Choosing and naming a school in an EHC plan

Getting started

Most children with SEND will go to a mainstream school and are often supported by the Local Offer.

If you are considering a special school for your child, we advise you to also research local mainstream schools at the same time so you can compare what they can offer which will help you make your mind up. We understand this can feel overwhelming for parents. The more information you gather, the easier it will be to make your decision. 

Find out about schools in Suffolk

Applying for a mainstream school in the normal year of entry (reception, primary or secondary places for September)

Even with an EHC plan, if you intend to apply for a mainstream school you should follow the normal application process as it helps the local authority and school with planning places. You can read about the process at www.suffolk.gov.uk/admissions.

The application form for a school place asks you whether your child has an EHC plan. This information is then shared by admissions with the local authority Family Services Team who manage EHC plans.

See below for the formal legal process which applies when you receive a draft (new or amended) EHC plan:

 

Suffolk Specialist Admissions Process

If your child is already in school with an EHC plan,  Annual Review provides the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns about whether their current setting remains appropriate. 

During discussions you might agree to a referral into the local authority's Specialst Admissions Process for consideration for a place at a special school, unit, or alternative provision such as a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). 

There is a deadline each term with a subsequent panel meeting, where the local authority reviews the referrals received and decides on places offered. 

Read the Suffolk Specialist Admissions Process Guidance

See below for the formal legal process which applies when you receive a draft (new or amended) EHC plan:

Legal process for requesting a school to be named in an EHC plan

When you receive a draft EHC plan you will be asked which school you would like your child to go to. The law says that when an EHC plan is first issued or when the local authority writes to you with proposed amendments (at annual or early review), you have 15 days in which to respond to the draft and request a particular school to be named in the plan. This includes requesting a special school (maintained, academy or free).

'Specialist Units'

Suffolk County Council are developing a range of Units attached to mainstream schools, the first are due to open September 2020. Units offer smaller environments or class sizes and some have a particular specialism. 

These 'Specialist Units' are categorised in law as mainstream provision, and not specialist as the name suggests. 

The law only allows for a school, college or other institution (see below) to be named in section I of a plan, and does not allow for a Unit to be named. In this circumstance we would suggest you request that the school (to which the Unit is attached to) to be named in section I of the plan, in addition to asking the local authority to specify the 'Specialist Unit'. 

 

Requesting a particular school:

Depicts a gavel - hammer used by a judge

The SEND Code of Practice says:

"The child’s parent or the young person has the right to request a particular school, college or other institution of the following type to be named in their EHC plan:

  • maintained nursery school
  • maintained school and any form of academy or free school (mainstream or special)
  • non-maintained special school
  • further education or sixth form college
  • independent school or independent specialist colleges (where they have been approved* for this purpose by the Secretary of State and published in a list available to all parents and young people)” (9.78)

Decorative border only

Reasons the local authority can reject your request:

Depicts a gavel - hammer used by a judge

The SEND Code of Practice says:   

“If a child’s parent or a young person makes a request for a particular nursery, school or post-16 institution in these groups the local authority must comply with that preference and name the school or college in the EHC plan unless:

  • the school or other institution is unsuitable for the age, ability aptitude or special education 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” (9.79) 

Decorative border

 

Read more in 5th dropdown below 'Requesting a school and what happens next'

Parents and carers tell us they don't know where to start and it feels such a responsibility receiving a draft EHC plan and being asked which school you would like to name.

You may find it difficult working out the type of setting your child or young person might need and finding the 'best match' can be really challenging.

An example of this might be where a child's academic attainment is in line with others of the same age, but they have social and emotional or communication needs which is affecting their confidence, self-esteem or mental health in general.

Special schools

Special schools are particularly designed to support pupils with additional needs. Some special schools may take pupils with a particular diagnosis such as autism, or may be adapted to support children with physical disabilities, whilst other schools will take pupils with a wide range of needs.

They will usually have much smaller classes and specially trained teachers as well as a higher staff/pupil ratio. A special school may have speech therapists, occupational therapists or other professionals based within the school who work closely with teaching staff. There may also be specialist facilities such as play equipment or computer software, and the environment may be designed with the needs of its pupils in mind.

