Having an education, health and care (EHC) plan in place, or in draft form, for your child or young person gives certain rights.

One of these is the legal right to request that a particular school or college is named in the EHC plan (or to express a preference for an independent school, college or other institution).

If you have received your draft EHC plan, you can use our template letter to make a request for a particular school to your local authority (LA).

It is not uncommon for LAs to ask parents to complete a ‘general preference form’ so their preference(s) can be considered. However, these forms apply to children and young people without EHC plans through separate legislation.

Therefore, parents whose children have an EHC plan are not required to complete general preference forms. It is not lawful for LAs to impose this requirement on these parents or young people but there might be a risk in not following this process; if your LA refuses to name your choice of school, it may name a school that you would be particularly unhappy with. It is important to remember, however, that even if you do list several preferences your LA can only refuse to name your first preference if one of the legal reasons for refusal applies.

Please click on the links below to jump to the section you want to read about:

Requesting a particular nursery, school or college

Asking for an independent school or college

Asking for education otherwise than in a school or other institution


Requesting a particular nursery, school or college

You can request a particular nursery, school or college when you receive a draft EHC plan or an amendment notice setting out proposed amendments to an existing EHC plan.

This might be when your child or young person is getting an EHC plan for the first time, if the EHC plan is being amended after an annual review, or if the EHC plan is being amended at any other time (for example, if your child or young person has to move schools and the EHC plan needs to be amended to reflect that).

What type of school can I ask for my child or young person?

You have a right to request any of the following types of nursery, school or college is named in the EHC plan:

  • a maintained school or nursery (mainstream or special)
  • an Academy (mainstream or special)
  • an institution in the Further Education sector
  • a non-maintained special school
  • a section 41 school.

These are listed in section 38(3) of the Children and Families Act (CFA) 2014.

If you ask for one of these types of settings to be named in an EHC plan, your local authority (LA) has to consider your request and can only refuse it if certain reasons apply (please see below).

Please see our page on types of school and college for more information on what these different categories mean.

Can I ask that a school with a specialist unit is named?

Some schools have a specialist unit or resourced provision base attached to them. The unit or resource base may be a separate institution, but they are often part of a mainstream school.

If you want your child to attend a school with such a unit or base, the first thing to do is check whether the unit or base is separate to the school or not. You can check this online.

If it is a separate institution, you should check what type of setting it is to see if falls into one of the types listed above. If the unit is one of those types of settings listed above, you have the right to request that it is named in section I of the EHC plan. Your LA can only refuse your request if certain reasons apply (please see below).

It is also advisable to include details of the type of support your child will receive in section F – the part detailing the special educational provision required.

If the unit is part of a mainstream school, you should double check that the school falls into one of the categories above. If it does, you have a right to request that the school is named in the EHC plan and your LA can again only refuse this request if certain reasons apply (please see below). However, the unit should not be named in section I of the EHC plan, but should instead be described in section F.

It is essential that section F of the EHC plan includes a description of the special education provision that your child requires, which is provided at the unit or base, for example small class teaching, onsite speech and language or occupational therapy, or specially trained staff. Without a clear description in section F, your child could end up being placed in the mainstream school within which the unit is based, but not have any access to the unit.

Some LAs are willing to name a unit or base in section I of an EHC plan even where it is not a separate institution. However, if you need to appeal to the SEND Tribunal to make sure your child can access the unit, the SEND Tribunal will not be able to order your LA to name the unit in section I. Therefore, it is especially important that your appeal includes sections B and F of the EHC plan as well as section I. 

I want my child to have a mainstream education. What rights do I have to this?

If you want a mainstream school or college named in the EHC plan, there is another part of the law you can rely on as well.

Section 33 CFA 2014 says that a child or young person with an EHC plan must be educated in a mainstream setting unless:

  1. it is against the wishes of the child’s parent or the young person, or
  2. it is incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others and the LA shows that there are no reasonable steps that it could take to prevent the incompatibility.

If you request a mainstream school but your LA can prove that one of the lawful reasons for refusing to name that particular school (detailed below) applies, your child still has the right to a mainstream education generally. This means if your LA wanted to name a special school against your wishes, it would also have to show that mainstream education is incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others, and that there are no reasonable steps which can be taken to prevent this.

Note, however, that this is a right to mainstream education but not necessarily a right to a particular mainstream school.

For further information, see our separate pages on the right to mainstream education.

What happens after I make a request?

After your request and before naming a school, your LA must consult:

  • the governing body, proprietor or principal of the school or other setting that you have requested
  • the governing body, proprietor or principal of any school or other setting the LA is considering having named in the plan, and
  • if any of those schools or other institutions are maintained by another LA, that LA.

This is set out in in section 39(2) CFA 2014.

