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Most children with SEND will have their needs supported in a mainstream school. But for those children and young people with the highest levels of need, and an education, health and care plan (EHCP),  the most suitable setting is sometimes a special school.

The process of requesting a special school place for your child requires a lot of input from many different professionals, as well as yourselves, and requires careful consideration. If you think that a mainstream setting isn't right for your child because of their level of need, the Hertfordshire special schools admissions guidance (PDF 291kb) will help you with this decision.  (If you need an accessible version of this document, please email

How do places get allocated for special schools and settings?

If you think that your child's needs would be best met in a special school or setting, the first thing to do is to discuss it with your child's Special Educational Needs Coordinator  (SENCo). All settings must have a SENCo and they know how your child's needs are met in their current school and will be able to talk to you about the guidance for special school places, and talk through your views on your child's educational placement.

If your child already has an EHCP, the request for special school will be managed through the annual review process.  You can contact your EHC Coordinator to discuss what to do next. They will manage your request for a special school and will help you gather evidence to support your request. They arrange for your request to go to a panel, and will handle the consultation process which occurs after.

If your child does not have an EHCP, you will need to talk to your SENCo (or pre-school/nursery manager) about applying for an EHC needs assessment (EHCNA).  You can find out more about this process on our EHCP pages.  The evidence gathered for a EHC needs assessment is often also used as evidence for requesting a special school place.

Naming and contacting the schools

As part of the EHCNA or EHCP process, your EHC Coordinator will talk to you about the different schools in your area that would meet your child's needs.   

As a parent or carer, you can express a preference for a particular school and are encouraged to visit different settings to inform your preference. We encourage families to view their local schools, meet with the SENCo, or a member of the leadership team and discuss the individual needs of your child.  


Provision and Placement panels

The SEND provision and placement panels are where your child's draft EHCP will be presented by the EHC Coordinator and discussed by panel members, and where the panel will recommend the type of provision it feels is most suitable for your child. 

Gathering evidence for panel

Through the EHC needs assessment, the EHC Coordinator will work with you to gather all the information needed from different professionals. This evidence includes: evidence from professionals such as educational professionals, health professionals, educational psychologists, social workers etc. It is important that the evidence gathered is as thorough and detailed as possible so that the panel can decide whether an EHCP is needed.  If the panel agrees that your child requires an EHCP it will create a draft EHCP using all the available evidence.  If a draft EHCP has been issued you will be asked to confirm which school or setting you wish to be named in the EHCP. If you request a specialist setting then this draft EHC Plan and the evidence used to write it is presented to panel. 

Annual reviews

If your child already has an EHCP, the school or setting will hold an annual review meeting and you should be included in this process to ensure all available evidence is used to review the EHCP.  They will then submit the paperwork to us to determine whether to maintain, amend, or cease the Plan. If a change of placement is requested this will then be presented to the panel by the EHC Coordinator. 

If you are applying for a Year 7 place in a secondary school, assessment information from Year 5/6 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.

The SEND provision and placement panel meetings

The draft EHCP (or proposed amended EHCP) will be presented to the SEND provision and placement panel by the EHC Coordinator (EHCCo). 

The SEND provision and placement panels consider requests made for: 

  • Bespoke packages of education
  • Specialist Resource Provision
  • Special school place
  • Independent & Non-Maintained School
  • Personal Budgets
  • Education Otherwise Than at School
  • Any other request that may require a multi-agency discussion and recommendation

Provision and placement panel meetings take place in 4 different areas of the county, with a SEND panel manager allocated to each area: 

  • Pamela Radford – North Herts and Stevenage; DSPL 1 & 2
  • Laura Tolley – East Herts, Broxbourne, Welwyn & Hatfield; DSPL 3,4 & 5
  • Sophia McClymont – Hertsmere, Watford and Three Rivers; DSPL 6 & 9
  • Alice O’Rourke – St. Albans and Decorum; DSPL 7 & 8

The panel meetings are held every fortnight to discuss the requests.  The panel meetings are chaired by the SEND panel managers. 

