Year 10 options

My son is in year 9 at a mainstream secondary school, however is in a special unit there which they say is a school in between a special school and mainstream. My son is autistic and has speech and language delay. We have been told that for year 10 his options will be level 1 maths and English. I have looked at another school in the area that teaches autistic children and they are offered so much more such as lots of vocational programmes along side there maths and English. Do you think I would be best trying to move him to somewhere that could accommodate him to do that? Would I have a fight on my hands to get the local authority to agree to move him? I am just so worried that he is not being offered more options and the school system is failing him again. Has anyone any positive stories of what their child went on to do?
Thank you in advance


Ruby Wright
21 Jan 2024

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A: SenseCheck

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  • 21 Jan 2024
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    Ms. Wright – I am not certain I agree with the individual or individuals who informed you that the “special unit”…” is a school in between a special school and mainstream”. In most cases, "units", "ARPs" etc are part of a mainstream school, although exceptions do exist. This matter is addressed in the Noddy Guide:

    09.045 Can a “unit” within in a school be treated as a separate school in its own right for the purposes of a placement request?

    The key consideration here is that, in the public sector, schools fall into one of two categories: mainstream schools or special schools. The definition of each is provided in the Noddy Guide.

    You have mentioned that your son currently attends a mainstream school, but you have also referred to another school "that educates autistic children." Do you know whether the potential alternative school is a special school or a mainstream school? I ask this because, although the process for requesting a change of placement is similar in both cases, the legal framework when it comes to moving schools differs slightly depending on the type of school. These differences are addressed in detail in the Noddy Guide.

    Regarding initiating a transfer, you can get in touch with the Local Authority (LA) to make your request and assess their response. They may be willing to cooperate a with you to facilitate the transfer, provided there is available space at a proposed new school. This may seem unlikely, but I have encountered instances where LAs have been quite helpful, although it may involve some effort on your part. It is essential to bear in mind that while challenges can certainly arise when dealing with individuals in the LA, many of those working in  LA Special Educational Needs (SEN) functions genuinely aim to do what they can for the children and young people they support.

    If progress is not as straightforward as outlined above, you can request an early review meeting, if necessary, and present your case for the transfer at that time.

    If this proves unsuccessful, you can seek assistance from the First-tier Tribunal (FtT), and this process is extensively explained in the Noddy Guide.

    As for whether this is the right course of action, it ultimately rests with you. I have come across situations where a change of school has significantly improved a child's prospects. Before embarking on a transfer, it is advisable – although you may have already done so – to engage in discussions with your son's current school to explore the possibility of greater flexibility in the options they can provide. This may appear daunting, but it is a necessary step not least of all because they may surprise you with their response. 

    Additionally, visiting the potential new school to familiarise yourself with their offering is strongly advisable. It would also be prudent to consider a variety of alternative schools; this will ensure you are well-informed and could enhance your negotiations with the LA. The LA’s ‘local offer’ document should assist you in this regard. 

    Your question provides an excellent opportunity for individuals to share their experience. I sincerely hope that people will be willing to offer their insights, as I eagerly anticipate reading any such contributions and expect to gain valuable knowledge from reading them.

    To conclude, it is entirely understandable that you are feeling concerned. You are presently confronted with a situation that necessitates careful planning and organisation, which can prove rather challenging when anxiety levels are heightened. You might wish to consider seeking assistance in this process which may include checking if you qualify for legal help (a form of legal aid). For completeness I should point out that my focus has been on the matter of placement, and I have not addressed any potential amendments to other sections of your son's EHC plan. If such amendments are relevant, you may wish to raise another question. 

    Sean Kennedy

    Sean Kennedy
    Talem Law