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Some children attend special schools, typically, when they have the highest levels of need and an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

If you think that mainstream isn't right for your child because of their level of need, you might want to think about requesting a special school place. The Hertfordshire special schools admissions guidance (PDF 291kb) will help you with this decision.


Even if your child meets the admissions guidance for a special school or college, you have the right to choose mainstream education if you would prefer. By law, the level or complexity of their needs is not a reason for refusal of mainstream.

We (Hertfordshire County Council) can only refuse mainstream if the steps the school would need to make the classroom compatible for your child, are not reasonable, without affecting the education of others in the class. For example a school in an old building which can’t be adapted for a wheelchair user.

How the placement process works

1.   If you are thinking of requesting a special school placement for your child, the first thing to do is to discuss it with your child's SENCO. They know how your child's needs are met in their current school and they will be able to talk to you about the guidance for special school places, and talk through your views on your child's school placement.

2.   After you have discussed it with your SENCO, you can contact your SEN Officer.

The SEN Officer is the person who manages your request for a special school. They arrange for your request to go to a panel, and they handle the consultation process which occurs after.

3.   The process for requesting a special provision happens when an EHCP is made for the first time, and during a annual review of your EHCP, as this is the time when you can name your preferred setting in the draft plan. You can ask for an early annual review.

Provision panels

We (Hertfordshire County Council) are responsible for the decision to place a child or young person in a special school or a specialist provision.

4.   When you request a specialist placement, a provision panel made up of professionals across all areas considers individuals with an EHCP and makes a recommendation on the most suitable type of placement for them. The provision panel don't decide on a particular school for your child, they just decide on the type of setting which will best meet the needs of your child.

Placement panel

5. The placement panel identify and monitor all placements for individual children and young people as identified by the provision panel.

In most cases, only children with an EHCP will be admitted to special schools or specialist provisions in mainstream schools. In some cases however, a child may be admitted if they have just moved into the area from a different county, and an Education, Health and Care assessment has started.

How provision panels make a decision

There are different types of special schools, and each one has its own guidance for who they will take. We've described the different types of special schools we have in Hertfordshire:

The panel use this special schools admissions guidance (PDF 291kb) Opening a new window as guidance for making a decision about whether a child or young person would be suitably placed in that type of school. They use this guidance alongside case studies of children who have done well in these settings.

When making a decision, the provision panel consider:

  • evidence of your child's areas and level of need
  • assessment information from you, your child's school and other services and professionals

If you are applying for a Yr 7 place in a secondary school, assessment information from Yr 5 will be reviewed because this is the information that will be featured in the annual review report used to inform the decision about secondary school placement.

Panels happen regularly, and your SEN Officer can tell you when your case will be presented to the panel.

Your SEN Officer will let you know the outcome of the panel.

Contacting the schools

4.   Once the panel have identified a type of special school for your child, your SEN Officer will 'consult' the nearest school to you of that type, and also the school you have named as your preference in your draft EHCP (as long as it is the right type).

This means they will send the schools information about your child to see if they can meet their needs and if they have a place for them. By law, the schools must respond in 15 working days, and your SEN Officer will keep you updated.

If the school agrees that they can meet your childs needs, they will reply back and there will be an agreement between Hertfordshire County Council, the school and you. This will include plans for helping your child to get to know the school and have a positive start to their education and time there. 

If the school feels that they cannot meet your child's needs, they will write a response with an explanation for why they feel they can't meet the needs of the child, even with reasonable adjustments.

If the school you wanted doesn't have any places available, your SEN Officer will speak to you about the next steps.

What is the guidance for exiting a school?

If your child is progressing really well, or not making progress, then this may signal that they would do better in a different type of setting. This could be a return to a mainstream school, or a move to another type of special school that will better meet their needs and provide a more suitable peer group. Changing between special schools would mean a change to section F of the EHCP. The Hertfordshire special schools admissions guidance (PDF 291kb) will also help you with this.

0300 123 4043 - Hertfordshire County Council customer call centre

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