friend or adviser if they wish, and to take part in the conference. Where consolidated advice is provided in consequence of such conferences, the Regulations require identifiable contributions from the relevant services and the parent, if he or she is attending. All contributors should be asked to record at the time any reservations they may have about the advice or conclusions. Parents may need help with this.

51. By bringing together the skills, perceptions and insights of professionals in different disciplines, as well as those of the parent, it should be possible to arrive at a more complete understanding of a child's special educational needs. Effective multi-professional work requires cooperation, collaboration and mutual support on the part of all contributors. Each professional adviser needs to be aware of the roles of other contributors and should seek to reach agreement with them on their several roles and functions. It follows that the advice given by each one should reflect his or her concerns, leaving others to concentrate upon their particular area of expertise. For example, doctors should draw attention to the implications that the child's medical condition has on the child's ability to learn, to take part in school life and to benefit from the school curriculum, and also to the support and facilities the child may need. Advice should be relevant and usable in an educational context, and available to teachers to enable them to plan a detailed programme of education for the pupil. Advice should not be influenced by consideration 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. Discussions between individual advisers and parents about the child's needs should include discussion about various options but should not commit the LEA, nor pre-empt the LEA's decisions about the provision and placement to be made.

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52. The ultimate responsibility for formulating an assessment of the child's special educational needs rests with the LEA. It therefore falls to the LEA to coordinate and summarise the advice, evidence, representations and information received about the child. 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 the child's special educational needs, the LEA should arrange further discussions among the professional advisers to resolve any conflict or uncertainty about them. Where it proves impossible to reconcile differences it falls to the LEA to determine the special education provision they will make for the child. They should then clearly set out the reasons for their decision in the draft statement or other written communication with the parent.

53. The professional advice and parental evidence on the basis of which the LEA make their decision must be copied verbatim in the appendices to the statement. All those contributing should be aware that their full advice will be made available to the parent, and in the event of an appeal, to the appeal committee. LEAs are reminded that the contributing professionals value feedback on the outcome of assessment procedures as it enables them to plan for and provide the necessary services. All designated officers receiving such information should ensure that it is passed on to the professionals who contributed to the assessment process.


54. The two stages in the preparation of a statement are:

i. the draft statement, on which the parent's comments must be invited, and

ii. the final statement.

55. Research and experience have shown that LEAs need to give careful attention to the wording of the draft and the final statement, so as to ensure that its meaning is precise and clear to parents and those who have to carry out its provisions. Help should be given to those parents who require it, so that they understand the assessment made, the provision proposed and the immediate and longer term significance for their child's progress. LEA officers, teachers or headteachers, educational psychologists, social workers, members of the Education Welfare Service or representatives of special needs bodies - parents' self-help groups or voluntary organisations- may be able to provide this help.

56. Section 7(3) of the 1981 Act requires the LEA to submit the draft statement to the parent informing him or her of the right to make representations within 15 days and to ask for an interview to discuss the draft statement with an LEA officer. Such a meeting is the parent's opportunity to question the LEA's advisers and gain further information on their reasoning, to put his or her own point of view and to challenge the proposals if so desired. If the parent, having attended the meeting or meetings, disagrees with any part of the draft statement he or she may require the LEA to arrange further joint consideration with the person or persons who provided the LEA with the relevant advice or with some other appropriate person.

57. An authorised officer of the LEA (or where the responsibility is not delegated, the relevant Committee of the LEA) should complete, sign and date the statement after completing any necessary consultations with the other agencies involved in providing for the child. The language of the statement needs to be clear, concise and jargon-free. Precise reference to the child's current educational attainments and general development is needed to enable progress to be monitored, reviewed and reassessed against specific aims and objectives.

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58. Regulation 10 of the 1983 Regulations prescribes the contents of a statement and, in the Schedule, sets out the form of the statement that should be used. Annex 2 to this Circular shows the format of the statement. A common and consistent format for writing statements, using the same 5 headings and numberings shown below is desirable, otherwise two problems may result:

i. the statement may be misinterpreted when the child transfers between LEAs; and

ii. the Courts may find difficulty in applying accepted case-law interpretations.

