Families of children with special educational needs are facing a postcode lottery to get extra help at schools

BBC 5 live Investigates suggests many parents are refused an assessment.

David Neal had to fight to get help for daughter Grace
Figures from 125 councils in England and Wales obtained by a Freedom of Information request found a huge range in responses to assessment requests. On average half of all requests by parents to get help are turned down. The Local Government Association says standards are clearly set to try to meet the needs of each child. Around one in five children in England and Wales has special educational needs (SEN) and is eligible for extra help at school. The first step to getting help, over and above what can normally be provided in mainstream schools, is to request an assessment from the local education authority. A Freedom of Information Request relating to applications for an initial assessment found when parents asked for an assessment they were on average more than twice as likely to be turned down as a school or professional making the request. BBC 5 live Investigates contacted local education authorities in England and Wales and of the 125 which responded with figures from 2013/2014 - the last full academic year - the refusal rate for schools or professionals was 22%, but for parents it was 50%. There were wide variations between local authorities. Southampton City Council turned down all 16 parental requests it received. But the neighbouring city of Portsmouth, which received 13, refused only one. 16 other local education authorities rejected more than 75% of parental requests. But while Southampton turned down 100% of parental requests, it only refused 12% of all applications - below the average. A spokesperson for the council said: "Our processes follow the code of practice, which gives guidance to schools, colleges, local authorities and others on how they must carry out their duties under the new law." Other authorities such as Liverpool and Southwark turned down more than half of all the requests while Warrington and Wolverhampton refused just 1%. Southwark Council said: "Southwark is renowned for excellent schools and support for children with special educational needs." Liverpool City Council insisted each application is carefully assessed by an expert panel and that the authority "operates an early intervention policy to support schools... avoiding the need for parents and carers to go through a bureaucratic and lengthy process." See our advice on education. Read more of this story on BBC website.
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