In law, local authorities (“LAs”) must have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure. This is set out in section 9 of the Education Act 1996, and also in paragraph 9.84 of the SEN and Disability Code of Practice.

While you do not have a right to request an independent school, this does not mean that you cannot ask for and argue for a place at an independent school which is not on the above list. However, the onus is on you to prove that none of the schools the LA is offering can meet your child’s needs, or that placing your child in that school will not constitute unreasonable public expenditure – and that, therefore, they must place your child in the independent school. 

Additionally, you must have an offer of a place from the independent school.

Within 15 days of receiving the draft EHC plan, you can ask for a meeting with the LA and/or make written representations about the EHC plan. Either in writing or at the meeting, you should explain that you want the independent school named in Section I of the final EHC plan and why. You should also explain why you do not believe that the schools the LA can offer can meet your child’s special educational needs (“SEN”) or that placing your child in the school will not be an unreasonable cost to the public purse. If you can convince them of this, then they may consider an independent school.

It may be that the professional advice gives you the evidence you need to prove that your child’s needs cannot be met by any school the LA can offer him. If not, you might have to consider getting a second professional opinion.

If that doesn’t work

If you are unable to persuade the LA at the draft EHC plan stage to name the independent school you want, then you will have to consider appealing to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (the “SEND Tribunal”) when the EHC plan is finalised. It is advisable to appeal against Sections B and F, as well as Section I (which names the school). The deadline for appealing is two months from the date of the decision or one month from the date of the mediation certificate, whichever date falls the latest. You can find more information about appealing to the SEND Tribunal here.

For more information, see the section on asking for an independent setting in choosing a school or college when you have an EHC plan.