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Preparing to start reception class at primary school - children with SEND

Transition – help with getting children with SEND ready for school

Starting primary school can be one of the biggest transitions in a child’s life.  As a parent you will want to support your child in any way you can.  Most parents worry about how their child will manage school.  This can be especially true for parents of children with SEND. 

The NCSE (National Council for Special Education) has useful information for parents about starting school.

Find out more: NCSE - Starting School Guidelines for Parents/Guardians of Children with Special Educational Needs


Most children will already be attending a nursery, playgroup or other early years setting. These settings will have a keyworker and SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) who will help with the transition to school by providing them with written information about your child’s needs, abilities and progress to date.

The Early Support teacher and Area SENCO work with children aged 0 - 5 years old who have special educational needs and with the child's family and nursery/education setting.

The team advise and support parents/carers, and provide specialist teaching and interventions to help development.

They also support some children with SEND making the transition to primary school.

Find out more: Early Support and Area SENCOs

If you are worried about your child’s learning or development you can ask to speak to the class teacher or the school SENCO.

Your GP, early years practitioner or other education, health or social care professionals may also be able to help. 

Last updated: 11/08/17

How to make your application...

Children normally start primary school in the September of the year they are four years old.  This year is called their Reception Year

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 2013 and 31st August 2014 you need to make an application.

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

Children with SEND who do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan follow the same process as other children when applying for a primary school place.

Applications open on 1st September 2017 and the closing date is 15th January 2018.

There is an online system to make your application.

The school admissions handbook explains how schools decide how places given (prioritised) and includes step by step instructions to making your application online.

Find out more: Primary Admissions - Hackney Learning Trust

Support and advice – making your application...

Most children with SEND will go to a local mainstream school. All schools have a SENCO who oversees support that children who need extra help receive.

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

Do look at the schools SEN Information Report to see how they support pupils with SEND. 

You can ask to talk with a school’s SENCO about any concerns you may have before deciding which school is right for your child.

Find out more: Primary Schools in Hackney


Children with more severe or complex needs may need to go to a school with additionally resourced provision or a special school.

As a parent your wishes and views are taken into account when this decision is made.

Find out more: Types of school places for children with SEND

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

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

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

“Have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age”

or

“if they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age.”

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

Find out more: Parents SEND Code of Practice - reforms guide

The full version is available here: SEND Code of Practice 2014/15

It can be helpful to understand what schools, including primary schools, are expected to do to help support children with additional needs. 

You can find out more about this in the following articles: 

Pupil Premium

Some children will be able to receive Pupil Benefits like free school meals and help with the cost of travel to school.

If your child attends a primary school and you meet the eligibility criteria for free school meals, you child’s school can claim Pupil Premium funding from the Department for Education to help them with their learning.

Find out more: Pupil Benefits - Hackney Learning Trust

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

You can ask for your child to be considered for priority 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 in question.

If appropriate the letter can include your medical needs (as a parent or carer) to demonstrate that this is what 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 any other agency professional involved with your case. These must explain in detail the circumstances that have resulted in your child only being able to attend the particular school in question.

You must submit your letter and evidence by the closing date of, 15th January 2018.

Very few children are given priority under this criteria.

Cases related only to a child having special educational needs 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 whether your child has been given social / medical priority on national offer day, 16th April 2018.

The schools admissions team can provide some additional 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

Children who have an Education Health and Care Plan follow a different admissions process. Hackney Learning Trust’s SEND department will contact you and send you a separate information form for you to list the schools you would like to consider for your child.

They will consult with your preferred schools, to determine whether your child’s needs can be met there. 

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

Find out more: Special Educational Needs Administration Team

Find out more: Education, Health and Care Planning Team

Specialist SEND information and advice education service - SENDIAGS

The Hackney SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service (SENDIAGS) is an arm's length service providing impartial and confidential information, advice and support to parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND)

They can help you explore options to resolve disagreements with schools or provide support and information if you want to make a complaint.

The service runs regular advice and drop in sessions but you can also make appointments to speak to an advisor privately.

SENDIAGS have produced some very useful guides for parents. The two guides below relate to starting school for pupils with SEND.

SENDIAGS - SEN Support in mainstream schools

SENDIAGS - EHC needs assessment for children in early year’s settings or at school

Find out more: Hackney SENDIAGS (SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service)

How to appeal a decision you do not agree with…

If you have been refused 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 refusal of a place at the school.

You must complete and send an appeals form to Hackney Learning Trust – School Admissions by, 16th May 2018.

You will be invited to attend an appeals hearing to present your case to an independent panel.

You will be advised about the process to appeal in your offer letter sent on national offer day, 16th April 2018.

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

These include:

Hackney SENDIAGS (SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service)

Advisory Centre for Education – School Appeals

Corram Children’s Legal Centre – School Appeals

Other useful information…

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