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Choosing a school

Choosing a school

We are often asked to give advice about which schools would be suitable for a child. Parents should be aware that professionals working for Local Authorities are not permitted to suggest or recommend specific schools to any prospective pupil or their parents. However we should be able to give guidance about the different types of school, or if special school or resource is being considered we can inform you of which schools can meet which need. 

It is important to remember that all children are different and what works for one child may not be the best for another, even if they have the same type of special educational need. You know your child best. Often other parents will give recommendations about particular schools: their opinions will depend on their own experiences with their own child. We always advise parents to visit a school and make up their own mind. 

We have produced a checklist which will give you some ideas about the sort of questions you might ask or the kinds of things to look for when considering which school would best meets your child’s needs called What to look for in a school (PDF document).

  • If you have a child with SEN (Special Educational Needs), but do not have an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan) then your child will only be eligible for a mainstream school.
  • A school cannot refuse to admit your child because of their special educational needs.
  • You do not have greater priority on the admissions criteria if you have SEN, unless you have an EHCP. 


When you return your draft plan you will also be asked which school you would like your child to attend. You can request any of the following: 

  • Maintained nursery school or maintained school
  • Academy or free school
  • Non-maintained special school
  • Further education or 6th form college
  • An institution approved under section 41


In many cases your child will be able to continue in their local mainstream school. You have a strong right to mainstream education if that is what you wish, unless that is incompatible with the provision of the efficient education of others. But the Local Authority must be able to demonstrate that there are no reasonable steps that it, or the school could take to prevent that incompatibility. 

Section 41 includes some independent special schools, but many independents are not on this list. You can still make representations for these, but the law is slightly different. 

The local authority must agree with your request unless:

  • It would be unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the child or young person, or 
  • The attendance of the child or young person there would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources 

Code of practice 9.79 

  • You can make representations rather than requests.
  • An independent school can decide whether or not to take your child.
  • The Local Authority must consider your request. The school would have to 
    • Be suitable for your child's age & ability
    • Not result in unreasonable public expenditure 


  • Can your local mainstream school meet the needs?
  • Would a resource unit be appropriate? 
  • Can one of Wokingham’s special schools meet needs? 
  • Are any of the neighbouring local authorities’ special schools suitable? 
  • What is available in the independent sector locally?

The Local Authority will be keen to keep your child in the closest suitable provision. This reduces transport costs and keeps them within their community. 

If you request a school which is not your nearest suitable school you will become eligible for transport costs.