Choosing and applying for secondary school, pupils with EHC Plans (Phase Transfer )

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Most children start full time secondary school in September after they turn 11. This is sometimes called transfer, Phase Transfer or Transition.

Choosing and applying for a secondary school for a child who has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) is different from the general school admissions process. This is to help make sure children with additional needs and disabilities are a priority consideration for school places.

Children with support needs who do not have an EHC Plan follow the general admissions process. All schools must provide an inclusive education and school experience for children with SEND. There is funding for extra help and support in school for children who do not have an EHC Plan.

This is a printable resource that briefly explains key dates and actions needed during this process. Hackney Secondary Phase Transfer flow chart for children with EHC Plans (PDF 72KB printable resource). 

You will be invited to an information session on secondary phase transfer (there will be more than one date and time option). These are run by the EHCP Team and Hackney SENDIAGS. 

You can speak with there people about your child’s start at school:

  • the SENCO at you child’s current school
  • The SENCo at schools you are considering sending your child to
  • Your named EHC Plan Coordinator
  • SEND Business Support
  • Hackney SENDIAGS
  • Professionals who are working with your child
  • Other parents who have been through this transition with their child

Read on to find out about choosing and applying for a secondary school place for a child with an EHC Plan.

This information is also relevant to parents of children whose plans are at the draft stage.

Page last modified 03/09/22

What are the school options to consider for secondary students with EHC Plans?

Mainstream Schools and Academies

The law says that a child with an Education, Health and Care Plan must be educated in mainstream school unless:

  • this is against the wishes of the child’s parents
  • and /or affects the efficient education of other children

These are the only reasons why mainstream education can be refused outright.

Hackney Education is committed to:

  • supporting inclusion
  • aiming to provide inclusive schools where all children and young people in the community are welcome, valued and accepted, with opportunities for positive learning experiences.

Your child should have full access, with support, to the social and academic curriculum, whatever their disabilities or special educational needs (SEN).

Hackney Education does recognise that mainstream schools with enhanced provision known as Additionally Resourced Provision or ARPs, and Special Schools offer a positive and appropriate choice for some children and young people with complex SEND.

What are the ARP options for secondary aged students in Hackney? 

Hackney Education funds additional resourced provision  (ARP) for young people at secondary phase who are autistic at Mossbourne Community Academy.

Hackney is seeking to increase places for children and young people within mainstream settings and has proposed increasing the number of schools that offer ARPs. 

What are Hackney's special school options? 

Hackney Education maintains three Special Schools in Hackney that offer a secondary stage education:

Where can you find more information about each school approach to supporting students with SEND?

You can find out more about any school’s approach to SEND before you visit.

All schools have information available on how they support and include children with additional needs. Schools MUST publish this information to help parents like you when you are choosing a school.

Look on the school's website under school policies or in the section especially for SEND information.

The law says there are 3 key pieces of information on SEND all schools MUST make available.

School SEN Information Report

This explains in easy to understand language what help and support for pupils with SEND is on offer and how it is and delivered. They must be written so the information is helpful, clear and meaningful for parents. Find out more about School SEN Information Reports here.

SEN or SEND Policy

The law says all schools must have policies that describe arrangements for pupils with SEND. SEN Policies give technical information and detail on how support is agreed on, arranged and delivered in the setting.

Accessibility Policy

All schools MUST make sure pupils with SEN or disabilities can access the school facilities and opportunities. They explain how, over time, the school environment will be maintained and made more accessible. They describe how each setting meets their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

What to consider on school visits?

We strongly advise parents and pupils to visit schools that they are interested in attending. Attend all the school open days of any schools you may want to consider.

Visit schools as early as possible. Some parents start doing this a year early, when their child or young person is in Year 5, to get a headstart

Information about Secondary School Open Days is given to parents by primary schools. You can also find them listed on Hackney Education’s website here (PDF).

Talk to other parents who have been through the experience to find out how it was for them and their child. Ask if there is anything they wish they had done differently or would have been helpful to know before starting the process.

Speak to your child’s teachers and therapists about your child’s needs and how these can best be supported within secondary school.

Consider your child’s social as well as academic needs. Will they be moving to a school where they know other children? How can any important friendships be maintained?

Try to put aside anything you may have heard from other parents and remember that each parent and child may be looking for different things in a school.

Hackney SENDIAGS have a factsheet for parents and carers with suggestions of what to look for when visiting schools.

