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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 can take a long time. If you think that mainstream 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.

How do places get allocated for special schools?

If you think that your child's needs would be best met in a special school, 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.

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.  You can find our more about this process on our EHCP pages.  The evidence gathered for a EHCP assessment is often also used as evidence for requesting a special school place.

Naming and contacting the schools

As part of the EHCP process, your EHC Coordinator will talk to you about the different special 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 (as long as its the right 'type' of special school for your child's needs). Your EHC Coordinator will 'consult' this school, as well as the nearest school to you of the same type (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 the council to confirm whether or not they feel they will be able to meet your child's needs.  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 their needs, even with reasonable adjustments. 

The information received from the consultations with the schools will go to the panel to be used as part of their decision-making process.


Provision panels

Gathering evidence for panel

Your EHC Coordinator will help you in gathering evidence to support your request.  This can be a lengthy process and gathering all the information needed from different professionals can take time. This evidence includes: evidence from professionals, assessments from school, and copies of work children have done either supported or on their own. It is important that the evidence gathered is as thorough and detailed as possible so that the panel has all they need to make a decision.  If the evidence isn't good enough the panel may reject the request which can delay the process further. 

Provision panels happen once a month and your EHC Coordinator can tell you when your child's case will be presented to the panel.

The decision of the panel

The provision panel, made up of professionals across all areas, considers all the evidence for your request, as well as the information from the school's consultation, and will make a decision on the type of setting 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 write to 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, where possible, the name of the setting your child will go to.

They will give you information on the reasons for the panel's decision and will tell you what the next steps are in the process. They will also inform your child's current school of the panel's decision.

If you haven't heard about the outcome from the panel, you can contact your EHC Coordinator.  Alternatively (if you haven't had a response from your EHC Coordinator), you can contact the team by sending an email to

How provision panels make a decision

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

There are different types of special schools, and each type 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.  

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

If your child cannot be placed immediately 

Sometimes a child might have to wait quite a long time 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 Disabilites, Severe Learning Disabilities, and Social, Emotional and Mental Health) children sometimes have to wait a lot longer.

If there are no places at the school named 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 of £2,000 per term 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 freed up 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 emergency annual review, and the request will then go back to panel. 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 your child doesn't meet the guidance for a place at special school, there is no right of appeal against the panel's decision.  However, once the panel names a mainstream setting in your child's EHCP as the most suitable provision for your child, and you disagree, 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.

Page was last updated on: 24/04/2023 11:27:18


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