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Special schools are for children and young people with complex and significant learning needs that cannot be met in the mainstream schools (meaning a school that all children can attend).
We are fully committed to inclusion and most children and young people with SEND will thrive in their mainstream school; however, a small number of children and young people with a significant range of needs, which cannot be met in a mainstream school, may be placed in a special school.
There are special school places for all school age groups, including primary and secondary and college. Some special schools are specialist in particular areas of educational needs and some are residential.
The Types of Special School
While all Special Schools offer teaching to children with significant needs, there are differences in how they are funded and who manages them. Special schools are either:
- A maintained special school: which is a special school funded and managed by the local authority (East Sussex County Council has 12 of these schools).
- A mainstream school with specialist provision: a school open to all children that also has special teaching facilities/buildings for children with SEND (and an EHCP), or,
- An independent special school: which are schools that are self-managing and not directly funded by the local authority
Section 41 of The Children and Families Act 2014 distinguishes between two types of Independent special schools:
- Independent schools that are approved under Section 41: an independent special school where admissions are controlled by the local authority and funding comes from agreement in each child's EHC Plan
- Independent special schools which don't have approval under Section 41: an independent special school which controls its own admissions process, where the funding can either come from agreement in EHC Plan, fee payment by the parents or carers, or charitable donations
All these types of special school are available in East Sussex and in the first instance the Local Authority will explore options in the schools where the Local Authority control admissions.
See the 'Special Schools in East Sussex Area' section below, to find out more about Special Schools and Schools with Special Facilities around East Sussex.
When to Consider a Special School for Your Child?
Children and young people require an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to access a special school.
Parents and carers have a right to request a special school placement for their child if they feel it will be the most appropriate setting for them. This will be considered by the local authority and a decision made based on the child’s individual needs. If you believe your child would benefit from being in a specialist setting you should consider the following steps:
- Discuss your concerns with their class teacher at their current school
- Discuss your request for a change of placement at the annual review of your child’s EHCP
- You may also request an early annual review if you and your school agree this is necessary
- The request for a change of placement/special school placement will then be considered by the Local Authority
For further information:
Visit the Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) pages
Reasons you may decide that mainstream education is best for your child:
- You feel your child’s needs are being met at their mainstream school and they are making progress. You are happy with the level of support a particular mainstream school can provide your child
- Your child may wish to go to a mainstream school to be around their friends, peers and community.
- There may not be a suitable special school near you and you may decide not to transport your child each day to a more distant school
- A mainstream school may excel at a particular subject (e.g. Sport) and you would like your child to take advantage of this.. Equally your child might really like or excel in a particular subject and they would prefer mainstream teaching in that subject
- Your child's exact SEND needs are still being understood and time spent in a mainstream school will help to determine the specific support they require
- You may feel mainstream education is the right way to prepare your child for adult life
Reasons you may decide a special school is best for your child:
- Over time your child is demonstrably finding education in a mainstream school too difficult and despite their school’s best efforts your child is not making progress and those supporting your child and the school agree that the school cannot meet your child’s individual needs.
Choosing Special Schools in EHCP Process
During the process of nominating a school, the parent or carer, and child or young person have a right to name any special school they feel is suitable.
East Sussex County Council will follow the procedure of assessing the viabilty of the school nominated using guidance given in the Children And Families Act 2014. This will include consultation with the nominated school, or the local authority the school resides in if out of area.
East Sussex County Council will secure a place in the nominated school unless (paraphrasing Section 39 of the Children and Families Act 2014):
- The school or institution is not suitable for the child or young person
- The attendance of the child or young person in the requested school is not compatible with the efficient education of others; or
- the efficient use of resources (e.g. choosing a school at some distance from East Sussex that is not discernibly different to a school in East Sussex)
For more detail on this, please follow this link to Section 39 of the Children and Families Act 2014:
Scope provide guidance and information on choosing a special school for your child. To see this guidance, please follow this link:
Special Schools in East Sussex Area
There are various special schools, nurseries and colleges throughout East Sussex that specialise in different areas.
You can visit our directory on 1Space to see academies and maintained special schools and schools with special facilities across East Sussex, by clicking the below link:
You can also find independent and non-maintained schools (INMS) and colleges listed on the government website, by clicking the below link:
Parents and children can express a preference for any school on the approved list. No placement in such schools would be accepted without the local authority’s agreement. This is to ensure that such placement would represent the most efficient use of public resource.
Out of Area Placements
In the first instance, it is appropriate for children who are resident in East Sussex to access East Sussex schools when required, rather than travel out of area to schools within other authorities.
There are advantages to accessing ‘local’ special schools in terms of agreed working practices between East Sussex special schools and practitioners within ISEND who might be supporting your child.
However, it is within the rights of parents, carers or the child or young person themselves to request that they attend a school out of area. This is most commonly requested because:
- The child or young person lives on the borders of East Sussex and there is a significantly nearer special school to them in a neighbouring county.
- An out of area special school may be particularly specialised in an area of SEND and may be the right choice for an individual child or young person.
For more information, speak to the Assessment and Planning Officer in ISEND currently supporting your child’s EHCP.
East Sussex have borders with Kent, and West Sussex. If you are interested in visiting the special school sections of their Local Offers, please see links below:
Alternative Provision and Dual Registration
Some mainstream schools have a specialist facility within them e.g. providing additional support for children and young people with for, example, speech, language and communication difficulties or Autism. This helps them meet the needs of children with a higher level of SEND. The provision within the facility is expected to enable the children and young people to access mainstream lessons with their peers.
Glossary of Terms Used on This Page
Maintained School: Schools in England that are funded by a local authority (the Council) and retain a management relationship with the local authority. This excludes academies, free schools, and private schools, which control their own budget and management.
Mainstream school: This is a school that provides education for all children, whether or not they have special educational needs or disabilities. Mainstream schools includes maintained schools, academies and free schools. Mainstream school does not include private schools, fee-paying schools or special schools. In short, schools that are accessed through the standard admissions process are 'mainstream' and schools that manage their own admissions process (for example fee-paying schools) are non-mainstream.