Regulation 10(2) allows for variation to the form of the statement shown in the Schedule; what is important is that it should be accurate and communicate its meaning unequivocally to parents and teachers.


59. This will identify the child and the parents and the Social Services Department if the child is in their care. Mention should also be made of the statutory provision under which the statement is made.


60. In reaching its conclusions, the LEA will have considered the following information:-

i. educational, medical and psychological advice,

ii. any evidence from the child's parents,

iii. any material provided by a DHA or SSD,

iv. any other relevant advice.

Where a statement results, copies of all these documents must be appended to it, since all this information forms part of the statement. Where the advice of the professional advisers is in accord and the LEA adopt this as their assessment, they should state this in Section II of the statement together with a summary of the child's needs and functioning. They should indicate that their decision is in accordance with the advice, and may use references such as "see appendices". They must ensure that what they are adopting makes sense, is clear and unambiguous, and is not internally contradictory. Where there is any doubt or conflicting professional advice, the LEA should state in Section II their decision about special educational needs, and the reasons for it.

Section II must detail the child's SEN. It should include reference to all SEN identified, whether or not the LEA feel able to make provision for those needs in Section III. There may be cases where in the interests of meeting the child's needs effectively it is helpful to use diagnostic terms in the Statement or supporting advice. The 1981 Act, while it abolished "categories of handicap", does not rule out the use of such terms. It may be helpful to refer to specific disabilities but the statement should nevertheless go on to amplify the nature of the child's educational needs.

Section Il should provide a summary of the material outlined in paragraph 18 and include:

i. a description of the child's functioning - what the child can do as well as what he or she cannot do, and

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ii. details of the educational and developmental objectives the child is expected to achieve, stating which are short and which longer-term.

61. The LEA are legally bound to provide whatever is specified in Section III, which should specify in detail the special educational provision that they consider appropriate for the special educational needs identified in Section II. It is important that this information should easily be understood by all those involved in the child's education, including the parents, so that they know exactly what is required. Statements that fail to specify in detail what provision the particular child requires are of little use to parents and to the professionals who are to act upon them. Provision should be specified in terms of facilities and equipment, staffing arrangements, teaching methods and approaches. Where relevant, educational environment and access and, if necessary, transport should be specified.

Section III of the statement should specify, in accordance with Section 18 of the 1988 Act:

a) any exceptional arrangements modifying the application of the National Curriculum to the individual pupil. Modification may apply to the attainment targets, programmes of study, or to the assessment and testing arrangements, and

b) any exceptional arrangements disapplying any aspect of the National Curriculum from the individual pupil.

Where the exceptional arrangements apply only to specific foundation subjects or other aspects of the National Curriculum, these should be identified. If no modification or exemption is shown in Section III, maintained schools (except those established in a hospital) are obliged to offer all the subjects of the National Curriculum without modification for that pupil at a level appropriate to the pupil's ability unless the provisions of the National Curriculum are excluded or modified by virtue of other provisions made under the 1988 Act.


62. The LEA must describe in Section IV, not in Section III, 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 the child is to be educated otherwise than at school. Very often the named school will be the child's present school. Where a child has a statement, the provision made in Section 6 of the Education Act 1980 (the 1980 Act) requiring LEAs to comply with parental preferences in school admissions is overridden by the duties laid on LEAs in the 1981 Act to arrange for the special educational provision which the child needs. However, the general principle that pupils should be educated in accordance with their parents' wishes as set out in section 76 of the 1944 Act, continues to apply. The Secretary of State for Education and Science expects parents to take part in the consultations leading to school placements for children with SEN and to visit the proposed school where appropriate. Where a child has special educational needs, but no statement, the provisions in Sections 6-9 of the 1980 Act apply.