Keep a list or notes about each school, as you think of things you want to ask, write them in a notebook or on your mobile phone so that on the day you visit you can refer to them. Keeping track of information like this can also help you compare schools when making your choice.

Key Dates - The secondary phase transfer process.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan they will have had / will have an Annual Review meetings to assess what is working, what could be improved. And what the focus is for the coming year.

At the Year 5 Annual Review meeting there will be time to consider the transition to secondary school which will be decided halfway through the following school year, Year 6.

Hackney Education updates your child’s EHC Plan from their most recent Annual Review and asks for your views on which school you would prefer.

Autumn Term.

  • Preference forms are sent out in late September along with dates for information sessions on the process. 
  • Open days and evenings for parents to visit secondary schools also take place throughout September and continue through till January in some cases. It is important to begin visits early so that you don’t miss dates from schools you may be considering.
    Parents submit paper application forms stating preferences for schools.
  • Parents complete and return preference forms to Hackney Education by the deadline they are given in early October.
  • The EHCP Team consults with your preferred schools and academies.

Spring Term

  • Individual responses are received from schools that have been consulted.
  • Draft EHC Plans are sent to parents who have 15 days to comment. Secondary schools are not named at this stage.
  • By February 15 Hackney Education must name a school on your child’s final EHC Plan.

Summer Term

  • Transition planning between primary and secondary school or academy
  • Transition arrangements begin e.g. visits between schools including the receiving school attending the Year 6 Annual review meeting
  • In September your child starts their new secondary school
  • Parents wishing to appeal decisions follow the tribunal process.

What are the preference forms for pupils with EHC Plans?

Preference forms are for you to list the schools that you would like your child to attend.

The EHC Planning Team send these forms to all parents or carers of pupils with EHC Plans in Year 6 who will be transferring to secondary school in the following academic year. They will ask you to list your preferences for secondary school with your most preferred preference listed at the top of your form.

Hackney Education advises that you list your top 3 preferences, but you can state more than this if you want to. You can also give reasons for your preferences on the form if you wish.

Hackney suggests 3 preferences are put forward by parents not to limit choice but to try to ensure parents and carers get one of their top three choices.

If you do not provide 3 preferences by early October (you will be given the date of the deadline on the preference forms), Hackney Education will consult the appropriate schools closest to you.

If you express a preference for an independent school Hackney Education must have regard to your wishes as long as it is “compatible with the efficient instruction and training of the child and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.”

Advice about completing you school preference form

  • Think carefully about your preferences. We recommend that you check the schools websites, visit the schools and meet with key staff e.g. SENCo.
  • When you have chosen schools you think will be a good fit for your child, fully complete the form with; your child's details, your current contact details and at least 3 school preferences.
  • Make sure you return your child's preference form before the October deadline. This is to allow enough time for the EHC Planning Team to consult with the schools you have chosen.

We understand that some school open days will happen after this date but meeting the deadline is key to ensure your child’s needs are considered during the consultation process.

Only naming one school will not always mean that is the school your child will be allocated a place at. Hackney Education will consult with the 3 nearest schools if you do not make a choice or don’t list more than once choice.

What if I can’t find my child’s preference form?

If you can’t find your preference form, contact SEND Business Support or you named EHC Plan Coordinator to request a new one.

You can also download one from the Documents Library on Hackney’s Local Offer website.

Please note: If your child is under assessment for an EHC Plan and has not got their draft plan by mid October they will need to apply for a school place through the General Admissions process.

Supporting your child through the secondary phase transfer...

This is a necessary process to go through to try to make the right choice for your child or young person but it can be tiring for you and your child to make extra visits on already busy days. If you are looking at several schools, most parents do, try to make the visits fun.

Be nice to yourself and your child at this busy time. If possible it can be useful to cook dinner the night before if you will be on school visits at the time you would normally be preparing the evening meal.

  • Involve your child as much as possible in discussions about your preferences.
  • Take your child with you to visit schools. This is the best way of getting an idea together of what school is best. You can visit alone as well but any school you are seriously considering should be visited by your child or young person as well.
  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings - excitement, sadness, fears.
  • Explain to your child that it is perfectly normal to have anxieties about change.
  • Take time to listen to their worries and show you have taken them seriously.
  • Be positive even if your child does not get your preferred secondary school.

