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Support for children with SEND moving up to secondary school...

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Transition to secondary school

Admissions advice and guidance for parents of children or young people with Education, Health and Care Plans.

Last updated: 16/04/18

How can I find out how different schools will support my child / young person?

All schools are expected to provide an inclusive academic and social experience for all children. Details about how individual schools do this in practice can be found in each school’s SEN information reports.

Schools are also required to produce an SEN information report (sometimes called a School SEN Offer) and these are available on each school’s website usually in the policies or SEN sections. You can ask for a copy from the school office if you cannot find it on their website.

Find out more: 

How does the transfer process work?

The process of transferring to a secondary school is different for children with SEN who have an EHC Plan (or statement of special educational needs). It is managed by the Hackney Learning Trust’s Education, Health and Care Planning Team (EHCP Team). If you have any questions, please talk to your Plan Coordinator.

For more advice or support you can speak to someone from Hackney's IAS (Information Advice and Support) service SENDIAGS. 

SENDIAGS run Knowledge is Power sessions on a range of topics including admissions and transfers. 

If your child has an Education health and Care Plan they will have an Annual Review meeting to assess what is working and what could be improved. 

If you have questions regarding the Secondary Transfer process for children or young people with an EHC plan you can contact your plan coordinator or the EHC Planning Team. 

The EHC Planning Team run specific transition information workshops for parents and carers in the final term of Year 5 as the process of looking at secondary schools starts shortly after school begins in September. 

See the Related Services section of this page for team contact details. 

You can find more SEND relevant information throughout the Hackney’s Local Offer website.

What does the law say?

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 Learning Trust 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.

This means that your child should have full access, with support, to the social and academic curriculum, whatever their disabilities or special needs.

Detail about how individual schools approach supporting pupils with SEND is given in each schools SEN Information Report available on each school’s website.

However, Hackney Learning Trust also recognises that special schools offer a positive choice for some pupils and parents.

Hackney Learning Trust maintains three secondary special schools in Hackney:

  • The Garden School  - for children aged 4 - 16 with Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD) the majority of pupils have autism (ASD)
  • Ickburgh School - for children of all ages with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities
  • Stormont House School - ages 11 - 16 with complex and inter-related social and emotionally social communication or mental health needs

Links to more information can be found in the Related Services section of this page. 

Find out more: Special Schools in Hackney   


Helping your child make the move to secondary school

Starting at a new school can be both an exciting and a worrying time for you and your child but especially so for some children with additional needs.

We recognise that this can be a difficult time and because of this children who have met the threshold for an EHC Plan have a higher priority in the admissions process than those without.

Summary of the process:

Autumn Term

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

  • Preference forms are sent out in late September.
  • 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.
  • The Hackney Learning Trust consults your preferred school/s.
  • By February 15th Hackney Learning Trust will name a school on your child’s EHC plan or statement.
  • Transition arrangements begin e.g. visits between schools
  • In September your child starts their new secondary school

What to look for in a school when you attend the open days?

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.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself when looking at schools:

• Does the school feel welcoming when you go in?

• Are you given useful information you can easily understand?

• Look at the displays around the school are they bright and well cared for?

• Do they celebrate the children’s work and cultural diversity?

• Are you given the chance to talk to existing students about the school?

(Some schools use students as guides to show people around who can answer your questions)

• Are the corridors quiet during lessons times?

• How do students move around the school?

• Do the students seem engaged and absorbed in their work in the classrooms?

• Are the buildings clean and presentable?

• Are there good facilities for science, sport, technology, music, art?

• Are healthy school meals available?

Don’t be put off if you see a student behaving in a way you are concerned about.

Every school has its share of difficult behaviour and each student can have difficult days for a variety of reasons.

Do look at how the situation is dealt with.

How can I help prepare my child for the change?

• 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 his or her worries and show you have taken them seriously.

• Be positive even if your child does not get your preferred secondary school.

If you are looking at several schools (most parents do) try to make the visits fun. It can be tiring fitting these visits into an already busy day and increasingly so with more visits. Be nice to yourself at this busy time. This is a necessary process to go through to try to make the right choice for your child or young person. 