The LEA will wish to observe the parents' preference in choice of school for a child with a statement of SEN where they can, but they are not bound by the 1980 Act to do so. Where they have selected a school which is suitable to make the special educational provision which the child needs, they are not obliged to meet the parent's wishes for a placement in another school in their area, a school in another LEA, a grant-maintained school, a fee paying school, or a school with

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particular religious or cultural affiliations, although they may be willing to do so. Note, however, that the religious or cultural affiliations of the child and his family may be relevant in considering how he or she will benefit in a school which does not share those affiliations. LEAs have powers under Section 3 of the 1981 Act to make arrangements for provision outside school. Parents may choose to have their child educated at their own expense. Where parents do so choose, the LEA must satisfy themselves that the parents' provision is able to meet the special education provision specified in the statement. If that is so, the statement need not specify a particular school. The school should be named in Section IV in all cases where the LEA are prepared to meet the cost.

Close consultation with the Social Services Department is essential in reaching decisions on the special educational provision and placements to be made for children in care or children under statutory or voluntary supervision. Where the child is placed by an LEA or a SSD or by its parents in a school which is not maintained by the LEA responsible for the statement, that LEA must keep the child's SEN under review at least annually.


63. Regulation 10(1)(c) of the 1983 Regulations requires Section V to provide details of any non-educational provision which the LEA consider advantageous to the child and which the LEA either propose to make available, or which the LEA are satisfied, by arrangement or otherwise, will be provided by the DHA, SSD or some other body. Although paragraph 83 of Schedule 12 to the 1988 Act amends Section 7(2) of the 1981 Act to make it clear that LEAs may provide such services, this does not remove any responsibility which rests with DHAs and SSDs. In the case of speech therapy provision LEAs should be aware that the High Court case of R. v Lancashire County Council ex parte CM (March 1989) ruled that speech therapy provision could be considered as either educational or non-educational provision. If a child is to be placed outside the area of the DHA where they are normally resident, the LEA will need to consult the "new" DHA in order to be satisfied that, if necessary, they will be able to make available any desired health service provision. It would also be helpful if the LEA gave them prior notification of the placement.


64. 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. If, after the parent of the child has been given the opportunity to exercise his or her rights, the LEA decide to make a statement, section 7(9) of the 1981 Act requires them to send a copy to the parent, to inform the parent of the right to appeal under section 8, and to provide the name of a person to whom he or she can apply for information and advice about the child's special educational needs. The Act does not prescribe the identity of this person but LEAs should ensure that the named person has sufficient knowledge and experience of the education service to be familiar with the kinds of difficulties encountered by children with special educational needs, and is likely to be able to establish good relationships with parents.

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65. Procedures under the 1981 Act include many opportunities for the discussion of problems and it is clearly desirable that disputes should be resolved informally and at local level where possible. Appeals to the Secretary of State for Education and Science should be seen as a last resort. LEAs are encouraged to refer parents to organisations which can help them with appeals, and to indicate where these services are available free of charge. Parents have the right to appeal(1) in the following circumstances:

i. If, after an assessment under section 5, the LEA decide not to determine the special educational provision, the parent can appeal in writing to the Secretary of State. LEAs must inform the parent in writing of this right of appeal. Under this section, the Secretary of State may direct LEAs to reconsider their decision.

ii. Under section 8, if a parent disagrees with the special educational provision specified in Section III, he or she may appeal to a local appeal committee which is constituted in the same way as an appeal committee under the 1980 Act. Some appeals by parents focus on the name of the school in Section IV. Section 8 is not directed to such appeals except where they are a consequence of an appeal against the provision specified In Section III since that provision must meet the needs of the child as set out in Section II. Any amendment to Sections II and III may have consequences for Section IV.

iii. A new provision under section 8, as am ended by paragraph 84 of Schedule 12 to the 1988 Act, adds to the parent's rights of appeal. Where the LEA amend the special educational provision in an existing statement, including the modification or disapplication of all or part of the National Curriculum, the parent may appeal(2) as described above and the LEA must tell the parent of the right to do so.

iv. Local appeal committees can either confirm the special educational provision in the statement or ask the LEA to reconsider the case in the light of the committee's observations. After reconsideration the LEA must tell the parent of their decision. If the parent remains dissatisfied, he or she may appeal to the Secretary of State who can confirm the specified provision; amend the statement so far as it specifies the special educational provision; make such other consequential amendments to the statement as are considered to be appropriate; or direct the LEA to cease to maintain it.

