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School admissions of children with special educational needs and disabilities

This article gives an overview of the school admissions process, with and without an EHC plan. It also covers admissions outside a child’s normal age group and in-year transfers between schools.

Last reviewed: 02/11/2020
Information owner: Admissions and Access Team/SENDSARS

If your child has SEND but no EHC plan

An Education Health and Care (EHC) plan is a legal document which describes a child or young person’s educational, health and social care needs and the specialist provision required to meet those needs. EHC plans are issued by local authorities for children and young people with significant needs who need more support than a mainstream school can normally provide through existing resources. More information

If your child does not have an EHC plan, you can only apply for a place at a mainstream school or college, and you must follow the normal admissions process. More information about the admissions process in Sheffield

Please note: For oversubscribed schools, applications will be prioritised using a set of categories, such as living in the school catchment area, or having siblings at the school. Medical, social or special educational needs are not considered one of the priority criteria, but can be used as a tie breaker within a priority category. Such needs will only be considered if you submit supporting evidence from a professional, such as a hospital/doctor’s letter or report, before the closing date for applications (see timescales below). The Admission Committee will consider whether only the preferred school can meet your child’s needs, and may prioritise your child within their admission category if they believe that there is compelling evidence to do so.

It is unlawful for an admission authority to refuse admission to a child who has SEND, but has no EHCP:

  • because of the child’s challenging behaviour (except in very limited circumstances); or
  • because it believes the child should be assessed for an EHC plan or because they need a lot of extra support.

Any such refusal to admit can be challenged through the appeals process.

Timescales 2020/21

  • Primary school admissions: closing date for applications 15 January 2021, offer date 16 April 2021
  • Secondary school admissions: closing date for applications 31 October 2020, offer date 1 March 2021

How to appeal

You are entitled to appeal for a place at any school which your child has been refused. The appeal panel is independent of the Local Authority and can offer a place at a school that is “full”.

You must complete an appeal form for each school you wish to appeal for. You can download this form here.

The appeal panel can only consider the reasons (and any supplementary information) which you gave on your original application.

If your child has an EHC plan

Children and young people with EHC plans are placed in schools through the EHC plan process, not the general admissions process.

You have a legal right to request that a particular school or college (mainstream, special or Integrated Resource) is named in your child’s plan. The local authority will ask you which school you prefer your child to attend when they first issue an EHC plan for your child, and also when your child is due to move to a new setting (e.g. from primary to secondary school). You can give more than one preference.

Once you have expressed a preference, the local authority must consult with the school or college and must name it in the EHC plan unless:

  • It is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the child or young person, or
  • The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources. (The “efficient education of others” exception cannot be used in relation to mainstream schools or colleges if there are reasonable steps that the school or college could take to ensure inclusion.)

Once a school or college is named in the child or young person’s EHC plan, that school or college must admit them (exceptions apply for independent schools).

Timescales

If your child is due to start school or move schools, the local authority will ask you to complete a preference form well before the normal admissions deadline. In 2020, parents were asked to express their preferences by 30 September (primary-to-secondary transfers) or 16 October (children starting primary school). This is because the local authority needs time to consult with schools.

They must then issue a final EHC plan naming the school or college your child will transfer to by the following national deadlines:

  • 15 February for children transitioning from nursery to primary school, infant to junior school (Y2 to Y3 with a physical site move) or primary to secondary school (Y6 to Y7)
  • 31 March for young people transitioning from secondary school to post-16 education (Y11 to Y12 / college), and for Y14 placements

How to appeal

If you disagree with the choice of school or college named in your child’s plan (or other aspects of the plan), you can appeal to the SEND tribunal. More information

It is also advisable to contact SENDSARS (see below) to see if the disagreement can be resolved without having to go to tribunal.

Education outside a child’s normal age group

Parents can make a request for their child to be educated outside of their normal age group; for example, if the child is gifted and talented or has experienced problems such as ill health. In addition, parents of summer-born children (i.e. those born between 1 April and 31 August) can request to defer their child’s entry to school by a whole year.

If the request is made when applying for a school place, the decision rests with the admission authority (usually the local authority or an academy trust). The views of the head teacher of the school concerned must be taken into account.

If a child is already on a school roll, it is for the head teacher to decide how best to educate them. This may, on occasion, include deciding that a child should be educated in a year group other than the one indicated by their age. Such decisions should be based on sound educational reasons and be made in consultation with parents.

Parents should be aware that there is no guarantee that the placement in a different age group will continue throughout the child’s education. More information

School-to-school transfers and in-year admissions

For children without an EHC plan, parents wishing to move their child to a different school outside the normal admissions round should complete a mid-term transfer form. This is available from their child’s current school in electronic form, and needs to be signed off by that school.

For children with an EHC plan, the parents or the current school should contact SENDSARS and request an emergency review of the EHC plan.

For children newly arrived in Sheffield, parents should contact the Children Missing from Education Team. If a newly arrived child has an EHC plan, then parents should contact SENDSARS instead.

A parent must never be encouraged or pressured into transferring their child to another school in order to avoid an exclusion or because the current school is of the opinion that the child’s needs cannot be met. This practice is unlawful and contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act.

Useful contacts

SSENDIAS (Sheffield SEND Information Advice and Support): Provides impartial information, advice and support to parents of children with SEND, including in relation to appeals and SEND tribunals. 0114 273 6009 / ssendias@sheffield.gov.uk

SENDSARS (SEN Statutory Assessment and Review Service): Deals with statutory assessments, EHC plans, annual reviews and specialist placements. 0114 273 6394 / sendassess&review@sheffield.gov.uk

School Admissions Service: 0114 273 5766 / ed-admissions@sheffield.gov.uk

School Appeals Service: 0114 273 4008 / schoolappeals@sheffield.gov.uk

Children Missing from Education Team: 0114 2736462 / ed-missingchildren@sheffield.gov.uk

Last Updated: 08/02/2021
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