Transferring Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Children To Secondary School

Starting secondary school is a daunting time for any child, and for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) the move can be even more challenging.

Transferring Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Children To Secondary School

Preparation is important when trying to avoid some of the stress involved in transferring SEND children from primary school to secondary and this guide is designed to outline the main steps involved in transferral.

Designed as a general outline for transferring a SEND child to secondary school, this guide outlines:


Preparing A Child For Secondary School

With all of the changes and personal disruption involved in moving school, preparation is key for any child getting ready for the big move. With the added complexities of moving school for a child with SEND, additional time should be taken to prepare the child for transferral to secondary school.

It is recommended that preparation for transferral begins while the SEND child is still in year 4 of primary school, as this should give adequate time to find a desirable school and put in place everything required to make the process as stress-free as possible.

We recommend that preparation at year 4 mainly consists of looking at local schools and considering which is best equipped to provide for your child's SEND. Considering a variety of schools – including mainstream, special, and independent schools – will ensure that you do not limit your options.

You may have preconceptions about a particular type of school, but until you research your options in detail and arrange visits to local schools, you may not see the best option for your child.

Researching schools and listing the benefits and drawbacks for each establishment will help when the local authority become involved. If your child has a Statement of SEND or an EHC Plan, the local authority must ask you for your preference of secondary school before they make a decision on what to name. Therefore, by starting your research into schools early, you will hopefully be in a position to do this. When researching schools, try to find their SEND Information Report, which should outline the school's principles and highlight why the school's vision and aims are right for your child. You should find a school's SEN Information Report on their website, however it may also be held by the school's office.

There are online directories that can help when attempting to find schools that are suited to your child's needs and it is advisable to spend some time researching available options, as opposed to simply accepting the proposal put forward by the local authority.

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The Role Of Local Authorities

Local authorities play a big part in the transferral process to secondary school. In previous years a local authority would be responsible for maintaining a child's Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN); however Statements of SEN are in the process of being transferred to Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans.

With the introduction of EHC plans the role of local authorities has changed slightly, nevertheless their core responsibility of ensuring children with SEND get the best education possible remains the same.

Much like Statements of SEN, EHC Plans must be reviewed annually to ensure that they remain fit for purpose. While planning for the transition to secondary school, it is likely that a local authority will transfer your child to an EHC Plan, or if they already have one they may call an early review of the EHC Plan, however if they do not you can request an early review yourself. It is advisable to ensure that an annual review takes place in the summer term of year 5, or in the autumn term of year 6.

The local authority has a maximum of 20 weeks from the initial request to finalise and issue the EHC plan that specifies the child's secondary school; or in the case of Statements of SEN they have 26 weeks. Regardless of whether your child has a Statement of SEN or an EHC Plan, you should receive a final version, specifying the child’s secondary school, by 15 February in the calendar year of the transfer to secondary school.

Before the local authority finalises and issues the EHC Plan/Statement of SEN, they must issue a proposed first draft. This should not include the name of a school and they should ask for your preference of school. The local authority must comply with your preference of school, unless one of the following is applicable:

  • It would be unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the child; or
  • The child’s attendance at the school would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources

When planning for the transfer to secondary school, you should be consulted throughout and you should be invited to put forward your preferred school for the consideration of the local authority.

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Challenging EHC Plans

When moving to a secondary school it is section I of an EHC Plan, and Part 4 of a Statement of SEN, that outlines which school your child will attend. It is this section that is often challenged by parents, however parents can also challenge:

  • The description of their child's SEN
  • The SEN provisions outlined for their child

The most likely reason to raise concerns with an EHC Plan/ Statement of SEN revolves around a lack of detail, specifically with regards to ensuring a child's educational rights are protected.

Local authorities will usually place a child in a school closest to them that they consider suitable, however this is not always correct. If they wish to challenge an EHC Plan or Statement of SEN, parents must be prepared to highlight why the chosen school does not meet their child's needs. Parent will also need to outline what school, or type of school, would be more suitable, before listing the reasons why.

In some instances disagreements can be handled amicably between the local authority and the parents; this can happen via informal conversations or through formal mediation. In cases where there is a placement dispute it may not be possible to resolve this with the local authority. In such cases, an appeal should be lodged with an SEND Tribunal before the deadline to appeal expires.

SEND Tribunals can be a daunting experience, so getting a team of education law specialists involved can help prepare you and your case for the hearing. Prior to the Tribunal, evidence should be gathered to help build your case, and it may be appropriate to instruct independent experts to provide additional evidence regarding your child’s SEND, as well as and the provision and placement that they need.

Contact Us for Expert Legal Advice

If you would like to challenge a local authority over an EHC Plan or Statement of SEN, our team of experienced education specialists can outline the best process for your specific case, providing tailored advice on how to take your case against the local authority.

We're here to offer clear and practical advice, ultimately helping to ensure your child receives the best education and the best start in life.

Contact us today on 0808 129 3320 to find out how we can help you.


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Imogen Jolley - Education Law Solicitor | Simpson Millar| Lancaster

Imogen Jolley
Partner, Head of Education & Community Care

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