Applying for or choosing schools if your child has SEND

Most children with special educational needs can be taught in mainstream schools. If your child has more severe or complex needs they may need to go to a special school or school with a special unit. For a child to attend a special educational needs school, he or she will almost always have an Education, Health and Care Plan. You have a strong right to mainstream education if that is what you prefer.

In this section

> Applying for School

> School Preferences

> Guide and Prompts when choosing a school place

> Choosing a mainstream school

> Starting School

> Useful Links


Applying for school

Without an EHC Plan

If your child doesn't have an Education Health and Care Plan (or statement of special educational needs) then you should apply for a primary school place in the same way as other parents - through the general school admissions process. If your child is being assessed for special educational needs you should still apply for a school place in this way. If you don't apply for a place and your child doesn't get an EHC plan, then you may miss out on a place at one of your preferred schools.

With an EHC Plan

If your child has an Education Health and Care Plan (or statement of special educational needs) then The Integrated SEND Service will formally consult with a nursery, pre-school, school or college and then manage this admissions process. The provider we consult with has 15 days to say whether they can meet the child or young person’s needs as identified in the plan and deliver the provision as identified in the plan. EHC plan, the school named in it must offer them a place.


School Preferences

Education, Health and Care plans

If you are a parent of a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) or you are a young person over compulsory school age with SEND, you have a right to express a preference for the following type of educational settings:

  • a maintained school
  • a maintained nursery school
  • an Academy
  • an institution within the further education sector in England
  • a non-maintained special school
  • an institution approved by the Secretary of State under section 41

You can also make representations for other types of schools and settings, such as independent schools. Find links to websites that can help you find independent schools in the useful links section at the bottom of this page.

Statement of Special Educational Needs

If you are a parent of a child with SEN, you may express a preference for the following type of educational settings:

  • a maintained school
  • a maintained nursery
  • an Academy

You can also make representations for a placement in any other school or early years setting, such as a non-maintained special school. For Statements and EHCPs, you will need to express your preference or make representations to your SEN Officer. You can choose a school maintained by another local authority. If the placement named is not the nearest appropriate placement, Buckinghamshire Council will normally expect you to provide transport. Children with SEN may be entitled to transport even if they live within a 3-mile radius of their school. Find further information on the IPSEA website.


Guide and prompts when choosing a school place

The Buckinghamshire SEND IAS Service have produced a guide on choosing a school for your child. It includes tips and questions that you may like to ask schools.

Read the choosing a school for your child guide


Choosing a mainstream school

You should find out:

  • whether the school has experience of children with similar needs and what strategies have been effective
  • what the school's special educational needs policy is
  • how the SENCO passes information about children to teaching staff
  • how your child would be supported in class
  • how you'd be involved in your child's progress and development.

If your child has an EHC plan and you're unsure if a school is suitable for them, you can talk to your named officer.


Choosing a special school or school with Additionally Resourced Provision (ARP) or Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)

Special schools only take children who have a particular type of educational need such as visual impairment or physical disability. Some mainstream schools have Additionally Resourced Provisions to deal with particular needs. There are also Pupil referral Units - small units who support children/young people with particular SEN who cannot be supported in mainstream schools.

View map of Special Schools, ARPS, and PRUs.


Starting school

When you know what school your child will be going to you can speak to the headteacher or SENCO about your child’s needs. This will help the school to decide how to best support your child.


Useful Links

Buckinghamshire schools and early years settings 

School directory.

Independent Schools Council

ISC Search for Independent Schools and UK Boarding Schools.

School admissions for children with SEND 

A briefing from the Council for Disabled Children on school admissions, children and young people with disabilities or special educational needs.

IPSEA advice on choosing a school

Guide to choosing a school or college by IPSEA.

Information about schools GOV.UK

A register of schools and colleges in England. You can search for and download information on establishments, establishment groups such as a local authority, trust or federation or governors.

SEND information from local schools

You can find schools in Buckinghamshire and their SEND information on the Family Information Service website. Schools maintained by Buckinghamshire (or other local authorities) have to provide an Annual SEN Information Report. Schools sometimes schools call this their Local Offer.

Local Offer for SEND

Find information, advice, local services and inclusive activities available to children and young people who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) aged 0 to 25 years. The Local Offer for SEND is an accessible hub bringing together information from education, health and social care with support services and inclusive activities across Buckinghamshire.