Can a local authority refuse to consider an independent report?
An education professional asks:
A number of schools use my services as I a qualified Specialist teacher. I am also a Developmental Psychologist with specialism in ASD, ADHD and DCD.
Just recently I wrote a report to help a school apply for an EHC. However, the LA wrote back and said that because I was not an Education Psychologist my report was not credible. I understand that an EP has to be part of the EHC process to assess need once it has been decided to go ahead with the process, however the EPs locally are out of capacity and so cannot do other assessments such as those needed to apply for EHCs.
Also, the schools are being told that because they are choosing to use independent professionals and not buy into their service they will be at the bottom of the list. Furthermore, on their Local Offer it states that Specialist teachers can write reports for application of EHC and top up funding.
Can I ask, with [a wide range of relevant qualifications], should the LA legally be taking my reports into account when applying i.e the first stage of an EHC or top up funding or can they legally pick and choose?
When assessing the need for an EHC assessment, the LA must seek advice and information from various people, including an Educational Psychologist (Regulation 6(3) of the SEN regulations. Therefore it is not acceptable for the Local Authority to not obtain the EPs advice even if they are busy. A qualified Specialist teacher is entitled to write an expert report and this may be submitted either because LA accepted it was appropriate and sought it: Reg 6(1)(f) or because a parent reasonably requested it: Reg 6(1)(h).
It is worth noting that the school should have consideration of all available reports at assessment stage - The Code of Practice at 6.45 requires the school in identifying a child who requires support to consider a number of factors to include advice from external support services. 6.61 details some of these types of support, but would include private reports obtained from professionals.
Thereafter if a request for a plan is made, the LA would need to then consider all advice and information available. Under 9,4 the LA should consider with professionals what advice they can contribute to ensure the assessment covers all the relevant education, health and care needs of the child or young person, as well as the views, wishes and feelings of the parent. If the parent views the privately obtained report as crucial then it would need to be considered by the LA.
The issue however is recourse if the LA fails to consider the privately obtained report. Whilst the parent (or YP) could argue it needs to be considered, the outcome may lead to a refusal to issue a plan, which would be an appealable decision and the Tribunal would thereafter be under a duty to consider all the documents placed before them.