Living an unpredictable Army life can make keeping a regular and continuous support structure in place for your child tricky. If you add Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) into the mix, it becomes even more complicated. It’s vital that you get the right educational support from the start for your under-fives. Lucy Scott, AFF Education & Childcare Specialist, looks at who can help…
AFF has seen a significant rise in enquiries regarding SEND over the last year.
This could be accounted for by word of mouth – especially as we have set up new additional needs support groups in Aldershot and Tidworth to add to the one in Sandhurst (details at aff.org.uk) – but it may also be due to a different process of assessment that has been gradually introduced in the last few years.
Examples from Army families who have contacted us include:
- Trying to find a nursery/school place in an unknown area that offers the right support.
- Moving from one area of the UK to another and the paperwork not matching.
- Difficulty establishing a history of the child’s progress for a thorough assessment when they are unknown to all involved.
- Moving from overseas and the local authority not starting the process until the child is in the UK.
- Linking up previous and new support.
Do any of these resonate with you? If so, get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Part of my role is to raise your issues with the relevant people to see if policies need amending, or explaining in more detail.
I can also point you in the right direction for the many people and organisations who can offer support. AFF’s aim is to see more co-ordinated and timely support for every Army family in all circumstances.
All children learn and develop differently, but if you are beginning to have concerns about your child’s progress, speak to the nursery setting or a health professional.
Share your concerns and give examples. Your child’s nursery should be alert to any emerging difficulties and will involve you in any processes and assessments.
If you are living somewhere new with a child who has already been assessed for additional needs, it may well feel like you are starting again, but any previous assessment will be helpful in the future. Keep a file of letters and make a note of appointments and what was discussed.
A senior health professional once said to me at a conference that life timelines – such as meetings, milestones and events – kept by families about their children are invaluable. You, as a parent, are one of the few people who have known your child all their life.
It’s important to contact the MOD’s Children’s Education Advisory Service at DCYP-CEAS-Enquiries@mod.uk to discuss and register your child.
If you have a child with SEND about to start school next September, then it’s a good idea to get in touch with the prospective schools.
Gayle Wallace, a special educational needs co-ordinator from Hampshire, said: “All schools will have an SEN information report on their website, which will be linked to the local offer.”
Schools will do their best to support your child right from the beginning but it’s useful to understand that funding can take a while to arrive, particularly if you have started the moving process after the January admissions deadline.
- aff.org.uk (AFF SEN pages)
- specialneedsjungle.com (good flowcharts for EHC plans)
- gov.uk (search ‘SEN Code of Practice 0 to 25’. See chapter five for early years)
- Contact your local authority
Elsa, who has two boys aged eight and five, attends AFF’s Aldershot additional needs support group (second Tuesday of every month, term time). She told Army&You about her family’s experience in the hope that it may help others…
We moved within England last year with our two boys and there is a vast difference between the counties. We had hiccups along the way where we used to live, but things happened at a faster pace. We had face-to-face contact with everyone involved and there was a lot of positivity from all professionals.
It’s a far cry from where we are now. Finding a school place for my five-year-old son, even with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, has been problematic. I feel like the council has failed him. I have been constantly making calls, chasing emails, in meetings and proof-reading incomprehensible EHC plans.
Research, research, research. Don’t be afraid to get help. There are a number of organisations and charities available to parents. Turn down a school if it does not feel right – there are ways around it.
Is there anything you wished you had known at the beginning?
Yes. You would think moving around England from county to county with additional needs children would be the same system, but it’s not. Even with every bit of paperwork you can be told to restart a process. It can feel never-ending.
What’s the reality?
Every day you are constantly fighting for your children. You are their voice.
Has the pre-school helped?
I would love to mention every single member of staff. They have been behind my family since day one. The manager and my son’s key worker have been attending meetings, getting outside help, chasing emails and calls. In fact, going out of their way to ensure all paperwork was in line. We cannot praise them enough.
Under-fives SEN support
- A progress check when your child is two-years-old
- A health visitor check for children aged two-to-three
- A written assessment in the summer term of your child’s first year of primary school
- Making reasonable adjustments for disabled children, such as providing tactile signs.
Nurseries, playgroups and childminders registered with Ofsted follow the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. Talk to your nursery’s special needs co-ordinator, or, if your child isn’t at nursery, a doctor, health adviser or childminder can tell you what support is available. If your child requires more help, they may need an Education, Health and Care plan through your local authority.