A range of multi-agency partners will be invited to attend the panel to contribute to the decision-making process. Panel members include representation from special schools, mainstream schools, Health, social care and Education Advisors.

How the panel decisions are made

The SEND provision and placement panel considers every request on an individual basis.  The decisions they make are based on the evidence provided and the following law and regulations:

  • The Children and Families Act (2014)
  • The Education Act 1996
  • The Equality Act 2010
  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (2014)
  • The Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations (2014)
  • The SEND Code of Practice (2015)
  • SEND and alternative provision improvement plan: right support, right place, right time (March 2023)

When making a decision, the provision panel consider all the evidence of your child's strengths and needs which the EHC Coordinator has gathered to support your request.  They will also consider any responses from school consultations.

There are different types of special schools, and each type has its own guidance for the type of provision they offer and which pupils would be most suitably placed. 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.   (If you need an accessible version of this document, please email

The decision of the Provision and Placement panel

The panel will make a decision on the type of provision which will best meet the needs of your child.

The panel's decision will normally be issued a few days after the panel takes place and your EHC Coordinator will contact you to let you know the outcome.  They will tell you the type of setting that the panel has identified to best meet your child's needs and confirm which schools will be sent a consultation. They will give you reasons for the decision and will tell you what the next steps are in the process. They will also inform your child's current school/setting of the decision. 

If you haven't heard about the outcome from the panel after 5 working days, you can contact your EHC Coordinator.  Alternatively (if you haven't had a response from your EHC Coordinator), you can contact the team lead.

Find out more about contacting the SEND Team.

Consulting schools

Following the panel meeting the EHCCo will send a formal consultation to the school the panel has identified as the most suitable school to meet your child's needs.  Consultation will also be sent to your preferred school (if it's different). 

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

The schools will reply to us to confirm whether or not they feel they will be able to meet your child's needs. If the school feels they cannot meet your child's needs, they will write a response with an explanation for why they feel they can't meet their needs, even with reasonable adjustments. 

The information received from the consultations with the schools will then be considered by us in order to decide which school should be named in the EHCP.

If your child cannot be placed immediately 

Sometimes a child might have to wait before a place becomes available at their requested special school.  For some types of setting, the child will be admitted to the school for the next academic year. For others (for example, special schools for Learning Disabilities, Severe Learning Disabilities, and Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs) children sometimes have to wait longer.

If there are no places in the local special school identified by the provision panel, then the panel will outline the next steps for your child (details of these next steps will be shared when you receive the outcome letter from the panel). Your child's needs will be considered by a team of professionals with SEND expertise who will advise on how your child can be best supported whilst they wait for a place to become available. This might include:

  •  input from specialist outreach teams (where a professional from a nearby special school visits the mainstream school to support and advise them)
  • support from specialist advisory teachers
  • extra funding for the mainstream school to help them to support your child in class

There is a team of specialist placement officers whose job it is to monitor the places available in special schools.  They look ahead to work out where places will be available in the future, and they make sure that these are allocated as quickly as possible, ensuring that all children waiting for a  special school place are considered.  They have a monthly meeting with schools to review the places and will keep your EHC Coordinator informed.   

If you're not happy with the provision named in your child's EHCP

A request for special school can only be considered through the EHCP process - either as a new assessment, or part of the annual review. If you're not happy with the type of provision named in your child's EHCP, you can ask your child's school to call an early annual review. Alternatively, to allow more time to gather evidence to support the request, you might decide to wait until your child's next annual review and submit another request to be considered then. 

If you disagree with the setting named in your child's EHCP, or a decision not to amend the Plan following the annual review, then you have a right to appeal.  Find out more about what to do if you're not happy with a decision.

What is the guidance for changing to another special school?

If your child is not making progress at their school, or if you feel that their needs have changed and are no longer being met, 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 the EHCP and can only be done as part of the annual review process. The Hertfordshire special schools admissions guidance (PDF 291kb) will also help you with this.  (If you need an accessible version of this document, please email

Page was last updated on: 20/06/2024 11:17:33


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