Specialist Units

Suffolk County Council are developing a range of Units attached to mainstream schools, the first are due to open September 2020. Units offer smaller environments or class sizes and some have a particular specialism. 

A Specialist Unit attached to a mainstream school is categorised in law as mainstream provision

It is important to ensure that the provision in section F of the plan matches what the Unit you are requesting can offer. 


Some things to consider:

What's in the EHC plan

Look at the outcomes being sought and special educational provision. Which school (or type of school) would be:

  • best placed to provide the special educational provision in section F of the plan.
  • most likely to help your child achieve the outcomes laid out in the plan

Schools are required to publish a SEN Information Report, these can be a useful starting point if you want to compare school's generally for how they support pupils with SEN and what resources are available. 

If you are wondering whether a special school might be appropriate, look for anything in the plan which suggests a high ratio of staff to students, or anything in the plan or accompanying reports suggesting your child would benefit from a specialist environment.

Use this opportunity to check the specialist reports which fed into the EHC plan process, there may be some findings which help you decide on a setting. If you spot anything in these reports which you feel should be in the plan, or you think of anything you would like to change or add you can let the local authority know when you send your form back.

What progress your child is making?

Consider their current support plan and the progress being made towards targets. Sometimes this is referred to as aIEP, a pupil passport, or provision map. If you have any questions about their support plan and/or progress talk to the SENCO in school so you can be clear.

Your child's views

Draw from what they have told you and their experiences from their current school; are they happy and settled?; have any difficulties emerged which are related to the setting or the type of setting they attend?

What is the view of their current school?

Are they already providing the level of support outlined in the plan? If not how are they going to provide what's in the plan?; If they believe your child's needs can be best met at a different type of school, why?

Try to visit schools on your shortlist

This isn't always possible for special schools but you could phone or email them so you can discuss your child's needs and the provision set out in your child's draft plan. You might be able to find out some information which will help you decide such as:

  • The curriculum followed and qualifications children are entered for
  • The range and nature of the needs of other children in the school/year/class
  • The physical environment of the school - would it suit your child?
  • The children you saw when visiting and how they were being taught, the classes, or the staff and facilities available etc.
  • Consider any therapies specified in the EHC plan and whether any of the schools you are comparing have in-house expertise. 
  • Behaviour policy and how it may suit your child
  • Prospectus & Ofsted report

You know your child best and will be well placed to weigh up the plus and minus points about each setting. You may not find a setting which is the exact fit so focus on where would be the 'best match'.

Some Independent schools have also opted in and are included in the lawful list of schools you can request.

View the list of approved independent schools and colleges, known as 'section 41' schools

For an Independent school not on the list, you can ‘make representations’ (request and give your reasons) for it to be named. The local authority must consider your wishes but there is no conditional duty to name even if the school can offer a place. They will only name an independent school where a place has been offered.

Where the local authority reject your request, they will be relying on one or more of the reasons shown above (s9.79 of the SEND Code of Practice 2015)

Often the reason the local authority reject a request for an Independent school is due to costs (the third of the reasons 'incompatible with the efficient use of resources'). They will name a school in the EHC plan they believe is suitable and if you disagree you will have the option of appealing.

Decorative with a gavel to depict law

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:

Children with EHC plans can attend more than one school under a dual placement. Dual placements enable children to have support from a mainstream and a special school. This can help to prepare children for mainstream education and enable mainstream and special schools to share and develop their expertise in supporting children with different types of SEN. In order for a child with SEN who is being supported by a dual placement to be deemed as being educated at a mainstream school they should spend the majority of their time there. (9.85)

Decorative only

An example might be where a child attending a special school has made good progress, and it is felt they may benefit from more opportunities to develop their social or communication skills. If you think your child or young person would benefit from a mix of mainstream and specialist education, you can discuss this with their current school and with the Family Services Team at the local authority. 

Yes. A parent or carer can choose to educate their child at home, this is known as 'Elective Home Education or EHE'. (If your child is currently attending a special school, you will need to get permission from the local authority before they can be removed from the school register).