How can I prepare myself?

• Visit schools as early as possible some parents start doing this a year early to get a head start so when their child or young person is in Year 5.

• Attend the school open days of any schools you may consider.

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

• Consult your child’s teachers and therapists about your child’s needs and how these can best be supported.

• Consider your child’s social as well as academic needs - will they be moving to a school where they know other children? 

What questions could I ask when I visit the secondary schools?

One of the changes brought in by the SEND Reforms is that schools must write a SEN information report or school SEN offer and make this available to parents. This is available on individual schools websites usually under their policies section. You should also be able to ask for a paper copy from the school’s office. Once you have read this (it would be a good idea to do this before your visit) you can ask questions about anything that is still unclear.

• Ask to see the special needs / learning support / inclusion department.

• If possible, speak to the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator).

• Ask how special educational needs like your child’s are met in the school. Remember this information must be available on the schools website as well.

• Ask about the arrangements for contact between parents and the school.

• Ask for a copy of the school’s special educational needs /inclusion policy if you do not have one already.

• Ask what after-school activities there are / if there are any classes for parents.

• Ask about the school’s policies on bullying, behaviour, equal opportunities.

• Ask about anything else important to you and your child.


Keep a list going and as you think of things 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.

Secondary - Transfer Preference Form

The EHCP Team send these forms to all parents/carers of pupils with EHC Plans transferring to secondary school in September.

They will ask you to state your preferences for secondary school in descending order.

The form allows you to state four 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.

Updating your child’s EHC Plan...

The Education Health and Care Plan Coordinator will consider the recommendations made at your child’s Annual Review.

They will use these to update your child’s EHC Plan.

You can give your views on any changes they propose to make.

The draft EHC Plan they send to you will have proposals about the special educational provision your child will need at secondary school, but will not name a school at this stage.


Check through the draft plan to make sure you are happy with it.

You will have fifteen days to respond to your draft plan.

Contact your child or young person's Plan Coordinator if you are not able to comment in the fifteen days time limit. 



1. Naming only one school on your preference form will not increase your chance of gaining a place for your child in that school.

2. You don’t have to put down as many as four schools.

3. You should only put down schools which you believe can meet your child’s needs and you are happy for them to go to.

4. Please note that if the Hackney Learning Trust is not able to name your first preferred school, it will need to consult other schools which may or may not be in your list.

Hackney Learning Trust has to name a suitable school for your child.

Naming the Secondary School

Hackney Learning Trust will take into account all views before deciding to name a school on the final version of your child’s EHC Plan (or statement of special educational needs).

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

All decisions will be made by February.

What if Hackney Learning Trust does not agree to name the school I prefer?

In most cases, Hackney Learning Trust will be able to name your preferred secondary school on your child’s statement. 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.

If you disagree with the decision not to name your preferred school, or something in parts B and / or F of your child’s final EHC plan you can appeal to an independent tribunal.

Find out more: 

What is mediation?

What is a tribunal?

See the Related Services section of this page to find contact details of relevant teams. 

Consulting your Preferred Schools:

By law, Hackney Learning Trust has to formally consult the secondary schools before making a decision about naming 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 Learning Trust’s resources?

To make sure that your child gets a place in a suitable school, Hackney Learning Trust may also consult other maintained schools.

If you express a preference for an independent school Hackney Learning Trust 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.”

How can I get more information?

How can I get more information?

When you attend your child’s Annual Review your views and those of your child will have been sought. This is also a good chance for discussion about possible schools.

Where at all possible Hackney Learning Trust will expect EHC Plan Coordinators to attend transfer reviews and actively seek the views of the child or young person and those of the parents.

These views are included in section A of the EHC Plan but should also be reflected throughout the whole EHC plan.

The school’s SENCO and Plan Coordinators work together and use the information from these reviews to write the plans and set outcomes to work towards.

Go to the open mornings and evenings of each school you are interested in with your child.

Schools open day’s dates are circulated to parents via primary schools and elsewhere each year. 

Further information...

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