Your LA should give them 15 days to respond. If the school or other LA fails to respond, your LA does not have to wait to make a decision about naming a school or college. Your LA still needs to stick to the legal deadlines for issuing a final EHC plan. For more detail on the various deadlines it must meet, please see our pages on EHC needs assessments (where it is a plan being issued for the first time) or the page on changing an existing EHC plan.

Your LA should issue the draft EHC plan (or amendment notice in the case of an annual review) well before the deadline to make sure it can comply with its consultation duties.

The final decision on which school to name rests with the LA where the child or young person lives. Even if the school or college, and/or the LA where the school or college is located (if different) objects, the home LA can still choose to name the school or college in the EHC plan. That said, your LA must consider the school’s response to consultation carefully and in line with its duties to carry out a lawful consultation.

Can my LA refuse my request?

Yes, but only in limited circumstances. The only reasons your LA can refuse your request are:

  • the setting is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs (SEN) of your child or young person
  • the attendance of your child or young person would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others, or
  • the attendance of your child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient use of resources.

This is set out in section 39(4) CFA 2014. There are no other lawful reasons. A school being full is not a lawful reason, for example.

If your LA wishes to refuse your placement request, your LA has to prove that at least one of these conditions applies for the refusal to be lawful. Cases where each of these conditions have been considered can be found on our case law pages.

If you want one of the above types of school or college and your LA is refusing to consult with them, or if it has rejected your request for a reason other than one of the reasons listed above, you can use our template letter to complain.

What happens if my LA can refuse my request?

If your LA considers that one of the above reasons does apply in relation to your choice of school or institution, it must name a school or institution (or type) it considers would be “appropriate” for your child or young person.

This is set out in section 39(5) CFA 2014.

What is appropriate will depend on all the circumstances, but remember this can include a special setting.  It can also be mainstream provision if:

  • a mainstream education would not be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or 
  • an incompatibility exists, but there are reasonable steps the LA or school could take to remove that incompatibility it. 

If you think the setting (or type) your LA intends to name is not appropriate you should explain that, and provide evidence if you can.

Please note that the conditions at section 39(4) CFA, explained above, apply to consideration of a parent or young person’s choice of school or institution. They don’t apply to the setting (or type) that the LA has decided to name.

If you do not agree with the setting or type your LA is proposing to name, you should not focus on whether your child’s attendance would result in an incompatibility with the provision of efficient education for others, or the efficient use of resources. If you do not agree with the LA’s preferred setting, you should focus on the inappropriateness of the LA’s choice of setting.

If your LA has already finalised the EHC plan and named a different school to the one you requested and you do not agree it is appropriate, you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal. 

What happens if I have not yet found a school I want to ask for?

If you cannot find a school or college you would like to ask your LA to name in the EHC plan and do not make a request for a particular setting to be named, your LA must:

  • name a school or college it considers appropriate, or
  • name a type of school or college it considers appropriate.

However, it is possible that you may not agree the LA’s choice of setting, or the type, is an appropriate one for your child or young person.

What happens once a school or college is named in an EHC plan?

If you asked for a setting which is one of those types of settings listed above, found in section 38(3) CFA 2014, and this setting is named in section I of the EHC plan then that setting must admit your child or young person. This is set out in section 43 CFA 2014.

If your LA refused your placement request and named a different school in section I, then that named school has a duty to admit your child even if you are unhappy with the LA’s choice of school. We have a FAQ with more information on this point, which you may want to read if this is relevant to you.

My child’s EHC plan does not name a setting, only a type of setting. What does this mean?

Some EHC plans do name just the type of setting a child or young person is to attend, for example ‘mainstream’, or ‘special’. This is lawful if:

  • the LA is able to show the setting requested by the parent or young person should not be named, because one of the above exceptions applies, and/or
  • neither the parent, young person, nor the LA has identified an appropriate setting to be named

If the EHC plan has been finalised with just a type of setting to be attended, then this means that there is no school/college with the duty to admit your child or young person. 

There is also no legal deadline for their EHC plan to be amended to specify the name (in addition to the type) of the setting. However, once a setting is found for them to attend, your LA should take steps amend the EHC plan to name it.

In the meantime, your LA must make sure your child or young person gets all of the provision specified in section F (this duty is set out in section 42(2) CFA 2014) and the responsible commissioning health body will still need to arrange any health care provision in section G of the EHC plan.

If your child is of compulsory school age, your LA must also make sure they receive suitable alternative education whilst they remain out of education.

My LA has sent the final EHC plan and I do not agree with what it says in section I about placement. What can I do?

If you receive an EHC plan and you disagree with the choice of school named in the plan by your LA then you could challenge the decision at appeal in the SEND Tribunal. You should consider appealing sections B and F at the same time in such appeals.  

