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The voice of specialist education

Applying for a place

When making decisions about post-school education options and applying for a place at a specialist college, the Children and Families Act means that by law you can:

  • have your views and wishes listened to
  • request a place at a specialist college or any college of your choice
  • get a personalised Education, Health and Care plan
  • appeal to a tribunal if you are not happy with the decisions.

You can request a place at a specialist college when this is the best place to meet a young person’s needs.

DfE guidance on requesting a place includes:

‘Parents and young people do not need to apply for and be rejected from a general FE college before requesting that a specialist post-16 institution be named on their EHC plan. The parent’s / young person’s request carries particular statutory weight, so they should request the provider they would like.’

Education Health and Care Plans

A young person age 16-25 with complex needs will have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Special Needs Jungle have published a useful flow chart describing the process of conducting an EHCP needs assessment.

The Council for Disabled Children has produced a guide to help you get involved in your EHC Plan. They’ve also provided examples of good practice:

Legal advice and guidance

The government has produced a guide for parents about the SEND system under the Children and Families Act: Special educational needs and disabilities guide for parents and carers

IPSEA logo

IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support for those working with or caring for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). IPSEA also provides training on the SEND legal framework to parents and carers, professionals and other organisations.

The SEND Tribunal

Parents and young people over 16 (until they reach 25) can appeal to the SEND Tribunal about EHC assessments and EHC plans.

The S41 symbol explained

The S41 symbol next to most of the colleges in the Natspec Directory means that they are on the Secretary of State’s Approved List.

This list was developed as part of the Children and Families Act 2014. It means that some parts of the Act apply to these institutions and colleges.

The duties are:

  • Local authorities must include information about S41 Approved colleges in their Local Offer
  • Colleges on the S41 list must work with LAs about their arrangements for young people with special education needs or disabilities.
  • Young people and / or their parents can request that one of the S41 colleges be named on their Education, Health and Care Plan. If named, the LA must then secure the place and the college must admit them. This means that S41 specialist colleges are treated the same as any general Further Education college.

It is possible to request a specialist college that is not S41 approved in the plan. However, the LA has no duty to secure the place.

This means that when you are considering a specialist college, you have some additional rights if the college you choose is on the S41 Approved list. In all cases, the most important thing is to find the college that is right for you.

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