Dorset Education Advice Line is a phone line for parents, carers and professionals who support children who may have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This advice line is part of our Local Offer to children, young people and families and will work alongside existing services such as SENDIASS and the Education Psychology helpline. 

Talk to your nursery, school, or college

Before you contact DEAL you need to have spoken to your child's nursery, school or college. If you are concerned about them this is the best thing you can do. We have listed common issues here with advice, as help will be available as part of a school’s Graduated Approach

What parents and carers are asking us

School refusal - my child is refusing to go to school some or most days

If your child is avoiding school talk to your school about what education they can provide at home or online.

It is their duty to provide education for your child. Ask your child’s school about what they can offer to support your child to reintegrate into the school and with their peers. The school could potentially offer a transitional timetable for a limited period, for example. There is further advice about school absence in the Local Offer if it's not possible to go to school.

Ask the school if they have noticed any changes in your child’s relationships with their peers, or any change in their presentation or behaviour. Ask your child’s school if they have taken up the Emotional Based School Avoidance (EBSA) training that is available through Dorset Council. If it seems that your child is not able to attend school due to their SEND, speak to the school about how they are using the Graduated Approach.

My child is struggling with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) and is often anxious or angry

If your child is struggling speak to the class teacher, the head of year or the head teacher about your concerns and ask them how your child is presenting at school.

If school is experiencing similar challenges with your child’s SEMH needs, ask the school about what kind of support they are putting in place to meet your child’s needs. For example, have they asked for advice from our Specialist Teacher Service?  
If you or the school think there may be a neurodevelopmental reason behind your child’s SEMH, is there a referral in place to the Paediatric Service? This would form part of a Graduated Approach
If you are struggling to support your child at home, you could email to request support of a Family Worker. This is a consent-based service aimed to improve understanding and support between family members. 

My child is due to change schools and I am concerned about how they will manage in the new environment

If you are concerned about how your child will manage at their new school, ask about arrangements for transition

Whenever a child or young person is due to change school, transition days should be arranged. This will involve your child visiting their new school to help them get used to the upcoming change. Your child’s current school and their new school should be communicating with each other so that any relevant information is shared with the new school, including any additional support your child needs. However, do contact the new school so that you can discuss your worries with them. Often the team at the new school will be able to alleviate the concerns you have. 
If you think your child may need more support to manage the change to a new school, speak to the new school about an enhanced transition and ask if they could offer any taster days or similar. 

I am worried that my child’s school is not offering them the support they need

If you think your child is struggling at school, academically or otherwise, it is important that you raise your concerns with the school in the first instance

This would either be with the class teacher, the head of year or similar. Tell them about your concerns and ask whether the school has any concerns and if there is any support available that they could put in place. It may be that short term support would be helpful, such as from an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) or similar to support your child with any emotional challenges they are experiencing. Sometimes the support your child needs will need to be in place for longer. This would form part of a school’s Graduated Approach

I am worried that my child is not achieving academically

If you are worried about your child’s progress it is important that you raise this with your child’s school.

This would usually be with the class teacher or head of year. The school should be able to talk to you about your child’s attainment and progress. 
If the school agrees that your child would benefit from additional support, they could put an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or similar in place to identify key areas that are challenging for your child and specific interventions needed to support these areas. The IEP should be reviewed regularly. The school could also ask for advice from Dorset Council’s Specialist Teachers or Educational Psychologists or could make referrals to other services that may be relevant to your child’s individual needs. This would form part of a school’s Graduated Approach

What we can help with

If you've already spoken to your school, college or childcare setting and need further help a special educational needs (SEN) Family Worker can talk through concerns you may have about:
•    academic development
•    social and emotional development 
•    transition concerns  (this is transition in the wider sense like Early Years to primary school, primary to secondary school or secondary school to further education or into the workplace)

Opening times

Our lines are open:

  • Monday to Friday
  • 10am to 4pm
  • term time only

Make an appointment

You can book a 30 minute appointment with one of our SEND Family Workers by using our online form, this is the quickest way to contact us:

If you aren't able to do so, contact us and someone can make this booking for you over the phone.

We will offer advice and show you where to find support. We cannot refer you to other services from this conversation.

We can also discuss the Graduated Approach with you during this call. The Graduated Approach covers what schools and educational settings can do to support your child.

The service is not able to help with queries about an existing education, health and care plan (EHCP). If your child has an EHCP contact your SEN Provision Lead.
For queries about health issues contact your health professionals like your GP, health visitor.

Dorset Education Advice Line (DEAL)

Tel: Freephone 0800 14 040 41
Full contact details