What does the law say?
Once we receive a formal request for a special or independent school as part of the EHC plan or annual review process, there are a number of steps that take place.
The criteria for decision making
Where you request a school or setting of the type named above, the law says that we are under a duty to name that establishment in the EHC plan, unless:
- It would be unsuitable to the age, ability, aptitude and SEN of the child
- The attendance of the child would be incompatible with the efficient education of others
For schools that are not on the list mentioned above, we are not under the same duty to name that school. However we must have regard to the general principle that children should be educated according to their parent’s wishes, so long as:
- This is compatible with the efficient instruction and training of others, and
- It does not mean unreasonable public expenditure
We need to consider all of these elements as part of our decision making.
How do we do this?
1. Consider suitability to age, ability, aptitude and the SEN of the child
We will liaise with the school in question. We will seek their views through a consultation that they are able to meet the SEN provision as set out in the child’s EHC plan. We will check in particular:
- The views of the governing body, principal or equivalent in meeting the SEND of the child/young person as set out in the EHC plan, and based upon any admissions criteria
- Whether the child/young person’s primary need falls within the school’s special educational needs categorisation
- The cognitive profile of the child in relation to the other children placed at the school. Whether they could access the taught curriculum and have a peer group
We do this through a termly admissions meeting with our maintained school, special academies and free schools.
Your request will be submitted for consideration at those admissions meetings. We do this so that all families seeking a special school place can be considered simultaneously. This ensures fairness in the admissions process and that places can be prioritised to children with the most complex needs.
For non-maintained and independent schools, the same criteria will apply, but we will do this in a direct consultation per child.
2. Consider incompatibility with the efficient education of others
This criteria is more of a factor in state funded provision, i.e. our maintained special schools, special academies and free schools. In Norfolk, our special schools are oversubscribed and all schools are currently over their number on roll. Our special schools generally operate with a maximum of six to 10 children in a class, but this depends on the needs of the children. For example, children with very complex needs such as learning difficulties with ASD, or children with profound and multiple learning difficulties requiring specialist equipment, have high adult to child ratios. Therefore there will be fewer children in a class compared to other schools.
Wherever possible we expect the school to adjust its arrangements to accommodate a new admission. However but this may not always be possible, for example when the school has significant limitations to expand the physical footprint of the school without building works. We consider very carefully the impact of admitting children over and above the school's maximum number on roll and consider the impact on the other children already attending the school. Where we consider the impact to be too great and that there are no reasonable adjustments that can be applied, we will not name the school in the child’s EHC plan.
Non maintained and independent schools will apply similar criteria and in most cases we are not under a duty to name the school. Nor is the school under a duty to admit the child.
3. Consider the incompatibility with the efficient use of resources
This criteria is more of a factor in non-maintained and independent schools, where the costs of placements generally exceed the same provision available in the state funded sector. For any request in the non-maintained and independent sector, we undertake a cost analysis of the school fees and any transport, against the costs if the provision is arranged differently (i.e. in a mainstream school). This will be particularly the case where it is our view that, with suitable adjustments and an inclusive ethos, the child’s needs could be met in a mainstream environment. Sometimes we will agree a place in any type of school, but with the condition that the parent is responsible for arranging the transport. This will be when we have deemed that the child’s needs can be met through a placement in a different school more efficiently, but would be prepared to name the school of preference if transport arrangements are met by the family.
The EHCP coordinator undertakes the cost analysis and the case is moderated by the SEN Placements Advisory Group. This group meets fortnightly. The group may require additional information to make its decision and this will always be communicated. We try to make decisions as quickly as possible and within statutory timescales.