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Choosing a new school when your child has an EHCP

It's possible to have a specific school named in an Education, Health and Care Plan. This means that the local authority must fund your child's place at that school. EHCPs are also known as EHC plans.

This can be outside your local authority, if you can show that it's the only school that can meet the needs in your child's EHCP.

Warning How far away is the new school?

Government guidance on maximum travel times is:

  • 45 minutes for primary school children
  • 75 minutes for secondary school children

Your local authority will only let your child travel further under exceptional circumstances. For example, if your child has very specific needs and these are in their EHCP. 

The local authority might consider residential education instead.

Talking to your child's current school

Speak to your child's teacher or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) about the support your child gets at their current school. Someone from your local authority's information and advice service can go with you. This is usually called a SENDIASS. 

Your service may have a different name, such as:

  • Information Advice and Support Service (IASS)
  • SEND Partnership
  • Parent Partnership

Find your local service (Information, Advice and Support Service Network) 

You may find out information that might help you move your child to the new school. Check your child's EHCP. Make notes on:

  • which parts of the EHCP are not working
  • why you think they are not working
  • suggestions that might help

Getting a new school named in an EHCP

The EHCP must have either the name of a specific school or the type of provision. It cannot be left blank in the final EHCP.

In some cases, your child’s school may say they cannot meet your child's needs. The SENCO may support you to find the best type of school or provision for your child.

You can ask for a specific school:

  • when you receive a draft EHCP or a 'notice of amendment' after an annual review or an early annual review, sometimes called an interim review
  • in an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. This is also called the First-tier Tribunal or SENDIST.

To get a school named in section I of an EHCP, you must prove that your child's school either:

  • cannot provide the support in your child's EHCP or 
  • has provided all the support in the EHCP and your child is not making progress

You may need to contact the SENCO for each school in your local authority to get written confirmation. They could take up to 6 weeks to reply. 

What sections should an EHC plan have? (IPSEA)

Schools outside your local authority

Your local authority will look for schools that can meet your child's needs inside its area. You will need to show that the school outside the local authority can meet the needs in your child's EHCP.

If the new school is not in your local authority, you will need to prove that no other school in the local authority could provide the support in your child's EHCP. 

The local authority may make an exception if:

  • you live near the border of another local authority and 
  • the new school is nearer than other schools in your local authority area

EHCP reviews

You can ask for a school to be named in an EHCP when you get a draft EHCP or a notice of amendment as part of a review.

You can ask for an early review. You do not need to wait for your annual EHCP review. You can ask someone to go with you to your review meeting. This includes someone from your SENDIASS.

After the review meeting, you will need to show why:

  • the current school is not meeting your child's needs
  • the new school is the only place that can provide the support your child needs

Written evidence will make your case stronger.

Schools and local authorities will have their own procedures and names for things. Check:

Asking for an EHCP review

Draft EHCP

You can ask for a specific school when you get either:

  • a new draft EHCP
  • a new amendment for your child's EHCP, also called a 'notice of amendment'

SEND Tribunal appeals

If the new school is not in the final plan, you can appeal. This is also known as the First-tier Tribunal or SENDIST.

Starting a SEND Tribunal appeal

To start a formal legal appeal, you'll need to speak to the local authority's approved SEND mediation service. You can find the contact details on the letter sent with the final EHCP. This will tell you about your right to appeal.

You can take someone to support you in the mediation meeting. If mediation does not work, you can then appeal to the Tribunal. This is a legal process.

First-tier Tribunal, Special Educational Needs and Disability (GOV.UK)


Appeal deadlines

  • If you have been to mediation, the Tribunal must get your appeal within 1 month of the date on your mediation certificate.
  • If you have not been to mediation, the Tribunal must get your appeal within 2 months of when you got the written decision from your local authority.

Challenging an EHCP draft or EHC plan

Help building your case

Every local authority has an information and advice service. They should be able to help you build a case. They are usually called a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS).

If you pay for a solicitor or other legal help, your local SENDIASS would hand your case over to them. Whoever helps you prepare your case, you would usually represent yourself at the tribunal hearing.

Contact, the charity, runs an information and advice helpline

IPSEA legal help

The hearing

Most people get help preparing their case but represent themselves in the SEND Tribunal hearing.

You could take someone from the SENDIASS with you. They can support you in the hearing, but they cannot represent you.

What happens in a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (YouTube, HM Courts and Tribunals channel)

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

The local authority may argue that a different, nearer school can meet your child's needs. You would need to show that your preferred school is the only place that could provide the support in your child's EHCP. You would need to show how your child's needs relate to all or some of these 4 areas:

  • sensory and physical needs
  • social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)
  • cognition and learning
  • communication and interaction

SEND Code of Practice (GOV.UK)

You should also be able to show how your child's condition might cross different areas. For example, sensory impairments can affect communication and cognition.

SEN and disability statute law, regulations and guidance (IPSEA)

Starting a new school

Help the old school and the new school to share information. This will help the new school to support your child's needs.

Sharing information with the new school

The old school could make a profile of your son or daughter with:

  • examples of the things that your child finds difficult, such as communicating, mobility or focusing
  • things that help your child to learn, such as visual timetables or writing aids
  • strategies that help them cope with school life, such as breaks in lessons or a buddy system in the playground

One-page profiles (Helen Sanderson Associates)

Talking to the new school

Share any information that will help the new school to understand your child. This includes their EHCP and any other reports that you think might help.

Start talking about how accessible the school is and the kinds of adjustments that the school might be able to make. For example, having all classes on the ground floor if your child cannot access classrooms on other floors.

You could also arrange for staff to meet you and your child and talk about what they need.

For example:

  • which staff will be supporting your child
  • how you can help staff to understand your child and help them feel welcome
  • induction or settling in days and how your child gets on at these
  • if the school has a buddy scheme

If your child still does not get the support in their EHCP

You may need to meet your child's teacher and other members of staff. An early EHCP review may also help. You will need to ask for an early review.

If school is not following an EHCP

Last reviewed by Scope on: 30/07/2021

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