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 Code.

You should firstly check the school is definitely a fully independent school, because there are different types of independent school and the type will affect which area of the law applies to your request. Further information about this, and how to check a school’s type, can be found on our page about different types of schools.

Parents have a right to request most types of school other than fully independent schools, as explained on our choosing a school/ college with an EHC plan page.

While this right does not apply to fully independent schools you can still ask and argue for a place at a fully independent school. You will need an offer of a place from the school.

You will need to prove to your LA that you have an offer of a place, and

1.    none of the schools your LA is offering can meet your child’s needs, or

2.    if one of the schools your LA is offering can also meet your child’s needs, that the cost of placing your child in your preferred school will not be unreasonable public expenditure,

and that, therefore, your LA must place your child in the independent school. Within 15 days of receiving the draft EHC plan, you can require a meeting with the LA and/or ask for changes or make comments on 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), using any professional advice you have which shows that, or that placing your child in the school will not be an unreasonable cost to the public purse. If you can convince your LA of this, and you have a placement offer from the school, then your LA may consider your request for an independent school.

If your LA refuses to name the independent school

If you are unable to persuade your LA at the draft EHC plan stage to name the independent school you want, then you will have to consider appealing to the SEND Tribunal when the EHC plan is finalised.

You may need to appeal sections B (needs) and F (provision), as well as section I (which names the school).

If you decide to appeal sections B, F and I the deadline for appealing is two months from the date on the decision letter enclosing the final EHC plan or one month from the date on the mediation certificate, whichever date falls the latest. If you decide to just appeal section I you will have two months from the date on that letter to appeal because you do not need a mediation certificate for that type of appeal. You can find more information about appealing to the SEND Tribunal here.

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