Ask the school for a meeting to discuss your son’s special educational needs (SEN) and review his current support arrangements. If you can identify, with the school, that your son is not making progress and/or his needs have not been fully identified, then this supports your request for support from an outside professional. Schools are under a legal duty to use their best endeavours to ensure children with SEN have their needs met, and this includes appropriately identifying their needs. Many schools have limited access to outside specialists such as educational psychologists. However, this is not a reason in law to deny a child outside support.

Paragraph 6.59 of The SEN and Disability Code of Practice (the Code) says that “A school should always involve a specialist where a pupil continues to make little or no progress or where they continue to work at levels substantially below those expected of pupils of a similar age despite evidence-based SEN support delivered by appropriately trained staff.”

If assessment by a specialist indicates that ongoing support from outside services is required, it is important that the child and young person receives it as quickly as possible (paragraph 6.60 of the Code).

If the school will not agree, you could consider making a complaint to the governing body of the school (or the proprietor if it is an academy) on the basis that it is not using its best endeavours or following the guidance in the Code. If you decide to complain, keep the letter as constructive as possible, as it is important to try and maintain a good working relationship with the school.

You could also consider asking the local authority (LA) for an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment. When a child has unidentified needs which prevent them from receiving the right support, schools are expected to act proactively, which includes seeking advice from outside specialists. If a school does not have the resources to do this then it is an indication that an EHC needs assessment is required so that all of the child’s SEN can be properly identified, including the arrangements for meeting the identified needs. The test in law for triggering an EHC needs assessment is relatively low. The school suggesting that they cannot arrange outside support for your son implies that he may need provision to be made for him by way of an EHC plan so an assessment is likely to be necessary.

Schools can be reluctant to request an EHC needs assessment as they often believe they must follow their LA’s policy for requesting an assessment, which may be set at a threshold higher than the test contained in law.

Parents do not have to wait for the school to request an EHC needs assessment, and it is often better that they make the request themselves (you can find out how to request an assessment here).

In some cases, parents may feel discouraged from pressing the issue of requesting the school seek outside support, especially when the school claims to have limited resources and/or have other children in the school with greater needs. It is important to remember that you are acting for your child and although you may be sympathetic to the school’s reasons, this should not prevent you from pursuing the right support for your own child.