(1) Parents may also complain to the Secretary of State under Sections 68 or 99 of the 1944 Education Act if they disagree with the LEA's decision not to assess their child under Section 5 of the 1981 Act.

(2) Education Reform Act 1988, Schedule 12, paragraphs 84 and 85 refer.

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66. Local appeal committees which are considering appeals under section 8 should include members who have relevant knowledge of the range of provision for special educational needs. Committees should be convened and conducted in accordance with the recommendations on procedural and constitutional practice included in the Code of Practice on Appeals prepared by the Council on Tribunals and the Local Authority Associations. Any reports presented to the Appeal Committee must also be made available to the child's parent who may seek disclosure of documents. Similarly any further evidence provided by the parent must also be made available to the LEA who should ensure that it is passed to the Appeal Committee.

67. When the Secretary of State is considering appeals under section 5 and 8, the LEA and the parent will each have the opportunity to present their version of the facts and be enabled to comment on all relevant material presented to the Secretary of State by the other party.


68. Paragraph 5 of Part II of Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act requires LEAs to review statements at least annually. Reviews should normally be based on reports prepared by the school the child attends and should include where appropriate the views of teachers and other professionals who work with the child and the assessments made under the 1988 Act with reference to the National Curriculum. The views of the child's parents, and wherever practicable those of the child, should be included in formulating the outcome of the review and their attendance at reviews encouraged. The review should check whether the provision prescribed in the statement is meeting the stated aims and objectives for the child and whether the school placement remains appropriate. For those in special schools, the option of a supported mainstream placement should be considered. Any amendments should be notified to parents. As the attainment targets and programmes of study for each subject of the National Curriculum are published, annual reviews will need to take these requirements into account and the need for any amendment to the statement will also have to be considered. Teachers will need to be made aware of any educational implications identified in the review.


69. A reassessment will normally be appropriate where there has been a significant change in the circumstances of the child. A reassessment may be made as a result of an annual review or in compliance with a request from the parent, who may be of the opinion that the child's needs have changed significantly since the previous assessment. A head teacher may institute a re-assessment of a child's special educational needs. It is open to the head to exercise his or her powers under Section 19(1) of the 1988 Act (as detailed in paragraph 10(iii) above) if he or she considers it essential to modify or disapply the National Curriculum while a reassessment is carried out.

70. In addition, Regulation 9 of the 1983 Regulations 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 reassess 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 provides the opportunity for the child, and all concerned with his or her future, to consider the arrangements to be made for the remainder of the child's time at school and for preparation for transition to adult life; and to determine the nature of the further education, vocational training, employment or other arrangements to be made.

(1) Details can be found in DES Circular 15/89, entitled "Education Reform Act 1988: Temporary Exceptions from the National Curriculum".

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71. Under Section 5 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, LEAs must obtain an opinion from the SSD as to whether a child is or is not a disabled person as part of the first annual review or assessment or reassessment after the child's 14th birthday. LEAs are required to notify SSDs 8 months before the date when a young person with disabilities is likely to leave full-time education, and to keep the date under review. SSDs are required to carry out a multi-disciplinary assessment within 5 months of the LEA notification unless the young person or parent does not want it.

