Choosing a Primary School for children who have an EHC Plan (Phase Transfer )

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Most children start full-time primary school in September after they turn 4. This is sometimes called transfer, Phase Transfer, or Transition.

Choosing and applying for a primary school for a child who has an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHC Plan) because they have additional needs is different from the standard 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 same admissions process as non-disabled children. There is funding and support available in schools for children who do not have an EHC Plan.

The government sets key dates and deadlines when certain things must happen. Find out what and when the key dates are in this one-page guide for parent-carers.

Hackney Primary Phase Transfer flow chart for children with EHC Plans (PDF 70KB printable resource)

Read on to find out about choosing and applying for a primary school for a child with an EHC Plan. This information is also relevant to parents of children whose plans are at the draft stage.

What the law says about Primary Transfer for children with EHC plans

All children must start reception by the term following their fifth birthday.

Your child will be offered a full-time school place for the start of the school year when they turn five.

The SEND Code of Practice states that a primary school or primary academy should be named on a child’s EHC Plan by 15th February in the year they are due to start school.

Section I of the EHC Plan will name the nursery setting your child is attending AND the primary school or academy your child will be transferring to.

It will state the date that the new placement will beigin e.g. September 2023

Hackney suggests 2 preferences are put forward by parents not to limit choice but to try to ensure parents and carers get one of their top two choices.

The earlier naming of schools for pupils with SEND allows parents and carers who disagree with the decision enough time to appeal to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal (SENDT) and receive a decision back before the September start date.

What are School preference forms for children with SEND?

School preference forms helps you tell the local authority which schools you are most interested in. It is important to keep them in a safe place. There is a deadline for returning these forms.

Parents and carers of children with EHC Plans (including draft EHC plans) will be sent preference forms in the September of the year before their child is due to start school.

If your preference form gets lost please contact your child's EHC Plan Coordinator or SEND Business Support to ask for a new one. 

SEND Business Support
Phone 0208 820 7000 / Option 4

You can also download a new one from the Documents Library of this website. 

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 you child fully complete the form with; your child's details, your current contact details and at least 2 school preferences.

Hackney suggests 2 preferences are put forward by parents not to limit choice but to try to ensure parents and carers get one of their top two choices. You can add another school if you wish to. 

Make sure you return your child's preference form before the end of October deadline.

This is to allow enough time for the EHC Planning Team to consult with the schools you have chosen.

All children must start reception by the term following their fifth birthday.

Your child will be offered a full-time school place for the start of the school year when they turn five.

Visiting Primary Schools with your child…

Visit and speak with key staff to decide if a setting is right for your child. Primary Schools do not run an Open Day system in the same way as Secondary Schools.Parents or carers should contact schools or settings they are interested in and arrange a visit. This is the best way to get a feel of the support they can offer.

It is best not to judge a school based only on what others have said. Schools and the staff in them change over time. The right school for a friend’s child may not be the right school for your child. 

You can find contact details for all schools here on Hackney Education's website.

Hackney SENDIAG's guide ‘Visiting a new schooll" (PDF) talks through what to ask about and look for and how to review and track school visits.

Parents can ask for advice from professionals such as the nursery or school’s SENCo, Area SENCo, Portage worker, Speech and Language Therapist and other parents when choosing a new school.

Where to look for each school’s information about SEND...

You can find out more about any school 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

These 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. When these were first introduced in 2014 some schools called them the "school local offer".

SEN Policy

The law says all schools must have policies that describe arrangement 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 Part 6 Chapter 1.

Schools with Additionally Resourced Provision (ARPs)

Children with higher support needs or complex needs who do not need to go 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 should be given to based on their needs.

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.

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.

Can you delaying your child’s start in reception?

After a school place has been offered you can delay your child’s start in Reception class or request they go part-time for a while.

We recommend families who want to consider deferment speak to family, friends and professionals who know the child. This can help make sure it is carefully considered and in the best interests of the child. It also helps to have done this before you speak to the headteacher of the school about your request and why you think for your child this is a good decision.

In specific circumstances you can request to defer your child’s admission to Reception class for a full year.

Deciding to defer starting school can have an impact on a child’s whole education.

It can result in your child missing the Reception stage of education while other children of a similar age are learning in the classroom and forming friendship groups.

Where can I find out more?

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.

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 who are beginning to explore this process early for the following year are also welcome to attend.

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

  • the SENCO at you current or intended setting
  • Portage worker (if you have one)
  • Area SENCos
  • EHC Plan Coordinator
  • SEND Business Support
  • Hackney SENDIAGS
  • Other parents who have been through this transition with their child

Information and contact details for these service can be found on this website and their directory service entries are linked to this article. 


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Page last modified: 10/10/2023