Mainstream nurseries, schools and colleges

A child or young person who has SEN but no EHC plan must be educated in mainstream, subject to certain very limited exceptions (section 34 Children and Families Act (“CAFA”) 2014). (See the section on types of schools for the definition of ‘mainstream’.)

A school must not refuse to admit a child with SEN because they feel they do not feel able to cater for those needs. For more information, see the section on the right to mainstream.

Special units within mainstream schools are usually not special schools but part of the mainstream school to which they are attached. However, as places are often in demand and subject to demonstrable high levels of need, it’s unlikely that a child or young person can access such provision without it being specified in an EHC plan. You can find more information on EHC plans here.

Finding out about SEN Support

Support for children and young people with SEN but no EHC plan will be through SEN Support (see the FAQs on how your nursery, school or college should help for information on what SEN Support should look like in each phase of education).

Under section 69 CAFA 2014, the governing bodies of maintained schools and maintained nursery schools in England, and the proprietors of Academy schools must prepare a report containing SEN information in the form of SEN Information Reports.

These SEN Information Reports (SIRs) must contain information about the kinds of special educational needs for which provision is made at the school; how children/young people with SEN are identified and assessed; how provision might be made for them and the effectiveness of such provision evaluated; and, how they support children/young people with SEND to engage in school activities.

This information must be published on the school website and is a valuable tool for looking at the kind of provision available.

Although sixth form colleges and FE colleges are not under the same obligations to produce SIRs, they should have information available on their policies and the support they offer.

Your local authority’s (“LA’s”) Local Offer (available on your LA website) should also contain useful information about the type of support available.

Ask to meet the person responsible for SEN Support in prospective schools/colleges and discuss with them what types of support might be available for the child/young person in question.

You can read more about how your nursery, school or college should support you here and about how your LA should support you here.

Moving to a new phase of education on SEN Support

Many LAs have worked with schools and colleges in their area to agree enhanced transition support for those children and young people who receive SEN Support and are moving to a new phase of their education. Information about this will be set out in your LA’s Local Offer.

It may be that a greater level of support will be required once a child or young person moves to a new phase of their education. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to request that an EHC needs assessment is carried out.

When considering the need for an assessment or an EHC plan, the LA must look ahead to any upcoming move to a new phase of their education and whether this change of circumstance might make assessment or the issuing of an EHC plan necessary. 

Special nurseries, schools and colleges

If a child or young person needs to attend a special school (or you think they may do) then it will be necessary to secure an EHC needs assessment and an EHC plan naming this type of school or post-16 institution.

There are some very limited situations where children or young people can be placed in a special school or college without an EHC plan. These are: 

  • while the child or young person is admitted to a special school or special post-16 institution for the purposes of an EHC needs assessment (or remains admitted to a special school or special post-16 institution, in prescribed circumstances, following an EHC needs assessment at the school or post-16 institution);
  • while the child or young person is admitted to a special school or special post-16 institution, following a change in his or her circumstances, but only where all of the LA, the head teacher or principal of the school or college, and the parents/carers or young person have agreed to such placement.

In addition, a child or young person can be admitted to a special school without an EHC plan if it is established in a hospital and is either a community or foundation special school, or an Academy school.

They can also be admitted, without an EHC plan, to a special school or special post-16 institution that is an Academy, if the Academy arrangements made in respect of the school or post-16 institution permit it to admit children and young people with special educational needs for whom no EHC plan is maintained. In the case of special Academies, parents or carers and young people need to be confident that the provision on offer is suitable to meet needs because there is no obligation on the LA to secure anything for them. It may be difficult, without identifying a child or young person’s SEN through EHC needs assessment, to be certain if the placement and provision is right, in which case an EHC needs assessment should be sought.


If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question on this page, you can book an appointment to speak with us.