Frequently asked questions (choosing a school)


We can't recommend schools to you, everyone's experience is unique and opinions will therefore differ. We would advise you to keep an open mind about the opinions of others and visit any school to form your own views before making any decisions.

By doing some research, asking questions and getting a feel for the school you will find you get an instinct for where you would like your child to go.

The admissions webpages explain the process of applying and what happens next.

Applications direct to foundation, voluntary aided, free schools and academies:

The school will check to see if there is a place available in the year group you have applied for.  If there is you will normally be offered a place and the school will write to you with the outcome of your application. 

If your application is unsuccessful then the letter must inform you of your legal right to appeal.  Some schools hold waiting lists throughout the year for all year groups and this information is available from the schools directly.  The school will let the Admissions Team at Suffolk County Council know the outcome of your application and you may want to contact them directly to discuss alternative schools at this point.

You should apply for a mainstream school place as part of the usual admissions process. This will ensure you secure a school place for your child regardless of the outcome of the EHC process.

You can find all Suffolk schools listed within the two Directory of schools (primary & secondary) which can be found within the admissions pages, also listed in the Local Offer, every child has the right to a mainstream education so this would usually be the starting point.

By researching and visiting schools, meeting staff and asking questions we usually find parents feel better placed to make a decision, we understand this can feel like an overwhelming responsibility for parents, particularly where a child has additional needs, and it can be helpful to talk this through with us.

If the Local Authority decide to issue an EHCP, you will be asked to name your preferred school at the draft stage and the local authority must consult with your chosen school (provided one of the approved types of school – see also 'with an EHC plan' page).

Schools (including academies and free schools) must have regard to the admissions code (see links below), the Equality Act 2010 and the 2014 SEND Code of Practice, chapter 6 outlines school responsibilities and chapter 1 explains the basic principles, which focus on inclusive practice and removing barriers to learning

If a school says they are concerned about their ability to meet your child’s needs, get as much information as possible as to what these needs are. You may find that you can explore with the school other means of supporting your child.  If they cannot offer a strategy a previous school provided, what could they offer instead which might have a similar impact?

Children and young people should be educated in mainstream* education in accordance with sections 33 & 34 of the 2014 Children and Families Act.

A *mainstream school is defined in section 83 of the Act as follows:

‘ “mainstream school” means—

 (a) a maintained school that is not a special school, or

(b) an Academy school that is not a special school;’’

It is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of disability (& other characteristics). Section 6 (85) of the Equality Act 2010.

An admission authority must not discriminate on the grounds of disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation, against a person in the arrangements and decisions it makes as to who is offered admission as a pupil. (School Admissions Code)

All mainstream schools receive money to provide SEN Support and can apply for additional funds for any child requiring a higher level of support, where this can be evidenced.  

Our leaflet ‘SEN Funding in mainstream schools’ explains this in more detail. Schools must not discriminate and are responsible for meeting the needs of every child in their school, sometimes this will mean making 'reasonable adjustments' or purchasing resources/planning individual support.

If your child has an EHC plan the special education provision (outlined in section F of the plan) must be provided.

Children normally attend school full-time in the Reception Year in the September following their fourth birthday.

All primary schools must offer children a full-time place at the start of the Autumn term in September. However, legally a child does not have to start full-time education until the term after their fifth birthday.

Whatever you decide, it is important that you apply for an infant or primary place by the closing date.

Teachers are trained to differentiate in the classroom to meet the needs of each and every child, in any class there is a wide range of ability and any support a child receives is targeted around needs. If you feel your child would benefit from repeating a year discuss with school and the Admissions team (and the special needs team where there is an EHC plan).

The local authority must make any decision based on the best interests of your child.