72. Irrespective of the arrangements for statutory review or reassessment, schools should be sensitive to the changing needs or circumstances of their pupils, and LEAs and schools should be ready to allow for the possibility of transfers between schools to meet such changes. Paragraph 6 of Part II of Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act as amended by paragraph 85 of Schedule 12 to the 1988 Act requires LEAs to serve notice on parents of their proposal to amend or cease to maintain a statement, so as to give them the opportunity to make representations. In arriving at any decision, the LEA should take account of all the professional advice normally available to the child's school. The child's subsequent progress should be monitored carefully. If a child placed in a mainstream school is unable to make satisfactory progress, additional support or a return to a special school should be considered. Details of the parents' right of appeal if any changes ace made to their child's special educational provision are given earlier.


73. Regulation 12 of the 1983 Regulations (as amended by SI 1988/1067, The Education (Special Educational Needs) (Amendment) Regulations 1988) prescribes that when a child with a statement moves from the area of the LEA which made the statement (the old authority) to the area of another LEA in England or Wales (the new authority), the old authority shall transfer the statement to the new authority. They must also transfer any opinion they may have received under the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 that the child is disabled. Under the 1981 Act, the new authority have a duty to identify the child under section 4 and to assess his or her needs under Section 5. Where they propose to amend the special education provision to be made for the child, the new authority must serve notice on the child's parent under section 5(3) of the 1981 Act and seek the parent's views. 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. Schools are well-placed to make parents aware of the implications of their proposed move for the educational provision to be made for children with SEN in the new LEA.

74. 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 which made the statement should, if the parent agrees, send a copy of it to that authority or board for information. Reciprocal arrangements exist for the Scottish record of needs to be copied to LEAs in England and Wales.


75. Regulation 11 of the 1983 Regulations 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. Statutory purposes would include appeals under Section 8 of the 1981 Act. The child's educational interests would include the provision of information to the child's school

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and teachers. Feedback to contributing professionals is valuable both to future work with the individual child and for similar casework. Subject to the safeguards set out in Regulation 11(c), LEAs may also give access to the statement to persons engaged in research or studies on special educational needs. The arrangements for keeping statements must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that unauthorised persons do nor have access to them.

76. DHSS Circular LAC(88)1, DES Circular 2/88 and Welsh Office Circular 3(88) detail the impact of parts of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 on disabled young people leaving full-time education. As a result of the passing of that Act, the 1983 Regulations were amended by SI 1988/1067 so as to permit the disclosure by an LEA to a Social Services Department of the child's statement of SEN. This disclosure is restricted to those in the Social Services Department who need to know for the purpose of assessing the needs of that child with respect to the provision of statutory services under the welfare enactments as defined in Section 16 of the 1986 Act. Where information likely to prove distressing to the child is included, such as limited life expectancy or a prognosis of deteriorating powers, SSD officers are asked to treat that information in strict confidence. Whilst the Data Protection (Miscellaneous Subject Access Exemptions) Order (1987) provides that the contents of the statement when held on a computer do not need to be revealed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1984 Subject Access Provisions, this Order applies only to the LEA and cannot be relied upon by the SSD. However, the provisions of the Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Social Work) Order 1987 may be relevant, where the statement is held on computer for social work purposes. In these circumstances the withholding of information, on the grounds of potential harm to the physical or mental health or emotional condition of the child, is allowed.


77. The 1981 Act covers all children from birth to the upper limit of compulsory school age at 16, and any pupils over 16 up to their nineteenth birthday who continue to be registered pupils at a school. The National Curriculum, however, applies to children aged 5 to 16.


78. Section 10 of the 1981 Act places on health authorities a duty to inform the child's parent when they form the opinion that a child under 5 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 could be assisted by a particular voluntary body, they are under a duty under Section 10(2) of the 1981 Act to 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 encouraged to provide full information about their services to DHAs, SSDs and LEAs.

79. For children under 5, a distinction is made between those under 2 and those between 2 and 5. Under section 6 of the 1981 Act, a child under 2 may be assessed by the LEA if the parent agrees, and must be assessed if the parent requests it. Assessments for the under-2s 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 2, and the statement will not be subject to the provisions of section 8 of the Act. "Special educational provision" for a child under 2 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

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by social services and voluntary bodies are important in the educational context. Maximum flexibility will be required in order to meet the needs of the child in a way which also provides support for the family.

