Choose a school for your child with SEND

Finding and choosing the right school for your child can feel like a big decision.

Most children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can thrive in mainstream schools.

Every education setting has an obligation to support children to fulfil their potential and to make sure that they're included at every opportunity. Schools must put arrangements in place to support your child's individual needs.

Before you choose a school

We recommend when looking for your child’s new school you:

  • attend their open days or evenings
  • read their SEND policy and SEND information report, both should be available on their website
  • arrange to meet the school's SENCO
  • ask them specific questions to find out how they will support your child
  • read their OFSTED report
  • consider how your child will get to school, and how your school preference may affect their eligibility for free school transport (PDF, 326.4 KB). Your child is unlikely to qualify for transport assistance if they are not attending the nearest school to your home that can support their needs.

Apply for a school place

For children who have an education, health and care (EHC) plan, your school preferences will be discussed during your annual review meeting (phase transfer).

If your child is currently being assessed for an EHC plan but it has not been finalised, you are advised to also apply for a school place using the standard admissions process. This will ensure they have a school place if the EHC plan is not agreed.

Find out more about school applications via the standard admissions process.

If you need support in going through the application process, contact your SENCO or IASK.

Specialist resource provisions

A specialist resource provision (SRP) can be located within the same premise of a mainstream school or close by.

They provide support to those, who without specialist input, are unlikely to make progress in their learning and will struggle to take part in mainstream school life.

In time, it is expected they will be able to attend most of their mainstream lessons and take part with others.

To be considered for SRP support the child must have an EHC plan.

You can look at the specialist resource provisions available and your school preferences will be discussed during your annual review meeting (phase transfer).

Read more about our specialist resource provisions.

Special schools

A special school provides education and support to children who have complex special educational needs (SEN) and require their SEN support to be delivered in a specialist setting. The majority of children with an EHC plan will not need a place at a special school.

To apply for a special school, your child must have an EHC plan.

You can look at the special schools available and your school preferences will be discussed during your annual review meeting (phase transfer).

Read more about our special schools.

Once you've got your school place

After you've received your school place, you will need to accept or refuse the offer directly with the school.

You will also need to think about:

School uniform can sometimes be quite challenging for children who struggle with sensitivities or have certain needs. This could be:

  • itchy seams
  • scratchy labels
  • different feeling fabrics
  • requiring tube access.

Each school has their own uniform policy, and we recommend that you contact them directly if you have any concerns about your child wearing particular pieces of uniform.

You can also purchase school clothing specifically designed for SEND children from high street shops.

We cannot provide money to help you pay for your child's uniform. You should speak to your school to find out if they sell uniforms that have been used before at a reduced rate.

Alternatively, the Citizen's Advice Bureau can offer advice and support on school costs including school clothing.

Before your child attends a mainstream school, you should look into applying for free school meals. Helping any child grow up begins with a balanced diet. Children need to eat 3 balanced meals a day as well as snacks to ensure their bodies are getting all the nutrients they need.

Your child might be able to get free school meals if you get any certain benefits.

See if you can apply for free school meals.

Depending on your child's needs and age, there are a number of school transport options you can consider.

You should plan how your child will get to school before you finalise their place. To apply for additional transport support or free school transport you must apply for this.

All Kent families are required to complete this stage if they wish for us to consider them for additional transport support.

View your school transport options.

You have a duty to make sure your child attends school regularly.

Children need to attend school on a regular basis, as it's key to them doing well at school and sets them up with good habits from an early age through to adulthood. It also gives them the opportunity to:

  • make lots of friends and feel included
  • boost their social skills, confidence and self-esteem
  • achieve their full potential.

However, children with special educational needs and disabilities are likely to have a lengthy or repeated periods off school compared to others in their class. This could be because of their:

  • frequent hospital visits
  • condition flaring up
  • immune system
  • mental health.

You must inform the school when your child will not be attending and the reasons why. If you are worried about your child's attendance at school due to their long-term illness we can support you.

Find out more about school attendance, absences, truancy and exclusions.

Timing of the school day

Most schools start the day between 8:30am and  8:50am and finish after 3pm. Some schools offer early morning clubs and after school activities. This includes a hour lunch break, and often a mid morning break.

Visit the school's website to find out the timetable.

Term dates

The school year runs from early September to mid or late July of the following year. Find out the school term dates.

Private or independent schools set their own term dates.

School closures

Your school may need to close due to an emergency or bad weather.

Register to receive free email alerts about your school's closure.

Children with SEND often find change difficult.

As part of transition, schools, educational settings and families must work together to create a plan for your child. The plan should be in place to help with any specific needs, strengths, interests and potential anxieties and learning styles.

Learn how you can prepare your child for starting or changing school for those moving from: