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Choosing a setting

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.   

Choosing an Education Setting


When your child or Young Person (YP) doesn't have an EHCP (Education, Health, Care Plan)

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 exceptional circumstances.​


When choosing a suitable setting for your child without an EHCP, you could look at:

- School SEN Policy which must by law be published on their website

- School's SEN Offer. What provision do they make for children without Plans?  Do they provide speech & language therapy or occupational therapy? 

- What assessment system do they use to assess children who cannot access the national curriculum? How do they measure progress?

- What kind of reasonable adjustments do they make for SEN children?


Transitions for children / YP without an EHCP

If you are in the process of applying for an EHC needs assessment or are undergoing assessment for an EHCP,  for a child or YP approaching a transition from Nursery to Primary or Primary to Secondary or to a Post 16 setting, then you should apply for a school place through the normal local authority admissions process to ensure that your child/YP has secured a place. Please check the local authority website for admissions deadlines. 


When your child or YP has an EHCP

If your child or the young person already has an EHC plan, you or the young person would be able to state a preferred school or type of school during the drafting process or once the Plan is finalised, during each Annual Review.

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” here 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.


If named in an EHC plan the Local Authority must do this unless they can prove that one of the follow exceptions apply:

  1. the school or other institution is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person;

  2. the attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others;

  3. 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.

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 grounds that:

  1. the wishes of the child’s parent or the young person;

  2. that it is incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others.

The starting presumption is that everyone has the right to have a mainstream education. It applies not just to attending a mainstream school/college but also to taking mainstream courses.

Moving to a new Phase of Education with an EHC plan

New phases of Education are defined in the SEN and Disability Regulations 2014 "SEN Regs" as the key transitions in Education:

- Early years education to school;

- Primary school to secondary school;

- Secondary school to a post-16 institution.

Very often this process is called a “phase transfer”.
For children and young people with an EHC plan, they must have an annual review and their EHC plan must be amended and issued by:

(a) 15 February if you transfer from Early Yyears education to school and Primary to Secondary school 

(b) 31 March if the transfer is from secondary school to a post-16 institution

(c) If a young person is moving from one post-16 institution to another post-16 institution at any other time, at least five months before that transfer takes place.


For further information about naming a school in an EHC plan, you can visit the following IPSEA page on this matter.

Useful links