How Far Behind Does She Have to Be?

“He is 2 years behind but the SENCo says he won’t ‘qualify’ for an EHC assessment.”  “School say she is doing well in set 3.”

It seems to me that this is misinformation and not in any way within the spirit of the SEN Code of Practice that all schools are obliged to follow:

The SEN Code of Practice is clear…

When identifying pupils with SEN, regular assessments “should seek to identify pupils making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances. This can be characterised by progress which:

  • is significantly slower than that of their peers starting from the same baseline
  • fails to match or better the child’s previous rate of progress
  • fails to close the attainment gap between the child and their peers
  • widens the attainment gap”

(Click here: Point 6.17, page 95)

No-where, anywhere, does it say that that before being assessed or accessing support they should be falling behind someone else’s idea of OK or of average. 

I can only imagine that the idea about how far ‘behind’ (or otherwise) a child is or ‘needs to be’ simply relates to the schools own performance targets.  Of course these are horribly stressful for school staff and often put undue pressure on them.  They are, however, completely irrelevant to YOUR CHILD.

Firstly, I imagine that systems have been devised by schools to cope with the demands placed on them.  That initially each child needs to show progress compared to their last assessment.  That if he/she doesn’t show progress, then to start with that can be fixed with some ‘generous’ recording or ‘a bit of extra help’ during assessments (we have all heard of children coming home reporting this during SATS).  Using this approach falling ‘behind’ can take years.  It seems to me that to fall far enough ‘behind’, to ‘qualify for support’ could take very many years of struggling.

Secondly, I imagine that the school has whole school targets, and that any child that falls off the bottom of these will be considered for extra help regardless of whether they are working at the right levels FOR THEM.

So, back in the world of SEN.  Point 6.1 of the Code of Practice states: All children and young people are entitled to an appropriate education, one that is appropriate to their needs, promotes high standards and the fulfilment of potential.  This should enable them to: ACHIEVE THEIR BEST.

Their best.  Not OK, low or high.  But what is right for them.

This brings me to a second hobby horse of mine.  Discrimination against brighter children.  Over and over again brighter children with disabilities that make it harder for them to learn: dyslexia, Asperger’s ADHD, Tourette’s are denied access to support on the grounds that they are not failing well enough.  Yes, they are able to achieve in the top 20%.  Yes, they are achieving at about 40% in some key areas.  They may be thoroughly miserable with plummeting self esteem, separated from their academic peers all day, but they are simply not failing badly enough.  They have to fall further.  A lot further, to qualify for help because of this artificial question of being x years behind.  BEHIND WHAT? And who says so?

I hope by now we have established that this idea that a child has to be ‘behind’ before they qualify for help is nothing more than an urban myth.  I think that the professionals telling us this believe it to be true.  However, it isn’t the case as far as I can tell.  It isn’t within the spirit of the SEN Code of Practice.  THEIR code of practice!  I also believe that this approach could be discriminatory in the case of brighter children who are always expected to struggle for longer and fall further behind their potential before they are believed and helped.

The first step to receiving help is to request a plan of SEN Support.  These are outlined on page 100 of the SEN Code Of Practice.

If you want to know more about requesting an EHC assessment click here

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5 thoughts on “How Far Behind Does She Have to Be?

  1. My son was bright. But he was disadvantaged by having a sister who was exceptional. She started school at 4yrs 3 mth with a reading age of 9. I was told that there was nothing wrong with him I was unfairly comparing him to his sister. I always believed there was an issue. He was labeled lazy, and was told to work faster..but he was in top sets and got good gcses, then a levels. He was 19 when he finally got a diagnosis. Not dyslexia but a specific processing issue that massively hampers his reading. he’s about to graduate in actuarial maths and it looks like he’s in line for a first. He was too bright. The signs were there. I saw them from when he was 5, there were lots of clues. He knew. Why did the schools not?

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