The variety of settings for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) range from local-authority funded settings – eg mainstream schools, special schools and ‘resourced provision’ in mainstream, to independent special schools.
Most children with SEND can have their needs successfully met in mainstream schools. All mainstream schools are provided with resources to support those with additional needs. According to the SEND Code of Practice 2015 (section 6.9) "All schools have duties under the Equality Act 2010 towards individual disabled children and young people. They must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage."
This is possible because mainstream schools have an amount identified within their overall budget, called the notional SEN budget to provide support to children and young people with SEND. They are expected to provide additional support up to certain amount however this is not a fixed amount. The responsible local authority, usually the authority where the child or young person lives, should provide additional top-up funding where the cost of the special educational provision required to meet the needs of an individual pupil exceeds the nationally prescribed threshold.
If your child or the young person has special educational needs and/or disabilities but no EHC plan, education will normally take place in a mainstream nursery, school or college. Children and young people without an EHC plan can be placed in special schools and special post-16 institutions only in the following exceptional circumstances:
where they are admitted to a special school or special post-16 institution to be assessed for an EHC plan with their agreement (in the case of a young person) or the agreement of their parent (in the case of a child), the local authority, the head teacher or principal of the special school or special post-16 institution and anyone providing advice for the assessment
where they are admitted to a special school or special post-16 institution following a change in their circumstances with their agreement (in the case of a young person) or the agreement of their parent (in the case of a child), the local authority and the head teacher or principal of the special school or special post-16 institution. Where an emergency placement of this kind is made the local authority should immediately initiate an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
where they are in hospital and admitted to a special school which is established in a hospital, or
where they are admitted to a special academy (including a special free school) whose academy arrangements allow it to admit children or young people with SEN who do not have an EHC plan
However, if your child or the young person already has an EHC plan, you or the young person would be able to name a preferred school or type of school.
It is a good idea to visit as many different types of school as possible so that you can see what is available and decide what features you think are important, and which setting can offer the right environment for your child’s or the young person's needs.
Please refer to our guide to "types of settings” for more information on the different types of education settings/schools.
When a parent or young person requests a -
maintained school – mainstream or special;
maintained nursery school – mainstream or special;
Academy (including Free school, Studio school or University Technical College) mainstream or special;
an institution within the further education sector in England – mainstream or special;
a non-maintained special school; or
an Independent Special school approved by the Secretary of State under section 41.
is named in an EHC plan the Local Authority must do this unless they can prove that one of the follow exceptions apply:
the school or other institution is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person;
the attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others;
the attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient use of resources.
These are the only reasons that the LA can reject a parent or young person’s request.
Once named in an EHC plan then the school/college must admit the child or young person.
For further information about this please see the IPSEA Briefing on Parental preference, Education, Health and Care Plans and ‘Framework Schools’ and our 'common misconceptions' briefing
Parents/young people have a right to have a mainstream school or college named in the EHC plan. This is an important right and the LA cannot deny this on the grounds that a mainstream school or college is not suitable and the child or young person should attend special school when it is not what parents or the young person wants. This is even if the LA view is supported by professionals.
The LA can only reject a request for mainstream education on one of two very limited grounds which are:
the wishes of the child’s parent or the young person;
that it is incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others.
As well as not including whether or not mainstream is suitable for the child/young person, costs are also not a relevant consideration. This does not mean that a child or young person has to attend a mainstream school or college if they do not want to but the starting presumption is that everyone can have a mainstream education. It applies not just to attending a mainstream school/college but also to taking mainstream courses.
For further information about naming a school in an EHC plan, you can visit the following IPSEA page on this matter.
This section of the Department for Education website offers a search tool for registered educational establishments in England and Wales. 'It provides information on establishments providing compulsory, higher and further education.' Please click to use the EduBase search tool.