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Can I apply directly to a Special Needs School in another borough?

(4 Posts)
MarniePaysley Thu 03-Sep-15 14:54:00

My DS just turned five and entered reception this week at a mainstream school, we were told that he was Autistic in April and have received a statement. There's nothing wrong with the school and DS has loved it so far, however I take DS to a weekly club for special needs children and it's filled with parents whose children also use to go to DS' school before they were told by the borough's educational department that it was no longer suitable and they were offered a place at the local special needs school. That has me slightly terrified, so I researched the special schools in the area that DS might be offered if that was ever to happen, the schools are sadly not exactly where I would want DS to attend, but I've only come to those conclusions via ofsted and online posts.

In my search I found a great special needs school that would be perfect for DS, but the problem is that although it's only ten minutes away, it's technically in another borough and the only way to get a place is for that borough's educational department to recommend a child. So I was just wondering, in case DS is asked to leave his current school, if there was a way to try and get him placed at that school, perhaps writing to my educational department for help or getting into contact with the school myself or is there absolutely no chance? Anyone every try something like that?

OneInEight Thu 03-Sep-15 16:15:13

Unfortunately, although logical it can be difficult.

First, you have to get your LEA to agree a special school is necessary - as tends to cost more their default will be to prefer mainstream.

Then they will prefer a placement at one of there special schools as they have already funded these and will not want to fund in addition an out-of-borough placement.

You then have to persuade the out-of-borough school to take your son - special schools are often over-subscribed and they will usually put their LEA's children in first.

Having said that you can win if the school you want is the only school that meets your son's needs. You are unlikely to win if you only want the school because it has a better ofsted.

[In any case where special needs are concerned I would ignore the ofsted and make your own evaluation - ds1's school has just had a dreadful ofsted but we are very happy with the school as it is meeting ds1's needs]

uggerthebugger Thu 03-Sep-15 19:26:43

My two are in a special school in a neighbouring county - the challenges of securing the placements are exactly how OneInEight described them.

One extra thing that might make it harder is if LA SEN staff have been given targets to reduce the number of out-of-borough placements. Even if it's the sensible thing to do, you might find extra resistance because of this. Have a look at this article for more.

If the host LA school has enough places, then the extra cost to your LA of educating your DC out-of-borough won't necessarily be much in and of itself. There's a well-used 'recoupment' funding mechanism that allows LAs to agree on a fee to bill each other for out-of-borough placements.

The main thing your LA will be worried about is the extra transport cost - particular if no-one else from your LA goes to this school, as setting up a new taxi route & escort for a single child will be a significant extra expense. If you were happy to bear these costs yourself (ie take DS to and from school yourself), the LA might be much more receptive - but if you can't do this, then the LA are likely to play hardball.

YY to another thing OneInEight wrote - be very, very cautious in using Ofsted reports to check out special schools. The inspectors that Ofsted use to inspect special schools have to do a two-day training course in "SEN" that contains virtually no training in individual types of SEN.

What this means is that most of inspections of special schools catering for ASD will not have been carried out by people with any expertise in ASD, or any recent experience in teaching children with ASD, and - most importantly of all - no understanding of whether the school will be good at meeting the specific ASD-related needs of your particular child.

I wouldn't wipe my arse with most Ofsted school inspection reports I've read on SEN. Nothing beats a school visit and a face-to-face chat with the staff.

MarniePaysley Thu 03-Sep-15 23:31:21

Thank you OneInEight and Uggerthebugger, I'm slightly new to all this and your input has helped calm me down, before I do try and get the school I presume is better, I'm going to arrange visits to all of the special schools in our LA and see if one fits DS' needs, I thought Ofsted might not be a great source of accurate information for special schools and I'm glad I was right. So far DS is doing okay in mainstream but he's only in reception and he has a helper with him at all times, his teachers try to word everything in a non offensive way and tend to sugar coat his achievements so it's hard to gauge how far behind academically he is from other 5 years olds and if mainstream is better for him then a special school, but I'll most certainly do my research and hopefully, in case he does struggle with mainstream schooling, one of the special schools in my LA will meet his needs.

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