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Michael* is four years old and has just started in Reception. His mother used our Mediation service after the local authority decided not to carry our a needs assessment on him.
Michael was awaiting an assessment for ASD, has worrying spells of breath holding, and was receiving 1:1 support for the half days he was in nursery. His school said it could not provide the 1:1 support he needs for full-time in Reception. The local authority’s position was that Michael seemed to be making progress with the support he had received in nursery and that more time was needed for him to settle in Reception and for the school to implement and review the strategies recommended by various professionals before it would be clear that an EHC needs assessment was needed.
Michael’s mother attended the mediation with the SENCo of the school. The Head of SEN, the SEN case officer, and the EP attended on behalf of the local authority. It became clear that the school had submitted updated reports to the local authority but these had not been passed on to those attending, so after the mediation began a brief adjournment was held to allow the local authority representatives time to read the new reports.
Upon resuming, Michael’s mother described her concerns and explained that the breath-holding spells, which result in Michael blacking out briefly, are involuntary and are not, as the local authority had assumed, a behavioural issue. Michael has been assessed by medical professionals but there is no identified cause or treatment for these. It is expected that Michael will grow out of them.
The SENCo explained Michael’s difficulties in school and the support the school is providing. She was puzzled at the decision not to assess Michael, as she believed the evidence she had submitted (while Michael was still in nursery) clearly showed that they had implemented and reviewed the professionals’ strategies and that Michael had only made progress because of significant support that had been put in place. Michael currently was making a gradual transition to Reception but he would not be able to attend full-time without 1:1 support to keep him safe at all times.
The local authority explained that they believe more evidence was needed of the review of the strategies used in Reception, and suggested that an EP review would be necessary. Also, a professionals’ meeting was being held the following week, and the local authority thought it would be best to await the outcome of this and follow it up with a request for a review by the EP. They proposed that the school could then resubmit a request at that point, with this further evidence.
This proposal was not accepted by Michael’s mother and the SENCo, primarily because they believed the evidence was already there. Bringing in an EP to carry out a review would cause delay and also use the school’s EP time, which was already stretched. The EP’s report was within the past year, so they felt it was unclear why the local authority would be requiring an EP review before deciding to assess. Given the uncertainties in how long it would take for the EP to carry out a review, Michael’s mother would have to lodge her appeal in Tribunal in order to secure her right to challenge the decision.
Michael’s mother described the day-to-day difficulties with Michael and her sense of unfairness that although he was not yet of compulsory school age, he was missing out on the education his peers would be receiving.
The local authority agreed to carry out an EHC needs assessment. They explained the changed decision in light of having a better understanding of Michael’s needs.
*Michael is not his real name.