80. Section 4(2) of the 1981 Act gives LEAs responsibilities towards children with SEN from age 2 to the end of compulsory school age. The arrangements to be made for a child between the ages of 2 and 5 must comply with the requirements of sections 5 and 7 of the 1981 Act. The early identification of special educational needs is crucial for the young child with disabilities and/or delayed development since prompt and appropriate provision from the time of discovery can enhance the child's future progress. LEAs should give priority to children with special educational needs in admitting children to nursery provision. 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 the statement. Early speech and language difficulties are often associated with later learning problems. Careful observation and recording at the nursery stage can assist in later provision. Thus, liaison between the school health services, social services, family doctor, health visitor, therapist, or any other specialists, the parent, any voluntary organisation involved, and the teacher is important. Such specialists should work together with the teacher and parent in meeting special educational needs.

81. As part of the continuing assessment of provision for children under 5 with disabilities, many Local Authorities now operate Portage or other pre-school parent support and home-based learning programmes. Their clearly defined organisational structures and goal-orientated programmes have advantages, not only to the child in the most important developmental period of his or her life, but also to the parent in encouraging positive contributions to the child's development. Close cooperation and understanding between the parent and the providing agencies, education, health and social services, is integral to the success of such projects. Adaptations to Portage methods may be necessary to meet the needs of particular children, and especially those with visual impairment.


82. LEAs are required to maintain statements for young people over 16 if they remain at school, but not if they are in further education. Where an LEA considers it appropriate to forward an existing statement to a college which the young person is to attend, the prior permission of the intending student and the parent should be obtained. Sections 8 and 114 of the 1944 Act make clear that schools are institutions for providing education only up to age 19. The 1988 Act makes explicit, but does not extend, the duties of LEAs to provide full-time education for all who seek it, up to the age of 19, either in schools or in further education. This applies to all pupils, including those with SEN. The 1988 Act requires LEAs in securing the provision of adequate facilities for further education, to have regard to the requirements of persons over compulsory school age who have learning difficulties. Section 41(10) of the 1944 Act (as inserted by section 120(2) of the 1988 Act) refers. For all young people in education after age 16, LEAs and SSDs are reminded of their duties under Sections 5 and 6 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986.

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83. Where a statement under the 1981 Act has been issued, LEAs have a duty under section 7 of that Act to secure that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for the child. The school named in a statement may be an LEA maintained primary, secondary or special school within or outside the area of the home LEA, or it may be one of the types of school listed above. In the case of any of the schools listed, admission arrangements are the responsibility of the Governors and the Headteacher

84. Grant-maintained schools will be expected to follow the policy towards the admission of pupils with special educational needs which operated prior to their change of status. The governors and headteacher of a grant-maintained school must observe the requirements of the 1981 Act in respect of all their pupils. In fulfilling these duties they may be assisted by the educational psychologist service of the pupil's LEA; LEAs are responsible for providing this service to pupils at grant-maintained schools on the same basis as to pupils at other maintained schools. Where a child with a statement is admitted to a grant-maintained school, the child's LEA is responsible for providing direct to the school and pupil any additional support specified in the statement. This support may be in the form of grant to the school to enable it to make the necessary provision, or in the form of direct provision by the LEA of staff, equipment etc.

85. The LEA maintaining a child's statement have a duty to undertake annual reviews and the statutory 13+ reassessment of each child with a statement registered at one of the above schools. If the parent elects to make private arrangements for the child's placement, the LEA must ensure that the parent's arrangements are and continue to be suitable, and that reviews and 13+ reassessments are carried out.