Depicts gavel, hammer used by a judgeThe SEND Code of Practice 2015 says: 

Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, parents have the right to educate children, including children with SEN, at home. Home education must be suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and SEN. Local authorities should work in partnership with, and support parents to ensure that the SEN of these children are met… (10.30)

Decorative border only

Deciding to educate your child at home can be a rewarding choice for many parents, but it does require a lot of dedication, hard work and patience.

Schools must not try to persuade parents to educate their child at home by way of avoiding exclusion, or due to poor attendance. 

Equally if you are trying to avoid prosecution for attendance, if your child is refusing to go to school or is at risk of exclusion, electing to home educate is not necessarily the answer.

Take your time to find out as much as you can so you can make an informed choice.

Read our section 'choosing to home educate' for more tips and advice

How do I ask for home-education to be named on the plan?

You can request to home-educate your child when you respond to the draft new, or amended plan, from the local authority which asks you which setting you would like to request to be named. 

It can be helpful to also include your views about why you have made this decision.

Provided they are in agreement that you can provide a suitable education, they will make it clear that you are electing to home-educate in section I of the EHC plan (this is where the school or setting gets named).

Read the information from Suffolk including how to contact the Elective Home Education team.

What about the provision in the plan?

The Local Authority (LA) has no duty to provide education (or secure special educational provision outlined in an EHC plan) for your child if you have elected to home-educate, provided they are satisfied the arrangements you have made are suitable. (s42 Children & Families Act 2014)

Where they feel the provision provided by the you is not suitable the local authority must make arrangements for the special educational provision laid out in the plan.

The local authority will retain responsibility for maintaining the plan for example carrying out annual reviews. As you will be assuming responsibility to educate, you must carefully consider how you can provide what your child needs.

The commissioning body are still responsible for any health care provision detailed in an EHC plan though you can make your own alternative arrangements for health provision too. 

Requesting a school to be named

When the local authority write to you with the draft plan there will be a form with the letter titled:

'RESPONSE TO THE DRAFT EDUCATION, HEALTH AND CARE PLAN'. 

Within 15 days of the date of the letter, you will need to return the completed form to confirm you agree or disagree with the EHC plan and including your preferred education setting.

Sometimes the local authority will allow some extra time, perhaps to allow you to make a school visit or get some advice. However, they are expected to comply with the legal deadline for issuing a plan so they may not be able to.

Specialist Units

The law only allows specific types of settings (school, college or other institution - not units attached to a school) to be requested to be named in section I of a plan.

If you would like to request a specific Specialist Unit we would suggest you request the school (to which the Unit is attached to) to be named in section I of the plan, in addition to asking the local authority to specify the Specialist Unit. 

It is important to ensure that the provision in section F of the plan describes the support that is required to meet your child's needs, and that there is a clear link to what the Unit you are requesting can offer. 

What happens next?

Provided it is a type of setting listed in the box above (s9.78 of the SEND Code of Practice 2015), the local authority must consult with the setting asking if they can meet the needs of your child, giving them 15 days in which to respond.

The local authority must consider any response from a setting very carefully before deciding whether to name them in the draft EHC plan. 

Can the Local Authority refuse to name my chosen school on the EHC plan?

The local authority may only reject your request to name your chosen school where:

  • The school or other institution is unsuitable for the age, ability aptitude or special education 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” (SEND Code of Practice 2015, 9.79)

Mainstream education cannot be refused on the grounds it is unsuitable or too expensive. They can refuse on the grounds that it would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, but only 'if there are no reasonable steps that it could take to prevent the incompatibility.’ (s33 of the Children & Families Act 2014)

Where the local authority do not agree with your request for a particular school (due to one of the reasons above) they must name a school they think appropriate, or a type of school they think would be appropriate.

You should receive a final EHC plan within a maximum of 20 weeks of the initial request for an EHC needs assessment’.

Where a nursery, school or college is named in an EHC plan, they must admit the child or young person. 

Where you disagree with the school or type of school (or that there is no school) named in an EHC plan, you have the right to mediation and/or appealing to the SEND Tribunal.