When you receive your draft EHC plan, you are asked to name a school. There is a general principle that children will be educated where a parent chooses, as long as it ‘efficient’ and avoids unreasonable public expense (1).
A ‘school’ means one of the following (2):
- a maintained school
- a maintained nursery school
- an Academy
- an institution within the further education sector in England (a college)
- a non-maintained special school
- a section 41 school (or college). (a s41 school is an independent school which has agreed to act as if it was a state school
If you have asked for a school from the types listed above, the local authority must name your choice unless it is unsuitable for your children special needs, or a) your child’s attendance would be so disruptive for the other children that they cannot learn properly, or b) not an efficient use of resources (3).
All mainstream schools are considered ‘suitable’, as the EHC plan must detail and provide all the extra resources needed. Sometimes a LA may name a different mainstream to your choice because, for example, it has good wheelchair access for your child, and your choice has stairs and no lift.
If a school wants to argue that your child’s attendance would be ‘incompatible with the efficient education of others’, it must detail why and why it cannot reasonably remove those barriers. The LA then has to look at those reasons and see if they can reasonably remove those barriers. This is a very high bar. For some children though, it is the size of the school and the amount of other students. It might not be possible to remove those barriers.
There is a general assumption that all children can have a mainstream education, with the right support. Cost should not be a barrier. Many children with profound needs do have a mainstream education – because it was their parents wish.
You can ask for a non-section 41 independent school, but the LA does not have to name it as it is not on the list above.
Once the school is named, it must admit your child.
1 Education Act 1996, s9
2 The Children and Families Act 2014, s38
3 The Children and Families Act 2014, s39