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Starting reception class and primary school - children with SEND

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Who can help children with SEND become ready for school?

Starting primary school can be one of the biggest transitions in a child’s life. Most parents worry about how their child will manage school.  This can be especially true for parents of children with SEND.
Parents will want to support their child in any way they can. Information and advice services are available to help parents or carers of children with SEND   

This NCSE (National Council for Special Education) guides offer useful information for parents about supporting their child with SEND who is about to start school.

Early Years settings will have a:

  • keyworker allocated to each child
  • setting SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator)
  • access to support from the Area SENCo

Most children will already be attending a nursery, playgroup or other early years setting. If you are worried about your child’s learning or development you can ask to speak to the setting's class teacher or SENCo.

Any of these people can provide advice and help support the transition to school. They may provide written information about your child’s needs, abilities and progress to date to the new setting. They may advise parents or carers about particular settings that may suit their child's needs.

The Early Support and Area SENCO's team advise and support parent-carers. They can provide specialist teaching interventions to help with child development. In some cases they will directly support children with SEND making the transition to primary school. Your GP, early years practitioner or other education, health or social care professionals may also be able to advise and help. 

How to make your application...

Children normally start primary school in the September of the year they are four years old. This year is their Reception Year. It introduces children to behaviors and learning in a school environment. This helps them prepare successfully for school life.

The process to apply for a place in reception class begins when your child is three years old. If your child was born between 1st September and 31st August 3 years before the year we are in you need to make an application.

Applications open on September 1 and close on January 15 each year.

There is an online system to make your application.

Hackney Education's School Admissions Handbook includes:

  • step by step instructions to making your application online.
  • explains how schools decide how places are given (prioritised)

Do children with SEND follow the same process to apply for school places?

Most children with SEND will follow the same general primary application and admissions process. You can discuss your child's needs with the class teacher or school SENCo.

The process is different for children who already have an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan). Information about this process is included further down this page.

Support and advice – making your application...

Most children with SEND will go to a local mainstream school.

Do visit the schools and speak with staff and parents who’s children are already attending.

All schools MUST publish and up to date SEN Information Report on their school website. You can request a copy from the schools office. Do look at the schools SEN Information Report, this is a description of the specific support the school offers it's pupils who have SEN.

All schools have a SENCO who oversees support that children who need extra help receive. You can ask to talk with the school’s SENCO about any concerns you may have before deciding which school is right for your child.

You can find a list of primary schools in Hackney here

ARPs Schools with Additionally Resourced Provision

Children with higher support needs or complex needs who do not need to got to a Special SEND Schools might go to a school with Additionally Resourced Provision (ARP). These schools provide more opportunities for specialist support in mainstream school.
There is a different process for allocating places at ARPs. A panel of different professionals looks at each application and will decide who available places are allocated to.

You can find information about schools with additional reposurced provision in Hackney here

Special Schools in Hackney

Children with very complex needs may go to specialist schools. There are 3 specialist maintained schools in Hackney. The admission process for these schools is always by consultation via the EHC Plan process.

You can find information about Special Schools in Hackney here

As a parent your wishes and views are taken into account when a decision is made about which school can best meet your child's needs.

Support for those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in mainstream schools

The law says all schools must provide support for a child or young person if they have SEND (special educational needs and or disabilities).

This is the government definition given in the SEND Code of Practice 2014/15

Children and young people are considered to have SEND if they have either:

  • A significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age
  • A disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age.

To help understand what support schools are expected to give to children with additional needs read the following articles:

Pupil Premium

Some children will be able to receive Pupil Benefits. Examples of these are free school meals (FSM) and help with the cost of travel to school.

If your child goes to a primary school and meets the eligibility criteria for free school meals their school can claim funding to help them with their learning. The funding is called Pupil Premium and comes from the Department for Education. Find out more about Pupil Benefits on the Hackney Education website

Do my child’s medical or social needs qualify them for “priority” consideration?

You can ask for your child to be considered as a priority for a place at a particular school on medical or social grounds.

To make this request you must tick the social and or medical “priority” box on the application form. You must also provide a letter explaining why you feel your child can only attend the particular school you are applying for.

If appropriate the letter can include your medical needs (as a parent or carer) to show that this has created a social need for your child and is the reason they need to attend a particular school.

A “priority” application must be supported by independent, professional evidence such as letters from either:

  • a GP
  • hospital consultant
  • social worker or
  • other agency professional involved with your case

This supporting evidence must explain in detail the circumstances that means your child needs to attend the particular school you are applying for.

You must submit your letter and evidence by the admissions closing date of, 15th January.

Very few children are given priority places under this criteria.

Cases made only on the basis of a child having SEN will not be agreed unless they are associated with other circumstances that have resulted in a child only being able to attend the particular school in question.

You will find out if your child has been given a social or medical priority place on National Offer Day 16th April.

The Schools Admissions Team can give you some information about the reason for the decision after National Offer Day.

Applying for reception class in primary school when a child has an Education Health Care plan

Some children with additional needs have an Education, Health and Care support Plan (EHC Plan). Children who have an EHC Plan follow a different admissions process. If your child has an EHC Plan then you will be contacted by someone from the EHCP Team.
There will be an information session for parents and carers each year where officers from the EHCP Team and other SEND services share information. They will show how many parents got their first or second choice last year and answer any questions you have.

A member of the EHCP Team will send you a separate form to list the schools you would like to consider for your child.

Children who have an EHC Plan are asked to submit their preferences for schools earlier, before the general admissions process closes. This is so their placements can be given priority consideration before general admission places are allocated.

They EHC Team officer will consult with your preferred schools, to determine whether your child’s needs can be met in the setting you have named

Following this process, a school will be named on your child’s EHC Plan in section I.

Contact the EHCP Team. 

Phone: 0208 820 7000 / option 4

How to appeal a decision you do not agree with…

If you have not been given a place at the school you wanted and you feel that there are exceptional reasons why your child can only attend that particular school, you can make an appeal against the decision.

  • You will be advised about the process to appeal in your offer letter sent on national offer day.
  • You must complete and send an appeals form to Hackney Education's – School Admissions Service.
  • You will be invited to attend an appeals hearing to present your case to an independent panel.

There are organisations who can provide help and support to parents and carers who are making a school appeals.

These include:

Parent who have children with an EHC Plan who need to make an appeal about a school place have a special SEND tribunal process to follow as these cases are more specific and complex. Parents and carers will be given more information about the SEND Mediation and Tribunal processes at the time they are informed about which school has been named on their child's EHC Plan.

SENDIAGS - Specialist SEND information and advice service

All local authorities MUST provide a free impartial SEND Information Advice and Support Service.

Hackney SENDIAGS provides impartial and confidential information, advice and support to parents and carers of children with SEND in Hackney.


  • help you explore your options
  • resolve disagreements with schools
  • provide support and information
  • support you if you need to make a complaint

The service runs regular drop in advice sessions. You can also make appointments to speak to an advisor. The service also has useful factsheets, guides and videos available on their website. 




  • 020 7275 6036 (Advice Line)
  • 07500 066 513 (Service Coordinator)
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