Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

Understanding your child’s needs can help them overcome barriers to their learning and reach their full potential.

If you think your child may need support at school, finding out more about their needs can help them to get the right support.

What does the law say?

The law says that local authorities must have a way of identifying which pupils in their area need additional support. They must also identify the particular needs of those pupils.

The law also says that, as a parent or carer, you have the right to ask for an assessment of your child’s needs. If your child is aged 12 or over, they may also be able to ask for an assessment themselves.

  • Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

    Factsheet explaining what local authorities, schools and nurseries must do to identify your child’s support needs, and your rights to request assessments of their needs.

How will staff identify my child’s needs?

Teachers and support staff will regularly assess your child’s learning. They will identify areas where your child is struggling through their own observations and things like the results of any class tests. They should also take account of any information you, your child, or other professionals give them about your child’s needs.

For many children, this will be enough information for school staff to work out what support your child needs. They can then arrange this support for them and keep it under review to make sure it’s working for them.

Sometimes, further assessment might be needed to help to work out why your child is struggling. This could be an assessment for a particular condition like dyslexia or autism. Some assessments involve other professionals, like educational psychologists or health professionals.

  • Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

    Factsheet explaining what local authorities, schools and nurseries must do to identify your child’s support needs, and your rights to request assessments of their needs.

I think my child has additional support needs, what should I do?

It’s best to start by talking with your child’s class teacher (if they’re in primary school) or guidance teacher (if they’re at secondary school). The school may already be aware of your child’s needs and be providing support. If not, you can ask them about the options available for assessing your child’s needs, so they can get the right support in place.

  • Working together with your child’s school

    This factsheet explains how you can have positive conversations with your child’s school or nursery, including advice for attending meetings about your child’s support.

How can I ask for an assessment for my child?

If you would like your child’s needs to be formally assessed, it can be helpful to put your request in writing. You can send it to the person responsible for additional support for learning in your child’s school (often a deputy head or principal teacher). You could also ask about assessment at a planning meeting. Your child’s school should involve you in decisions about assessments and in planning your child’s support.

If your child’s school or nursery does not agree assessment is needed, you can write to your local authority to ask them to assess your child.

You can ask for a general assessment of your child’s needs, or a specific assessment, such as an educational, medical, or psychological assessment. You should give the reasons why you think the assessment is needed.

Your local authority can refuse your request if they feel it is unreasonable. If they do, they must tell you why. There are steps you can take if you are unhappy with this decision.

Our factsheet on ‘Identifying and assessing your child’s needs’ explains in detail how to make a request for assessment.

If your child is aged 12 or over, they may also be able to ask for an assessment themselves.

  • Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

    Factsheet explaining what local authorities, schools and nurseries must do to identify your child’s support needs, and your rights to request assessments of their needs.

  • Rights of children aged 12-15

    Factsheet explaining the specific rights of children aged 12-15 with additional support needs to be involved in decisions about their education, and how they can use these rights.

What does assessment look like?

What the assessment will look like depends on your child’s needs. Some assessments can be done by staff at your child’s school or nursery. For example, a support for learning teacher may be able to do dyslexia assessments. Sometimes, other professionals may need to carry out the assessment. This could be an educational psychologist, a health professional, or a social worker.

Assessment can include:

•        observation in class

•        looking at a child’s class work or homework

•        gathering information from staff who work with your child

•        attending appointments at places such as child development centres or hospitals

•        observation at home

No matter what type of assessment your child has, your views and your child’s views should always be considered.

Does my child need a diagnosis to get support?

Your child does not need a diagnosis to be entitled to support. Schools must provide support to all children and young people who need it, for whatever reason. Depending on their needs, a formal diagnosis might help to understand what kind of support might help your child, but it does not change their legal rights. This means that if your child is on the waiting list for an assessment, they still have the right to support in the meantime.

Many pupils will also need support for reasons that do not come with a diagnosis, for example if they are being bullied, caring for someone at home, or if they’ve been bereaved.

No matter the reason why a pupil needs support, they have the same rights to receive help at school.

What are my rights if my child has been assessed privately?

Schools, nurseries and local authorities should take account of any information you, your child, or other agencies involved with your child can provide.

They do not have a duty to carry out the recommendations from private assessments. However, they should consider the information they can provide when planning your child’s support.

It’s always best to talk to the school before arranging private assessments. It’s also important to remember that you have the right to formally request assessments from your local authority. So if you feel an assessment is needed but it isn’t happening through the school, you could try asking the local authority first before paying for assessments yourself.

Our helpline team answered questions from parents and carers in a live Q+A session, watch it back here:

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