Choosing a school
Placement of children with special educational needs
Parental preference has to be taken into account when arranging for a placement for children with special educational needs.
It must be noted that the legal responsibility on the Local Authority (LA) is to provide appropriate education for a child with special educational needs. There is no legal duty to provide the best education.
The policy of inclusion means that most children with special educational needs will be educated in mainstream schools, rather than special schools. However, children can only be educated in special schools if they have a Statement of special educational needs.
The Education Act places a general duty on the LA to educate a child with a Statement of special educational needs in a mainstream school, unless it would be incompatible with:
- the wishes of the parent: or
- the provision of efficient education for other children.
This duty means that mainstream education cannot be refused because the child’s needs cannot be provided for within the mainstream sector. This duty does not give a parent the right to veto mainstream education for their child.
If a parent does not wish their child to be educated in a mainstream school, the LA may arrange a placement at a special school. Even if the parent prefers a special school, the decision on placement is made by the LA and a mainstream school can be named on a Statement. There is a right to appeal to a Special Educational Needs Tribunal on this question.
On receipt of the proposed Statement, parents are invited to consider their preference for any maintained school that can meet their child’s needs, or make representations in favour of a non-maintained or independent school. Parents can also choose alternative provision – such as education at home – although the LA must be satisfied that the educational provision is suitable.
All maintained mainstream schools must publish information and a report on the school’s policy on special educational needs. This must be made available to parents.
More information about choosing a school is available from the DirectGov web site.