86. LEAs have powers to pay for independent and non-maintained special school placements for children with statements where, for example, they are unable to meet a child's needs at one of their own maintained schools. They may make placements at independent schools only where the school currently has the approval of the Secretary of State for Education and Science under Section 11(3)(a) of the 1981 Act for the admission of children with statements, or where the Secretary of State's prior consent under Section 11(3)(b) to the placement of each individual child has been obtained by the LEA. The LEA have powers under Section 6 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 to provide assistance where the child has been placed in an independent school because of arrangements by the parents. In non-maintained special schools, independent schools and maintained schools established in hospitals, the 1988 Act does not require the National Curriculum to apply. The Secretary of State for Education and Science hopes, however, that such schools will wherever practicable seek to provide the National Curriculum, and any statement of special educational needs should make clear what curriculum is expected to be provided for the pupil and what modifications or disapplications apply. Where it is intended that the pupil will subsequently transfer to another school, it is essential to ensure continuity of curricular coverage and to minimise the disruption of transferring between schools.


87. Where a child is the subject of a care order, or is in the voluntary care of the SSD, the LEA must continue to carry out their duties under the 1981 Act. The two departments of the local authority must recognise the need to co-operate in the best educational, emotional and social interests of the child. To help to ensure the child's educational development, SSDs should consult

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the LEA in advance if practical and in any case should inform LEAs about every placement they make and should keep that information up to date. Every placement by an SSD in the independent school sector of a child with a statement should give full weight to the type of special educational provision needed as detailed in the statement. In their turn, LEAs should inform SSDs of the outcome of the assessment process for all children known to be the subject of a care order, in voluntary care, or supervised by the SSD, wherever the child is placed, whether at home or in residential accommodation, and should give full weight to the social and emotional needs of the child. The Children Bill proposes to strengthen these requirements by a system of statutory notifications. Guidance on this will be issued in due course.


88. The 1981 Act makes clear that a child should not be taken to have a learning difficulty because the language or form of language of the home is different from the language of instruction in the 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 or she 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 or indeed the nature and extent of his or her special needs. Authorities should ensure that the language in which notices are served on the child's parent is one with which the parent will be familiar or, failing that, a language for which he or she can readily obtain an interpreter. LEAs may find it helpful to make special arrangements to bring in a person with knowledge of the language and cultural background of the child and the parent in the various stages of assessment.


89. Where section 5 assessment procedures have been initiated for a child whose parent is serving in the Armed Forces, the LEA concerned is requested to obtain the parent's consent prior to notifying the Service Children's Education Authority (SCEA) using form SEN 1. This form gives SCEA advanced warning of children with SEN whom they might find difficulty in placing in Service schools should be sent to SCEA, together with a copy of the statement if one is made. SCEA may wish to obtain further information about the child's precise needs and it is expected that LEAs will assist with such enquiries. Copies of the special Form SEN 1 can be obtained from the Department of Education and Science.


90. Section 22 of the National Health Service Act 1977 requires health and local authorities including both education and social services to co-operate in exercising their respective functions, and it provides for the establishment of joint consultative committees to advise them.

91. Any new arrangements on the structure and organisation of the NHS will not affect the policies that have been established for the provision of services for children. Health authorities will remain responsible for discharging their responsibilities set out in this circular.

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92. The best means of collaboration for each locality needs to be settled locally, but in relation to child health services, Health Authorities should ensure that there continue to be appropriately qualified and experienced medical and nursing staff who would have among their functions specific responsibility for advising LEAs. They will have a crucial function in the process of assessment, in co-ordinating the advice of their respective clinical colleagues, and in acting as a point of contract 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. All services should therefore review their patterns of work and agreed procedures in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and delay and to help ensure that the appropriate professionals can be involved quickly at any stage




Enquiries on this Circular should be addressed to:-

CMPIC, Department of Health, Alexander Fleming House, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6BY (Tel 01-407 5522 ext 7715)

Special Education Division, Department of Education and Science, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1 7PH (Tel 01-934 9000 ext 9239)

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Annex 1



1 Description of the child's strengths and weaknesses

Physical State and Functioning
(physical health, developmental function, mobility, hearing, vision and continence)

Emotional State
(link between stress, emotions and physical state)

Cognitive Functioning

Communication Skills
(verbal comprehension, expressive language, speech)

Perceptual and MOtor Skills

Adaptive Skills

Personal and Social Skills

Approaches and Attitudes to Learning Educational Attainments

Sell-image and Interests


2. Factors in the child's environment which lessen or contribute to his or her needs

In the Home and Family, and including the language of the home

At School


3. Relevant aspects of the child's history



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1. General areas of development

(Reference should be made to the relevant attainment targets of the National Curriculum wherever possible.)

