Starting Secondary School When a Child Has Special Educational Needs

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The transition from primary school to secondary school can be daunting for both parents and their children. But this can be made worse when your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), as there’s the added worry of whether those needs can be met at a new school. However, this transition to a new phase of education isn’t as daunting as it may appear.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan), the Local Authority must carry out a transition review of their EHC Plan before they move onto secondary school. The transition review is carried out in a similar way to an annual review, looking at your child’s Special Educational Needs, the provision they require and whether the secondary school is able to meet your child’s needs.

Following this review, the Local Authority must issue an amended EHC Plan, either on or before the 15th February of the calendar year before your child is due to start secondary school. This amended EHC plan should name your child’s current school and the name of the secondary school your child will attend in the following academic year.

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Whenever the Local Authority issue an amended EHC Plan, you should be given the right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, against the contents of the plan and/or the placement named. For more information see How to Appeal an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

For legal advice get in touch with our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers.

Start Planning in Year 5

It’s important that the prospective schools you wish to be named as your child’s secondary school placement are aware of your child’s Special Educational Needs, and are able to meet your child’s unique requirements. It may be helpful to discuss during your child’s annual review in year 5 the secondary schools you may be interested in.

During your annual review, you will be able to speak with the Local Authority and obtain their views on the type of placement they believe would be suitable for your child. For example, would your child’s needs best be met in a mainstream secondary school or would they require a special school? These discussions will provide you with a clearer picture of the type of setting that your child will require.

If your child doesn’t have an EHC Plan, but does have Special Educational Needs that may require support by way of special educational provision, speak with your child’s primary school special educational needs coordinator or ‘SENCO’ to discuss your concerns. Your SENCO will be able to discuss with you the process of securing an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment if necessary and the schools in your local area that can support your child’s individual Special Educational Needs.

Alternatively, you can request an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment from your Local Authority yourself. This assessment will identify whether your child may require support to meet their Special Educational Needs and may result in an EHC Plan being created for your child. This process will also look at whether the school that your child has been offered for the next academic year can meet your child’s Special Educational Needs.

For more information see What a Good Education, Health and Care Plan Should Look Like.

Ensure Your Child is Prepared for the Transition

The transition process from primary school to secondary school isn’t only about finding the ideal school for your child, who can meet their Special Educational Needs.

Once a placement has been identified, it’s important to prepare your child for the transition. This includes a transition plan, which sets out the steps required to ensure your child’s start as secondary school is successful. Resources such as visuals, a visual timetable, comic strip conversations and taster sessions may help to settle your child before they begin secondary school.

Speak with your primary school SENCO if necessary during your child’s annual review to discuss the provision your child requires before they transition.

Moving from primary school to secondary school is a big step for any child. But having Special Educational Needs shouldn’t be a barrier for your child to succeed in this new phase of education. Support is available to ensure that your child has the same opportunities as their peers at secondary school.

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