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Finding and Applying for Schools

A visually impaired child with glasses and a backpack on, holding a walking stick, walking in front of a school.

Whether you are looking for a primary or secondary school, it is important you find a school you are happy with and you feel your child can thrive at.

However, it is also important to note that all mainstream schools provide support for children with SEND (Special Educational Needs or Disabilities) and any school that your child eventually goes to will take their needs seriously and provide appropriate learning opportunities.

There is a difference in how schools admissions works for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and those with SEND but who do not have an EHCP. 

This page will explain the different processes. 

Applying for School Without An EHCP

If your child has SEND but not an Education, Health and Needs Plan, they should apply for a mainstream school alongside other children their age (this includes primary school and secondary school).

All schools are able to support children with SEND and your child’s pre-school or primary school will help communicate what support your child needs to make sure there is a smooth transition.

It is important to visit the school you would like to send your child to and speak to them about your child’s needs. Ask to meet with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). All mainstream schools have a duty to meet the needs of children with SEND which is set out in the national SEND Code of Practice.

To apply for a school in East Sussex, visit the East Sussex County Council Admissions page.

Applying for School With An EHCP

The admissions system for children with EHCP is different; you do not go through the normal admissions system.

Instead, part of the process of obtaining an EHCP involves naming the school you and the team supporting your child feel is the best match for their needs. This means that you can express a preference for the school you want at the time you first get the EHCP or when your child moves to a different phase of education. East Sussex County Council will try to provide a place at the named school.

You can also ask for a change of school at an annual review. 

For more information, visit our pages on Education, Health and Care Plans.

IPSEA (the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

They have advice and guidance for parents and carers of children with EHCPs on choosing schools that can be useful to read:

Three students in a science lesson.

Exploring Which School Is Best Suited to Your Child

There are different way of exploring which schools might be right for your child:

SEN information report

The Children and Families Act 2014 says that a Special Educational Needs (SEN) information report must be published on a schools website and reviewed every year. The report must be prepared by:

The SEN information report should provide information regarding:

When choosing a school for your child, it can be very helpful to read this report and make a decision.


The OFSTED report will outline how well the school was appraised during their last full inspection and includes details of how the inspectors felt the school performed in supporting children with SEND. Most schools will publish their OFSTED reports on their websites, but you can also visit the OFSTED website and search for different schools.

Visiting the school

If you feel your child requires specific support, it can be helpful to visit different schools and speak to them about what they offer. This will usually be during an open day alongside other parents and carers. However, you might also want to meet the school SENCo and talk to them about their SEND offer.

Amaze fact sheet

Amaze are a local free, independent and impartial service who have created a ‘Choosing a School’ fact sheet:

If your child has an EHCP you will have to decide which kind of educational setting is right for your child in partnership with your Assessment and Planning Officer (APO). Visit our page on Special Schools for more information.

Finding a School in East Sussex

We are fully committed to inclusion and most children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will thrive in their mainstream setting. This is a school or college that provides education for all children, whether or not they have SEND.

Some mainstream settings have a specialist facility within them, for example providing additional support for children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties or autism. This helps meet the needs of children with a higher level of SEND. 

A small number of children and young people with a significant level of needs, which cannot be met in a mainstream school or a specialist facility, may be placed in a special school.

Please note, an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is required to access special schools and specialist facilities.

You can find more information on applying for schools in East Sussex by visiting the main East Sussex County Council website.

East Sussex County Council have created guidance for local schools, for educating children out of year group. The document is primarily aimed at schools, but may also be useful to read for parents and carers:

Special Schools and Specialist Facilities

The East Sussex Local Offer directory, hosted on the 1Space directory, list all special schools and colleges, and settings with specialist facilities throughout East Sussex. Once on the directory, you can further refine your options using the filters available. This can include filtering results down to a certain area of East Sussex, or by settings that provide for a specific need:

Mainstream Schools and Colleges

The directory also lists mainstream schools and colleges throughout East Sussex. These listings include useful information including each settings Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) contact information, accessibility information for each location, signposting to each settings full SEN Information Report and any SEND-relevant staff training.

Once on the directory, you can further refine your options using the filters available. This can include filtering results down to educational settings with a sensory room, or those with level access throughout the academic areas:

Please note, we are currently in the process of adding education settings to this category as soon as we receive their up-to-date accessibility information.

Independent and Non-Maintained Special Schools and Colleges

Independent special schools are self-managed and not directly funded by the Local Authority, and accessing them can be a different process to mainstream settings.

You can find a list of independent and non-maintained special schools and colleges on the main government website:

Transition Plans

The term ‘education transition’ can be used to describe any changes for your child with special educational needs and disabilities as they are moving into, within, between and out of educational settings.

For more information, visit our page on Transition Planning.

Elective Home Education

Home Education, officially known as, Elective Home Education (EHE), refers to the choice by parents to provide education for their children at home instead of sending them to school full-time. Whether this is through making a positive choice to home educate, or in response to circumstances, both journeys are referred to as Elective Home Education.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and you would like to educate them at home, visit our page on EHCP: Elective Home Education.

If your child doesn’t have an EHCP, the process is different. For more information on this, visit the East Sussex County Council website:

Some children and young people do not attend school due to emotional factors, we describe this as Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA). You can find out more by visiting this websites section on Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA).

Additional Help and Support


Amaze SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) are a local charity who offer free, independent, and impartial advice for all matters relating to SEND. Contact Amaze SENDIASS:

East Sussex Local Offer directory of services

You can visit our SEND-specific online directory, hosted on East Sussex 1Space, that lists many different services both throughout the county and online. Services include advice, guidance and support groups, activities and events and mental health and wellbeing support among many other topics:

NHS - Health A to Z

While the East Sussex Local Offer aims to provide as much information as possible, there may be some conditions that aren't covered in thorough detail. The NHS website has pages that list all conditions, with information and advice on how to get extra support:

Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms

Some of the terms used on this website are explained on our page, Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms.

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