Accepting independent reports

Parent Question:

I am a psychologist working in both NHS and private practice for many years. I belong to a very sound professional group (Ass of Child Psychologists in Private Practice- AChiPP) and we had feedback from a member who had attended a JCQ training session where she learned that the schools will be encouraged NOT to accept independent reports commissioned by parents. We are all very concerned that this is very undemocratic for parents, limiting their choices and leverage and that it also violates the principles of the new SEN legislation that empowers parents. I was wondering what your thoughts on this matter are? Many thanks in anticipation.

ipsea answers

IPSEA answers.

Any report from a professional – whether they work for an LA, the health service or independently – has the same validity. Under professional codes of conduct my understanding is that an educational psychologist is pledging that they will do their job to assess a child’s needs, identify provision and make recommendations based on the individual child rather than any resources available to their employer or client. What is most important is: the amount of time the educational psychologist has spent observing and assessing the child; how often has this happened – e.g. a number of times over a period of years; and their use of their own expertise. Any LA that tried as a general rule to encourage the disregarding of independent reports –must therefore challengeable legally. All educational psychologists should be solely focused on the child they are working with, not policy or other political issues around them.

In addition, SEND Regulations 2014 reg.6(1) is clear that any professional that the LA seeks advice and information from during statutory assessment is expected to report on a child or young person’s needs, the special educational provision to meet those needs and the outcomes that can be expect to be the result. Any report from an educational psychologist that fails to this must be referred back to them for additional advice.

Further, the same regulation requires the LA to seek “advice and information from any person the child’s parent or young person reasonably requests that the local authority seek advice from”. The LA cannot then ignore this advice, but must (again under the same regulation) supply all other professionals involved with “any evidence submitted by or at the request of the child’s parent or the young person”. An LA must specify in a final EHC plan the special educational provision that needs to be put in place to support the child’s special educational needs. If a professional report fails to specify provision, i.e. make clear who is expected to do what, how often, for how long then additional advice must be sort. To not do so would fail the child.