Special Schools and Specialist Facilities
Special schools are for children and young people with complex and significant learning needs that cannot be met in the mainstream schools (meaning a school that all children can attend).
There are special school places for all school age groups, including primary and secondary and college. Some special schools are specialist in particular areas of educational needs and some are residential.
Some mainstream schools have a specialist facility within them which provide additional support for children and young people with, for example, speech, language and communication difficulties or Autism.
This helps them meet the needs of children with a higher level of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities). The provision within the facility is expected to enable the children and young people to access mainstream lessons with their peers.
Please note, children and young people require an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to access special schools and specialist facilities.
We are fully committed to inclusion and most children and young people with 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.
When to Consider a Special School
Every child with SEND can expect support from all schools, not just in special schools, which is outlined in the Universally Available Provision. This may be a good place to start in deciding whether mainstream education or a special school would be more suitable for your child. You can find out more by visiting our page on SEND Support at School.
Parents and carers have a right to request a special school placement for their child if they feel it will be the most appropriate setting for them. This will be considered by the local authority and a decision made based on the child’s individual needs. If you believe your child would benefit from being in a specialist setting you should consider the following steps:
- Discuss your concerns with their class teacher at their current school
- Discuss your request for a change of placement at the annual review of your child’s EHCP
- You may also request an early annual review if you and your school agree this is necessary
- The request for a change of placement/special school placement will then be considered by the Local Authority
Reasons you may decide that mainstream education is best for your child:
- You feel your child’s needs are being met at their mainstream school and they are making progress. You are happy with the level of support a particular mainstream school can provide your child
- Your child may wish to go to a mainstream school to be around their friends, peers and community
- There may not be a suitable special school near you and you may decide not to transport your child each day to a more distant school
- A mainstream school may excel at a particular subject and you would like your child to take advantage of this. Equally your child might really like or excel in a particular subject and they would prefer mainstream teaching in that subject
- Your child's exact SEND needs are still being understood and time spent in a mainstream school will help to determine the specific support they require
- You may feel mainstream education is the right way to prepare your child for adult life
Reasons you may decide a special school is best for your child:
- Over time your child is demonstrably finding education in a mainstream school too difficult and despite their school’s best efforts your child is not making progress
- Those supporting your child and the school agree that the school cannot meet your child’s individual needs
Types of Special School
While all special schools offer teaching to children with significant needs, there are differences in how they are funded and who manages them. Special schools are either:
- A maintained special school - a special school funded and managed by the Local Authority (East Sussex County Council).
- A mainstream school with a specialist facility - a school open to all children that also has specialist teaching facilities/buildings for children with SEND (and an EHCP), or,
- An independent special school - schools that are self-managing and not directly funded by the Local Authority
Section 41 of The Children and Families Act 2014 distinguishes between two types of Independent special schools:
- Independent schools that are approved under Section 41: an independent special school where admissions are controlled by the Local Authority and funding comes from agreement in each child's EHCP
- Independent special schools which don't have approval under Section 41: an independent special school which controls its own admissions process, where the funding can either come from agreement in EHCP, fee payment by the parents or carers, or charitable donations
All these types of special school are available in East Sussex and in the first instance the Local Authority will explore options in the schools where the Local Authority control admissions.
See the Finding a School in East Sussex section below, to find out more about special schools and specialist facilities around East Sussex.
Choosing Special Schools in EHCP Process
During the process of nominating a school, the parent or carer, and child or young person have a right to name any special school they feel is suitable.
East Sussex County Council will follow the procedure of assessing the viability of the school nominated using guidance given in the Children And Families Act 2014. This will include consultation with the nominated school, or the Local Authority the school resides in if out of area.
East Sussex County Council will secure a place in the nominated school unless (paraphrasing Section 39 of the Children and Families Act 2014):
- The school or institution is not suitable for the child or young person
- The attendance of the child or young person in the requested school is not compatible with the efficient education of others; or
- the efficient use of resources (e.g. choosing a school at some distance from East Sussex that is not discernibly different to a school in East Sussex)
For more detail on this, read section 39 of the Children and Families Act 2014.
Scope provide guidance and information on choosing a special school for your child.
Finding a School in East Sussex
You can find information on applying for schools in East Sussex by visiting the main East Sussex County Council website.
Special Schools and Specialist Facilities
The East Sussex Local Offer directory, hosted on the 1Space directory, lists special schools and 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:
Please note, an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is required to access special schools and specialist facilities.
The directory also lists mainstream schools 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:
Out of Area Placements
In the first instance, it is appropriate for children who reside in East Sussex to access East Sussex schools when required, rather than travel out of area to schools within other authorities.
There are advantages to accessing ‘local’ special schools in terms of agreed working practices between East Sussex special schools and practitioners within ISEND who might be supporting your child.
However, it is within the rights of parents, carers or the child or young person themselves to request that they attend a school out of area. This is most commonly requested because:
- The child or young person lives on the borders of East Sussex and there is a significantly nearer special school to them in a neighbouring county
- An out of area special school may be particularly specialised in an area of SEND and may be the right choice for an individual child or young person
For more information, speak to the Assessment and Planning Officer (APO) currently supporting your child’s EHCP. If you're unsure on how to contact your APO, you can contact the Assessment and Planning (A&P) team who will be able to help.
East Sussex shares borders with Brighton & Hove, West Sussex, Kent and Surrey, who have their own lists of special schools:
- Brighton & Hove Special Schools and Colleges
- West Sussex Special Schools
- Kent Special Schools
- Surrey Special Schools
Alternative Provision and Dual Registration
Statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) defines alternative provision as ‘education arranged by local authorities for pupils who, because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, would not otherwise receive suitable education; education arranged by schools for pupils on a fixed period exclusion; and pupils being directed by schools to off-site provision to improve their behaviour.’
You should contact your school in the first instance if you wish to discuss alternative provisions.
Dual registration occurs when a pupil who is registered at one school is also registered at another provision for some or all of their learning. The purpose is to identify and provide additional support to the child to enable them to engage with and benefit from learning to achieve the best outcomes possible.
There are different reasons why this may occur. This includes providing additional short or long term support to a pupil who is finding it difficult to engage with learning in a school setting, those children who are at risk of exclusion or are unable to access mainstream provision for reasons of illness, and those with special educational needs.
There is a range of options for a dual registered child, and this should be tailored to meet the needs of that individual. This may include:
- Pupil referral units
- Mainstream schools
- Special schools
- Specialist facilities at a mainstream school
- A college or further education
- An alternative provision provider
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.