Last updated: 26 Jan 2011.
Transfer from primary to secondary school for children with Special Education Needs can carry additional complications. You will find much helpful advice at Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA), or on the MENCAP website.
I consider children with statements below.
Children with SEN, but not carrying a Statement have at least the same entitlement to a place at the secondary school of their choice as any other child.
Many schools have an item in their oversubscription criteria giving priority for “Health and Special Access Reasons”. These usually specify that the priority applies to children whose medical or physical impairment means they have a demonstrable and significant need to attend that particular school. It is rare, without a statement, that this clause is activated at the normal admission round, and it is far more likely to be considered at appeal (see below).
No school is allowed to discriminate against a child who has Special Educational Needs, whatever their nature.
However, many parents are taken aback to discover at Open Evening that school swill often discourage them from making an application. This can be for one or more of the following reasons:
a) Children with learning difficulties may well have a negative effect on the school’s academic performance in an age when there is intense pressure to achieve maximum results (current government pressure is for all schools to achieve at least 40% of children with 5 A-Cs at GCSE including English and maths);
b) Each school is allocated funds for children with SEN, according to a formula that does not depend on the number of such children in the school. It is not required to use such funds for this purpose anyway. Thus the fewer children with SEN that need additional resources, the better off the school is financially;
c) If a school develops a reputation for being good with children with SEN, then it attracts even more children with SEN and this can affect its academic performance and its reputation amongst other families (a few years ago one school in Mid Kent saw this effect dramatically affect its academic performance until it marketed itself in a different way).
d) Some children, especially those on the autistic spectrum and with ADHD, have the potential to affect discipline within the school (one school in South Kent suffered this way when it became a lead school for autism under the short lived change of policy to stop admissions to SEN Units, see Units).
None of this may reflect the school’s actual approach to children with SEN (which can still be excellent), and so parents should not be put off if there is initial discouragement, but make further enquiries (school SENCO, OFSTED Report, finding out the school’s reputation in this field from independent sources, talking to parents of other children with SEN at the school – possibly through support groups, etc).
School Appeals for Children with SEN
At this stage, the situation changes dramatically, for if a school is oversubscribed, the instruction to Appeal Panellists is to “consider whether the appellant’s grounds for the child to be admitted outweigh any prejudice to the school”. The school can comment to the Panel if there are reasons why that school in particular is inappropriate for the child (for example stairways in the case of a physically disable child), but is in peril of breaching disability legislation in doing so, and in any case, the Panel is independent of the school and will be positively looking for reasons why there are individual grounds for admission. Again, I am aware of one school with an excellent reputation for supporting children with SEN that actively discourages Appeal Panels from offering them places on appeal, but can be spectacularly unsuccessful in doing so.
Needless to say, I have considerable expertise and success at supporting families through such appeals, ensuring that delicate and often complex cases are presented in the most effective way.
Secondary Admissions for children with Statements of SEN.
These take place outside the normal admission process. Each school statement of SEN carries with it the name of the school which the child is to attend.
Where children have a Statement of Special Educational Need, the process of secondary transfer is completely outside the normal process and takes place earlier in the school year. KCC publishes information on its website.
All school Statements carry a named school on them, and when the child transfers from primary to secondary school, a new statement has to be prepared naming an appropriate secondary school, which can also be a Special School or SEN Unit attached to a mainstream school.
"Parents may express a preference for the maintained school they wish their child to attend, or make representations for a placement in any other school. LEAs must comply with a parental preference unless the school is unsuitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs, or the placement would be incompatible with the efficient education of the other children with whom the child would be educated, or with the efficient use of resources. LEAs must consider parental representations and arrange any meeting(s) with LEA advisers or officers the parents seek, before issuing the final statement. Unless a parent indicates that they do not want their child educated in a mainstream school (whether by expressing a preference or making a representation for a particular school or otherwise) an LEA must ensure that a child is educated in a mainstream school unless that is incompatible with the efficient education of other children".
The Local Authority is required to consult with the proposed school, and consider any representations they may make. However, the LA has the power to make that decision, whatever the views of the proposed named school, subject to the conditions above.The situation for an Academy is slightly different. If the Academy and the Local Authority cannot agree that the school is suitable, then the matter si referred to the Secretary of State who will make a final decision.
In other words, press for the school of your choice and if you can persuade the Local Authority of its suitability, you will be offered a place.
If you are unable to secure the school of your choice on the statement, then you have the right of appeal to the HESC Chamber (Health, Education and Social Care Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal, previously known as SENDIST. Don't be put off appealing by delaying tactics of the LA, and don't be frightened by what can seem to be a very formal process. Many parents will win appeals, or the LA will settle before the appeal is heard, without professional assistance (see Statements).