2.17A Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include taking account of the parent’s views; information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development; where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional; whether they have previously been educated out of their normal age group; and whether they may naturally have fallen into a lower age group if it were not for being born prematurely. They must also take into account the views of the head teacher of the school concerned. When informing a parent of their decision on the year group the child should be admitted to, the admission authority must set out clearly the reasons for their decision. (School Admissions code)

A school may refuse a place if they currently have a high proportion of children with challenging behaviour:

3.12 Where a governing body does not wish to admit a child with challenging behaviour outside the normal admissions round, even though places are available, it must refer the case to the local authority for action under the Fair Access Protocol 66. This will normally only be appropriate where a school has a particularly high proportion of children with challenging behaviour or previously excluded children. The use of this provision will depend on local circumstances and must be described in the local authority’s Fair Access Protocol. This provision will not apply to a looked after child, a previously looked after child or a child with a statement of special educational needs or Education, Health and Care Plan naming the school in question, as these children must be admitted. (School Admissions Code)

If you are declined a place the local authority should therefore be notified by the school via the ‘In-year Fair Access Protocol’ known as ‘IYFAP’.

Read the Suffolk Fair Access Protocol.

2.15 A parent can apply for a school place at any time on an in-year application form and it must be processed. Young people without a school place who are considered to be hard to place, will be referred to and allocated the most appropriate education provision by IYFAP. This is likely to be in a mainstream school unless there are legitimate reasons for refusing an application when places are available in a year group. It is anticipated that a mainstream placement will be the main allocated pathway. Schools must not take account of reports from previous schools about children’s past behaviour, attendance, attitude or achievement, or that of any other children in the family. (Fair Access Protocol)

3.7 If a school/academy refuses to admit a pupil under the terms of the Fair Access Protocol, the case will be returned to the next IYFAP panel meeting where the reasons for the refusal will be considered and either: another school/academy or Alternative Provision will be named or action will be taken either (a) for a direction letter to be issued to a maintained school; or (b) to seek a direction from the secretary of State for an academy. (Fair Access Protocol)

A parent unhappy about being declined a space may consider lodging an appeal Where a child has SEN and/or a disability we can provide support with this. If you feel your disabled child has been discriminated against you might consider a disability discrimination claim. Contact us for further advice about either of these options. 

Children without an EHC plan must be educated in a mainstream school, unless there are exceptional circumstances. (Code of Practice 1.27)

If your child has an EHC plan. the Annual Review would be the ideal time to discuss provision (what's in place currently and what might need to change) and appropriateness of school. You can request an early review where there are concerns and this provides you with the opportunity to share your views with the local authority. 

Consider whether fresh advice might be needed from an Educational Psychologist and discuss this as part of the annual review. It could be that fresh advice includes recommendations that the current school could implement, equally this advice may indicate that a specialist setting would be more appropriate.

You can research special schools listed in the Local Offer or within the Directory of schools (one for primary and one for secondary) found in the admissions pages to find out which school or schools might be appropriate for your child’s needs.

We would encourage you contact special schools directly to discuss your child’s individual needs and if possible arrange a visit, before you make any decisions.

See response to question 10 which outlines the Suffolk process. 

You may request a special school for your child as part of the EHC plan process, when you receive your initial draft EHC plan, and then following amendment at an Annual Review.

The local authority must consult with your chosen school, provided they are a type of school listed within section 38 of the Children & Families Act 2014.

Read more about the legal process of requesting a school to be named in an EHC plan, including the only lawful reasons a local authority can reject your choice.

As this is part of a legal process, you will have the opportunity of mediation and/or appealing if you are in disagreement with the local authority about the school named in the plan.

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

  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 lawful reasons a local authority can reject a parental request for a place at a school (within the prescribed list of types of school outlined in section 38 (3) of the C&F Act 2014).

A school being ‘full’ is not a lawful reason to refuse.

If, after consulting with the school, the local authority decide to reject your request and name another school or type of school, you will have the option of mediation and/or appealing to the tribunal within two months of receiving the final or amended EHC plan.

If you are requesting an independent (fee-paying) school it is likely you will need to appeal as there is no automatic duty for the LA to consult, unless the school is on the section 41 approved list of schools.

Contact the SEN team in Suffolk and ask to speak to a Special Needs Officer, your current or previous local authority will liaise and pass on your child’s file & EHC plan.

If you have identified a mainstream school you can apply by following the process outlined by the Admissions team – the process varies depending on which school and whether your child will be joining a school at a phase transfer stage or during the year.

It’s a good idea to contact admissions, the school and the Special Needs team as soon as you know you will be moving, to help with planning support for your child.

If you are seeking a place at a Special school when you move to Suffolk you will need to talk to your Special Needs Officer.

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