Choosing a school or post 16 provider for children and young people with SEND

Choosing a school is a big decision. You will want an environment where you can be happy, safe and able to learn and develop.

We have different types of schools including:

Mainstream schools (academies and maintained schools)

In County Durham, nearly all children and young people with special educational needs go to mainstream schools and achieve well.

Mainstream schools can offer:

  • Extra support and skilled class teachers that will adapt lessons to for children with different abilities and ways of learning
  • Improved accessibility - many schools have been re-built or updated
  • Access to specific therapy if needed
  • The chance to make friends in the local community and mix with different types of people

Mainstream schools also receive money to help children with special educational needs and can sometimes get extra money to spend on an individual child who needs extra support.

View a list of mainstream schools

Mainstream schools with extra support for children with SEN

Some children who need a lot of help may need to be taught in a different type of school. This could be in a mainstream school with extra support (sometimes called ‘enhanced provision’ or a special school. Mainstream schools with extra support can help children with SEN needs such as reduced hearing, sight, difficulties with speech and language, physical difficulties, autism spectrum disorders and behaviour.

View a list of mainstream schools with extra support on our Enhanced mainstream provision and special schools for children with special educational needs page.

Special schools

Some children with very complex special educational needs might need a place in a special school.

View a list of special schools on our Enhanced mainstream provision and special schools for children with special educational needs page.

Choosing a school

For information and advice about which school may be best for you, contact the SEND, Looked After and Vulnerable Groups Casework Team and the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS).

Other tips

  • Ask your parent or guardian to look at the latest Ofsted reports for the schools you think you would like to go to.
  • Look at the school website to find out how they support children with SEND.
  • Speak to other children about their experiences. Your parent or guardian may find it useful to talk to other parents too.
  • Visit the schools to see if they can meet your needs.

Applying for a school place

If you have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, you and your parent or guardian will need to follow a different process to move to a new school.

Your parent or guardian will need to complete a parental preference form. You will be able to request a particular school and this will be considered with information about your special educational needs. This information will have been provided already as part of your EHC assessment or following your review meeting.

When you get your draft EHC plan, you have 15 days to tell the SEND, Looked After and Vulnerable Groups Casework Team which school you would like to attend. If you need more time to decide, or would like to talk to us about it, please contact us.

We need to speak to the school before we can add it to your EHC plan, but the council will make the final decision. You will be fully informed about this and we will explain our decision to you.

The council must agree with your preferred school if:

  • The school you choose is suitable for your age, ability, skills and SEN;
  • You will not affect the education of other children already at the school; and
  • Going to the school will be good use of the council’s resources

If you have an EHC plan we will make a decision about your school place after your annual review meeting.

Each school record has a link to their own website where you will find information about how they identify and meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Independent and non-maintained special schools

We would always try and ensure that a child’s needs could be met in a maintained school, academy, free or special school before considering a place in a school in the independent or non-maintained sector.

In many cases these schools are of some distance from the local authority which may involve long travel times for children and young people.

If you believe that we should arrange special educational provision for your child at an independent or non-maintained special school or an independent school, you can make representations to that effect.

Councils must also provide an up to date list (known as the Section 41 list) of independent schools and colleges in England and Wales, which are approved by the Secretary of State for Education:

Independent special schools and colleges

Making plans for what to do when you leave compulsory education at the age of 16 should start no later than year nine at school. Schools have the responsibility to inform young people of the options available to them post 16 and to ensure they have access to independent careers information, and advice and guidance. This will include information about what qualifications they will need to study for their chosen pathway.
If your child has a SEN Support Plan or an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan then they will be given some extra support from a Personal Adviser from the One Point Service or a Caseworker from the Improving Progression of Young People Team. Planning for this transition is very important and you need to be aware of the options available.

When a young person reaches 16 they can choose to continue their learning in either a school with a sixth form, a further education college, a commercial and charitable provider (training provider) or a sixth form college. Young people can also continue their learning while in a job as an apprentice.

You can find more information about apprenticeships on the website.

The government expects all young people to stay in education or training until their 18th birthday and local authorities have a duty to encourage, enable and assist young people to participate.

All the educational establishments mentioned previously are funded by the Education & Skills Funding Agency to deliver 16-19 Study Programmes and young people can choose where they would like to go and what they would like to study. However, some courses will have entry requirements and you will need to check with school or college what their entry requirements are for individual programmes.

More information about the wide range of Post 16 providers is available on this website.

All Post 16 Providers will assess the learning and support needs of young people before they commence their programme of study. This could mean that, in order to achieve their learning outcome, a young person with SEND may need to be taught in small groups, and/or have access to specialist teaching and support. In some cases where the cost of this support is over and above the funding the organisation receives from the Education Funding Agency, the local authority will pay ‘top up funding’.

A small number of young people may need additional time to achieve their learning outcome. For those young people with an EHC plan, they can continue with their study programme beyond 19 until they reach their agreed learning outcome and this can be up to the age of 25.

Specialist post 16 institutions

We will always try to ensure that a young person’s special educational needs are met in mainstream post 16 provision before considering a placement in a specialist post 16 institution. Sometimes, a young person’s assessed learning and support needs may not be met in mainstream provision and therefore consideration will be given to a placement in one of these institutions.

Visit Natspec website to find out more.

Making an appeal

If your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan and has not been offered a place at your preferred school, you have the right to independent mediation and appeal to the SEN Tribunal. Visit our Independent Mediation, Disagreement Resolution and Tribunals page for more information.


Durham County Council's Families Information Service does not promote nor endorse the services advertised on this website. Anyone seeking to use/access such services does so at their own risk and may make all appropriate enquiries about fitness for purpose and suitability to meet their needs.
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