If the EHC plan specifies only a type of setting to be attended and you don’t agree with the type, or maybe you do but are unhappy that the plan does not specify a particular school or college, then you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal and seek to have a particular school or college (or different type) named in the EHC plan.

For more information, please see our pages on appealing to the SEND Tribunal.

If you are arguing that a particular school should be named in the EHC plan, you may find it helpful to look at our case law page to see previous cases which could help your arguments.


Asking for an independent nursery, school or college

Parents or young people have a right to request particular types of settings are named in an education, health and care (EHC) plan, as set out in section 38(3) of the Children and Families Act (CFA) 2014. Please see the section above for more information on requesting these types of settings.

The types of setting you have a right to request are:

  • a maintained school or nursery (mainstream or special)
  • an Academy (mainstream or special)
  • an institution in the Further Education sector
  • a non-maintained special school, and
  • a section 41 school.

Independent settings are not one of those types of settings.

However, this does not mean that you cannot ask for and argue for a place at an independent setting which is not on that list.

If you have found an independent setting you would like your local authority (LA) to consider naming, do check it is a wholly independent setting and not a ‘section 41 approved’ setting or a non-maintained special school. If it is a setting that comes within the list above, then it is one you have the right to request and your LA must name it unless certain limited reasons apply. If it is wholly independent, your LA could still consider naming it as an ‘appropriate’ setting.  

If you ask your LA to consider naming an independent setting, your LA must take into account your views, wishes and feelings, and those too of your child if you are a parent making the request for your child. This is set out in section 19 CFA 2014 and includes where the child or young person wants to be educated.

If you are asking your LA to name an independent setting, your LA also needs to have regard to the general principle that pupils (which are usually those under the age of 19) 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 general principle is set out in section 9 of the Education Act 1996.

This situation is different to requesting a section 38(3) CFA 2014 school or college. There, the LA must comply with the request unless the limited exceptions apply. If the LA refuses to name the parent or young person’s choice, the LA has to prove why it is not possible.

However, if you ask for an independent setting as part of your ‘representations’ on the draft EHC plan, you will need to show that:

  1. the independent setting has offered to your child or young person a place (this is essential because your LA cannot make an independent setting accept a student with an EHC plan), and
  2. the setting is appropriate, and
  3. none of the schools the LA is offering can meet your child or young person’s needs, or 
  4. if the LA’s choice of school can also meet their needs, that the cost of the independent placement is not unreasonable public expenditure.

Public expenditure includes all the costs to the public purse of the placement, not just those incurred by the LA’s education budget. This can include social care costs, health costs and any other costs incurred by any public body.

If you cannot show this, your LA is under no obligation to look at independent provision.

It does not matter if the independent setting proposed is an excellent school and/or better suited to your child or young person’s needs than the school your LA has in mind. LAs do not have to offer a child or young person with SEN ‘the best’ provision to meet their needs – only what is necessary to meet their needs.

In practice, the most important point to prove is that the school or college offered by the LA cannot meet your child or young person’s needs, not that the independent setting is better than the LA’s proposed school or college.

If you want to ask for an independent setting, generally you will need evidence from a professional as to why the independent setting is the only school or college which can meet your child or young person’s needs.

The courts have considered situations in which an independent setting should be named in an EHC plan, and given examples of when a setting would be considered an unreasonable public expenditure. You can read about these cases in our case law section.

If your young person is aged 19 or over, section 9 of the Education Act 1996 may not be as relevant to them, because the term ‘pupil’ is defined as a person aged 18 or under receiving full time education in a school setting (section 3 of the Education Act 1996). However, we think the case law is likely to remain relevant for young people in this situation, because it sets out what the SEND Tribunal will take into account when considering whether or not it is “appropriate” to name an independent placement. Your LA must also have regard to your young person’s wishes as set out in section 19 CFA 2014 (the CFA 2014 applies to children and young people aged from 0-25).

What happens if my LA refuses to agree to an independent placement?

If you asked for an independent placement to be considered but your LA has refused to name it because you:

  • cannot show the school/s the LA is offering cannot meet your child or young person’s needs,
  • cannot show that the cost of the independent placement is not unreasonable public expenditure (if the LA’s choice of school and your preferred school are both appropriate), or 
  • did not get an offer of a place from the setting,

then your LA must name a school and its type of setting (or just type of setting) it considers “appropriate”. This is set out in section 40(2) CFA 2014.

If your LA identifies a setting or type of setting you do not consider is appropriate, you should show with evidence why such a placement would be inappropriate.  

If in the final EHC plan the LA does not name a setting or type of setting to be attended in section I at all, or names a setting (or type) you feel is not appropriate, you can appeal this in the SEND Tribunal. You should consider appealing sections B and F at the same time in such appeals.  


