The School Admissions Code (Dec 2014) requires children with SEN to be treated fairly and schools must not refuse admission on the basis that they do not feel equipped to meet a child’s needs. For parents however, simply being assured as to your legal rights is only half the battle. You want to find the right place where your child can thrive and be confident that a new school or college will provide the right environment to give your child the best possible chance to do just that.
The key for a smooth transition is preparing early! Notwithstanding the deadlines imposed for carrying out assessments, the reality is that this process can take months so pre-empting, being vocal and holding authorities to account is all part of the transition process – know your rights!
If your child has an EHC Plan there are key dates as to when the Local Authority should review in readiness for a move:
15th February Post 16 and any other transfer
31st March Secondary schools
The review may result in an amendment to the EHC Plan and the young person or parents are then given 15 days to make representations about the content of the Plan.
The naming of the school or college is often a contentious issue and the process of choosing a school differs depending on whether your child has an EHC Plan or not.
Parents have the right to request a particular school and the Local Authority can only refuse this request in specific circumstances. If your child has an EHC Plan the schools admission criteria is certainly not one of them!
The only reason the local authority can refuse your request is if:
- The setting is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs (“SEN”) of the child or young person; or
- The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others; or
- The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient use of resources.
If your child does have an EHC plan, only in exceptional circumstances should your child not be educated in mainstream school. However, if your child has SEN but no Plan, identifying the appropriate school with the right level of support can be a challenge and therefore with a move pending, it may be necessary for you to request an EHC needs assessment to determine whether your child needs a Plan.
As stated above, early planning really is fundamental to the entire process. Appoint yourself as the project manager and proactive! We recommend you review provider’s website and have a list of questions ready to determine whether the level of SEN provision really will be sufficient to meet your child’s needs (see our Top Tips!).
The SEN Information Report is always a good starting point but of course, visiting a placement and getting a feel for the place and having a good rapport with the school’s SENCO is crucial – if there is anything positive to take from the alarming press reports and recent Panorama broadcasts, what is written in reports and on websites can often be misleading and therefore visiting a proposed placement and chatting with parents is the deciding factor on whether the placement will be right for you and your child.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s move and the level of support that will be available, contact Debbie on 01926 354704 for a free initial consultation.