If your child is very anxious and you are concered this will have an impact on them making a successful start at secondary school find out from the school SENCo what opportunities there are to meet with other students before the start of term.

CAMHS Alliance often run workshops during the summer months or a short programme for young people who may find managing this transition challenging. 

What happens next when I have made my choice?

By law, Hackney Education has to formally consult the secondary schools before making a decision to name it on your child’s plan. Schools are consulted on:

  • The school’s suitability for your child’s age, ability, and special educational needs?
  • Will placing your child at the school affect the education of other children at the school?
  • Will placing your child at the school be an efficient use of Hackney Education’s resources?

Local authorities are required to secure an appropriate education for children and young people of school age who live in their area. To make sure that your child gets a place in a suitable school, Hackney Education may also consult local maintained schools.

The Phase Transfer Panel

From November till December the Hackney Education Secondary Transfer Panel,
made up of a range of professionals, will carefully consider parental preference and
the responses to the consultations from the schools or academies.

The requirements for HE’s decision in the SEND Code of Practice 2015 are:

  • The parental preference
  • Number of children with EHC plan in the school
  • The distance from home to school
  • School or Academy consultation responses as to whether they meet the needs of your child
  • Availability of suitable alternative local school

When do you find out what school your child has been allocated?

Hackney Education will take into account all views before deciding to name a school on the final version of your child’s EHC Plan.

Once a school is named on your child’s EHC Plan the admissions authority for the school is legally obliged to admit your child.

Hackney Education must name a school on your child’s EHC Plan by February 15 of their time in Year 6. This is before the National Offer day for students following the Secondary School general admissions process.

Your child’s named EHC Plan Coordinator will contact you and send you a copy of their finalised EHC Plan with the secondary school named on it in Section I. It will say which school your child is at now and which school they will be transferring to. 

Help with the cost of school uniforms...

Your child can get a school uniform grant  of £100 if they are transferring from Year 6 in primary school to Year 7 in secondary school. To qualify, you must be a Hackney resident and be getting certain benefits. 

Apply once you have accepted the secondary school transfer offer from Hackney Education. Application should be made before the end of June. 

Find out more and make a school uniform grant application here.

Funded school transport for some children with SEND....

Some but not all children with SEND may be eligible for specialist transport assistance.
This is where transport is arranged and funded by the local authority for the journey to and from school.

Information about this is discussed with the EHC Plan Coordinator during the draft stage of developing the plan.

If your child needs transport you can find the guidance and application forms for the SEND Travel Assistance Service here.

If agreed that the local authority will fund home to school transport it is written into the final plan.

What if I disagree with a decision made about my child's school place ?

The preference forms allow parents to make a choice of schools they would be happy for their child to attend. Hackney Education will consult with the schools you have identified.

Hackney Education will seek to name your preferred secondary school on your child’s EHC Plan. However, in some cases, they may not be able to name your first preference, and in rare cases they may not be able to name any of your preferences.

If this is the case the Plan Coordinator will contact you to discuss what options are available now. They will also write to you explaining the reasons for your preferred school not being named. There is a right of appeal at this stage.

The EHC Plan phase transfer process is different from the General Admissions. You cannot refuse the offer of the school place but you will be given information on making an appeal.

If you disagree with the decision not to name your preferred school, in section I of the EHC Plan or something in parts B and or F of your child’s final EHC plan you can seek SEND mediation and have a right to appeal to an specialist independent SEND tribunal. 

You may wish to but are not required to seek mediation before proceeding with an appeal through the SEND Tribunal if you are appealing just the naming of a school on your child’s EHC Plan.

You do need to consider and get a mediation certificate if you are seeking to appeal other sections of the EHC Plan.

Contact Hackney SENDIAGS who can provide free specialist information, advice and support to parents and carers.

Where can I get more information ?

Face to face information sessions are held every year so parents can get information and ask questions. These are arranged by the Education Health and Care Planning Team and Hackney SENDIAGS. You will be sent dates of these information sessions with your child's prefrence form. 

At the session parents will get to hear about and discuss:

  • School transfer process for children with EHC Plan
  • Key dates in the school transfer process
  • What happened last year e.g. how many parents / children got their first preference
  • Get advice on choosing a school and completing the preference form
  • Ask questions about any related concerns you might have
  • Be given copies of the information handouts referenced on this page

Parents with children in Year 5 who are beginning to explore this process early for the following year are also welcome to attend.


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Page last modified: 10/10/2023