Referring a child for a place in our school - what you need to know

Children without an education, health and care plan

Parents and carers who know their child is struggling in their current educational placement can work together with the team in the current school setting to determine whether there is a need for an education, health and care plan assessment or EHCP.  This assessment will be instigated by the school special educational needs co-ordinator or SENCO.  Each mainstream school has one, and they are the main point of contact for all parties in moving the process forward, but if the school are not on board, you can request one yourself.  Usually, if your child is struggling in school, staff who work with them along with parents or carers, will decide if there is a need for the local authority to complete an EHCP assessment.  Your child need not have a formal diagnosis for this to happen.  The evidence for this will be within their school staff team and their everyday knowledge of how they learn.  If your child is working with health professionals or has a social worker, they will be asked to give information about health and care too.  Similarly, if your child does have a diagnosis that doesn’t always mean they require an EHCP, many children who have a condition like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), cope very well in mainstream schools.  Often though, schools will be preparing for transition to primary, middle or senior schools and this may be the trigger for requesting an assessment, because they know the children are progressing in their current environment, but are worried about whether that will be able to continue in the next school setting.  The key for parents is to work with the school to make sure this happens in good time.  The evidence will already be with the school, as they are expected to provide a certain element of additional support to children who need it.  Once the Senco has filled in the form, you will be asked to contribute to it, adding key information about your child and their early life at home, special considerations and areas of difficulty at home.  Don’t worry, these reports are supposed to contain as much good information as possible, your child will be asked to contribute too.   It will take 16 weeks to assess and a further 4 to produce the report, and then annual reviews will be scheduled by the school.  In that time you may be asked to consider a school, a few may be suggested to you.  You could work with the existing school to see what they understand about the kind of things which may be on offer in the area, or you could speak to your special educational needs or SEN worker or research it yourself.  Most schools will allow a visit once the plan is completed or if they have space, you do get the chance to amend the plan to name a school.  In the entire process parental choice is given the highest priority, as long as the needs of the child can be met in the chosen school.  There are also processes in place if you disagree with the local authority’s view.  More information can be found on that here, in the Good Schools Guide website.  By all means, check the Ofsted reports, and parent view to see what others think about the school, but make sure to ask the school about both of these. 

Children with an education, health and care plan

Some might say the hard part is done, but actually, finding a school which matches all of the requirements on the plan is very difficult.  Lots of local authorities have their own state maintained special schools. There are also SEN units or ARPs (additionally resourced provision) or ARCs (additionally resourced centre) or some are simply called “the unit”, within or attached to mainstream schools, and then there are PRUs (pupil referral units) which are really assessment centres and are not intended to be permanent bases for any child.  We can throw lots more acronyms and initials at you on this subject, and sad to say that sometimes even we don’t know what they stand for.  There are also organisations like us, charity organisations who exist to improve the lives of children who are disadvantaged in a way which affects how they cope in mainstream education.  There are no borders for this, although we are in Newcastle, we have children attending our school from 13 different boroughs.  The LA (local authorities) special educational needs transport department ensures they arrive with us by taxi and are collected and dropped off at home at the end of the school day, as long as it is determined in their plan that they cannot travel independently. You can ask that your child’s plan be sent to specific schools, and you yourself can send on the paperwork to us along with any other reports, perhaps from health or CYPS.  Once we have that, we can establish whether we can meet the requirements in the EHCP and we would let the LA know how we can do that in a report, which will include the price they will be expected to pay.  If they agree with the proposal, a member of staff will then visit you and your child at home to break the ice, then arrange for you both to visit school for a look around.  We have also been known to organise transitional days as taster sessions, which can also help young people settle in.  No one will force your child to attend our school, our model only works if we have full agreement from both the child and the parent.  Happy children, happy parents, that is the goal.  Once the placement has been agreed with all parties, and transport has been organised, a start date can be arranged.

Assessment placements

These two sections represent most of our referral routes although we also work outside of these elements, say for instance if your child doesn’t have a plan yet, and also doesn’t have a school place at all.  In this case, we have taken children on assessment placements, so that their plan can be devised while they are in education.  There are many more scenarios we have accommodated in the past too, if you are unsure, just give us a call or ask your SEN worker. 

Useful Resources

Below there are some more resources which may prove useful:

This link is aimed toward children, its written for them:

This page will help you find the service in your area:


Finally, some of us in Talbot House Trust, have been through this process as parents, feel free to email or call if you would just like a chat with someone who has been through it.