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)

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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 and Welfare Support. 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, privacy of continence care)
6. School Organisation and Attendance
(eg. day attendance, weekly boarding, termly boarding, relief hostel accommodation)
7. Transport

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Annex 2


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

Telephone No.

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.

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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),

(a) the special educational provision which the education authority consider appropriate to meet the needs specified in Part II.)

(Here specify, in accordance with Section 18 of the Education Reform Act, 1988)

(b) any modifications to the National Curriculum necessary to meet the child's special educational needs, in terms of programmes of study, attainment targets and assessment and testing

(c) any exemptions from foundation subjects (specify which)

(d) details to indicate how it is proposed to replace the exempted programme in order to maintain a broad, balanced curriculum.)

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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.



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Annex 3

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. Any representations from the child may also be included.)

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 - furnished by DHA designated medical officers

(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 : Non-medical information furnished by District Health Authority or information from the Social Services Department

(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.

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Annex 4


1 About the 1981 Act Procedures, and

2 About the 1988 Education Reform Act and its Implications for their Children

3 About complaints under the 1944 Act.

1. 1981 ACT

a. Definitions and Duties

Definitions of special educational needs, learning difficulties, special educational provision.

Procedures for children with SEN.

Duties of LEA to make and review provision for pupils with SEN.

Duties of LEA to provide for children under age 2 and under 5.

Duties of LEA to make integrated placements, subject to the caveats in Section 2(3).

Duties of LEA to make full-time provision up to 19 for all students, whether in school or college.

Duties of LEA under the 1981 Act for young people at school to age 19.

Rights of parents to contribute to assessments and inform discussions.

Rights of parents to have confidentiality.

b. Assessment

Rights of parent to request assessment. Need to prepare parents and to explain proposals to assess. The named officer contact.

Parent's right to a minimum period of 29 days within which to comment on the LEA's proposal to assess the child. Translations of procedures and meetings into other languages.

Duty of parent to submit child for assessment, and parent's right to attend such examinations.

c. Statements

Parent's right to see all the advice on the assessment of the child following a draft statement.

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Significance of proposed (or draft) statement and final statements.

Parent's right to a maximum of 15 days within which to make representations to the LEA on the draft statement.

Content of the statement.

Parent's right to receive a copy of the statement.

Consultation procedures.

Identification of any named persons or key workers

Annual reviews.

13+ reassessments and their significance for the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986.

Parent's right to make representations where the LEA propose to amend or cease to maintain a statement.

Procedures for a child with a statement moving into a new LEA area.

d. Appeals Procedure

Explain appeals procedure.

Right of parent to appeal where no statement is made.

Right of parent to appeal against the special educational provision in the statement.

Details of appeals committees.

Details of appeals committees' responsibilities.

Rights of parent to appeal to the Secretary of State

2. 1988 ACT

National Curriculum

Explanation of:

Subjects comprising the national curriculum

Attainment Targets

Programmes of Study

Testing and Assessment

Modifications and/or disapplications to the National Curriculum recorded in the Statement and alternative provision being made.

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3. 1944 ACT

Right of parents to complain to the Secretary of State under Sections 68 or 99 against an LEA which is acting or proposing to act unreasonably or in default of its duties under the Education Acts.


a. Statutory Bodies

LEA services, including the educational psychologist, the remedial teams, support teachers, ancillary workers and any other systems used by the authority.

Social Services.

District Health Authority Services.

Medical/nursing teams in schools.

Specialist District teams.

Information Technology Unit for handicapped pupils and students.

b. Voluntary Bodies

National and Local