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Pupils with SEND - choosing and starting primary school...

COVID-19 update

It is likely that for parents of children due to start school in 2021 information sessions will be held online due to the pandemic. Updated helpful information on the process is shared on this page.  

This includes a Parent Carer - Primary Transfer Presentation (updated September 2020) pdf

Services will understand there will be some parents who will need individual discussion and are keen to offer support.

Find out about contacting teams during COVID-19.


Most children start full time primary school in the 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. 

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 transfer flow chart for children with EHC Plans

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

Page last modified: 18/09/20

Visiting Primary Schools with your child…

Primary Schools do not run an Open Day system in the same way as Secondary Schools.


Don’t 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. Visit and speak with key staff to decide if a setting is right for your child.
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.

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

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


Parents can ask for advice from professionals working with your child, the school’s SENCo, 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.

School Transport for some children with SEND

Some 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 agreed it is written into the final plan.


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

School preference forms for children with SEND

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.

The preference form 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.


If your preference form gets lost please contact the plan coordinator or Education Health and Care Planning Team and ask for a new one.

The Education Health and Care team can be contacted on:
Phone: 0208 820 7000 / Option 4
email: SENDBusinessSupport@learningtrust.co.uk


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.

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.

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

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 2020


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.

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.

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.

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.

Where can I find out more?

COVID-19 update

It is likely that for parents of children due to start school in 2021 information sessions will be held online due to the pandemic. Services understand this there will be some parents who will need individual discussion and are keen to offer support.

Find out about contacting teams during COVID-19.


You can speak with your child’s EHC Plan Coordinator, the SENCO at you current or intended setting or Hackney SENDIAGS to find out more.


Face to face information sessions are held every year so parents can find out more 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 got their first preference
  • Get advice on choosing a school and completing the preference form
  • Ask questions about any related concerns they 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.


Children with support needs who do not have an EHC Plan follow the standard admissions process.

  • Support in school and funding for support is available for children without EHC Plans. This is referred to as SEN Support.
  • Information sessions for parents/carers of children who need or get SEN Support are also held each year. Contact SENDIAGS to find when these sessions are next going to run.
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