Education otherwise than in a school or other institution 

When you receive a draft EHC plan your local authority (LA) must give you at least 15 days to request a particular school or other setting is named in the EHC plan. You can find out more about this process on our website.    

However, some families feel that no setting would be appropriate for their child due to their needs.

Section 61 of the Children and Families Act (CFA) 2014 allows an LA to arrange for some or all special educational provision set out in section F of the EHC plan to be made otherwise than in an early years, school, or post 16 setting if the LA agrees it would be inappropriate for provision to be made in such a setting.  This is sometimes called ‘EOTAS’ or ‘EOTIS’.

If you feel no setting would be appropriate for your child and do not want a setting (or type) named in section I, you should tell your LA. Your LA will need to:

  1. take into account your views, wishes and feelings, as well as those of your child if you are asking for this as a parent on behalf of your child
  2. consider the special educational provision required
  3. consider whether it would be inappropriate for any of this provision to be delivered in a school, and
  4. consider whether it would be appropriate for some of this provision to be delivered in a school.

Whether it is appropriate for your child or young person’s provision to be delivered in a school or not will depend on all the facts.

Facts that your LA must consider include the:  

  • child’s background and medical history 
  • particular educational needs 
  • facilities that can be provided by a school;
  • facilities that could be provided other than in a school 
  • comparative cost of the possible alternatives to the child’s educational provisions;
  • child’s reaction to education provisions, either at a school or elsewhere 
  • parents’ wishes, and 
  • any other particular circumstances that apply to a particular child. 

You should show with evidence why education in any setting would be inappropriate if you want an EOTAS package, not just the setting which your LA may have suggested. Evidence could include school reports, independent reports, your child or young person’s views and any evidence you have which shows why your child cannot attend a school.

How is EOTAS reflected in an EHC plan?

If some provision would be appropriate in a setting, this setting should be named in section I of the EHC plan (even if that setting will only be attended part time). Section F should detail all of the provision to be delivered in the setting as well as otherwise.  

If it would be inappropriate for any provision to be delivered in a setting, section I of the EHC plan should be blank and section F should clearly describe the special educational provision, as confirmed by case law. For more information on how special educational provision should be set out in an EHC plan, see our pages on what an EHC plan contains.  

Section F must contain all the special educational provision your child or young person requires. Given that there may be no setting to oversee the delivery of provision on a daily basis, you will want to make sure everything that needs to be specified in section F is there.

Section F should be specific, for example it should say:

  • how long the provision should last for (for example, one hour) 
  • how often it should take place (for example, daily or weekly)
  • if the person delivering it needs any specific qualifications or experience, and
  • whether your child is to receive the provision with any other children. 

The EHC plan is unlikely to detail activities your child might otherwise receive in a school such as physical education (PE) or foreign languages, as these are not special educational provision. That said, depending on your child’s needs, the following could be special educational provision and as such, detailed in section F:

  • gymnastics, swimming or climbing if required to meet your child’s sensory needs
  • art or play therapy if required if required to meet your child’s emotional and mental health needs
  • activities with other children if required to meet your child’s social needs
  • private tutors if required to meet your child’s cognition and learning needs, and
  • speech and language therapy if required to meet your child’s communication needs.

The EHC plan is also unlikely to specific exactly which provider, organisation or person will deliver the provision. Your LA can arrange for this based on what section F details or you may decide you would like to be able to manage this aspect yourself and commission providers to deliver the provision. Your LA may agree to provide you with a personal budget and make a direct payment to you, allowing you to secure the delivery of provision.

If the final EHC plan names a setting, and you think that no setting would be appropriate, you can appeal this to the SEND Tribunal. You should also consider appealing sections B and F at the same time.  

How is this different to elective home education?

This is very different to elective home education.

Elective home education is where a parent has genuinely decided to home educate their child. In doing so, they accept that their LA has no legal duty to support their child with their special educational needs (SEN). This means that a child with an EHC plan who is being electively home educated may keep their EHC plan and will have their EHC plan reviewed by their LA annually, but their LA will have no legal duty to secure any of the special educational provision in section F. This is because the LA is likely to decide that the parent has made ‘suitable alternative arrangements’, which relives the LA of its duty in section 42(2) of the CFA 2014. The parent will need to fund all of the support their child needs in respect of their SEN.

If a child has an EHC plan and is being educated otherwise at a school, then their LA must still secure all of the special educational provision in section F and ensure there is sufficient funding to meet its obligations. 

For more information on EOTAS, and elective home education, please see our pages on home education and ‘education otherwise’  

If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question on this page,  you may find it helpful to read our FAQs.