For children to get the right support in school it’s important their individual needs are known and understood.
“Assessment” is the term often used to describe the way a child’s additional support needs are identified. For most pupils, assessment is part of day-to-day learning and teaching in school. It starts in pre-school and continues throughout a child’s time in school. It is not a one-off activity, but a process of gathering information to get a picture of a child’s progress. It is usually done by teaching and support for learning staff in school.
Some pupils may have more complex needs, or some parents or professionals may feel a different type of assessment or examination is needed. In these cases, a specific assessment — educational, psychological or medical — may be needed. For example if there are concerns about a child’s mental health, an assessment by Child and Adolescent Health Services may be suggested.
Professionals assessing your child may observe them in class, speak to their teachers and review their work. They may also involve parents and carers at this stage.
If you think your child may need extra help at school, the first thing to do is to talk to their class or support for learning teacher or if they are in secondary school their guidance teacher. They may already be aware of your child’s needs and be providing suitable support. If not, you should talk to them about the available options for assessing your child. They may suggest that a professional, such as an educational psychologist, observes your child in class, speaks to their teachers or reviews their work. Everyone supporting your child should involve you and consider your views as part of any assessments.
Ask the school in the first instance. It can be helpful to put your request in writing to a senior teacher such or a deputy or head teacher or the support for learning teacher, or ask at a planning meeting.
If you have spoken to the school about your child's needs and they do not feel your child has any or disagree with what you think their needs are, you can ask the local authority to assess their needs.
You can also ask the local authority to carry out a specific assessment (such as an educational, medical or psychological assessment or examination). You cannot ask for a particular kind of assessment (for example, the type of test used), or for a particular person to carry it out.
Your request for a specific assessment must be in a format that can be kept for future reference (such as letter or email). You should send it to your local authority’s Additional Support for Learning Manager. You can find their details on our Find a Service resource or call our helpline on 0345 123 2303.
When requesting an assessment include:
- your name, address and contact number
- your relationship to the child
- a brief description of your child’s difficulties including how they affect their education, e.g. if they struggle to concentrate, have difficulty communicating, or are falling behind with their school work
- the child’s name, address and date of birth
- the pre-school or school they attend
- a statement that you are formally asking for a specific assessment or examination
- the reasons for your request.
You can also refer your child yourself or ask your GP or health visitor to refer your child to some agencies, such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy or mental health services.
A child does not need a formal diagnosis of a particular condition to receive support.
Although a diagnosis can help the school understanding a child’s needs and to plan support, if your child does not have a formal diagnosis support should still be put in place.
Schools and local authorities or councils should take account of any information that you, your child or other agencies involved with your child provide – including private assessments. They do not have a duty to meet any recommendations made in a private assessment.
- speak to a teacher at your child's school about their needs as soon as possible
- ask for a meeting to discuss your concerns
- ask the staff supporting your child to explain what they think your child's needs are
- put your request for an specific assessment in writing to the local authority or raise it at a planning meeting
- tell the school if your child is undergoing any other assessments, e.g. health assessments
- ask the staff at the school whether they will be explaining the assessment to your child or should you.
Possible conversation starters:
- I'd like my child to be assessed for dyslexia as we have discussed his learning difficulties for some time now.
- Can you explain how my child will be assessed?
- How will I be involved in my child's assessment?
- When will I find out the result of the assessment?