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School Q&As

On this page, you can find answers to your questions regarding schools and school support for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

All the questions have been submitted by local parents and answered by Local Authority staff. Click on a question to read the response.  



How do I know if a school is right for my child?

You can get general information about a school and its approach to learning from its website and school prospectus. You may also wish to contact the school to arrange a visit where you will be able to get a better sense of the environment in which your child might study.

For parents of children with SEND, all state-funded schools are additionally required to explain their approach to SEND support in clear, family-friendly language. You will find this information in the SEN Policies and Information Reports which are available to download from each school’s website, or from their record on the Local Offer. These publications should give you an understanding of whether the school is equipped to meet your child’s needs, including:  

  • whether the school has experience of children with similar needs and what strategies have been effective;
  • what the school's special educational needs policy is;
  • how the SENDCO passes information about children to teaching staff;
  • how your child would be supported in class;
  • how you'd be involved in your child's progress and development;

For more information and advice on choosing a school if your child has SEND, please click here. 

What’s the difference between a mainstream and special school? Will I need to move my child?

A mainstream school is one where the majority of students do not have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). The aim of a mainstream school will be to give all students the same opportunities and include them in the same activities, no matter what their needs are.

Most children with SEND will be able to attend a mainstream school with appropriate support. School must have appointed a Special Educational Need and/or Disability Coordinator (SENDCO) who is a specially trained teacher able to monitor, support and advise other staff on the best approaches to supporting children with SEND in their care. If you are unsure if your child’s needs can be met by the school, you should first speak to the SENDCO about your concerns.   

For some children with more complex or severe needs, more specialist provision might be considered. This includes special schools. Special schools will only accept students with an Education, Health and Care Plan and who have a specific range of needs. Special schools provide adapted and different education to support children and young people through their education to ensure that they achieve the specific outcomes they have identified, with the aim of working towards independence.

If you feel your child needs specialist support but would prefer they are included as much as possible in mainstream education, you may wish to consider a specialist resource base in a mainstream school. Resource bases can provide adapted education and support while also working with your child with the aim of inclusion in a mainstream setting.    

What support is available for my child at school?

All schools must provide support to children and young people with SEND. The type of support your child receives will depend on their individual needs.

You should expect the school to do everything they can to ensure your child’s needs are met. This might include in-classroom support, access to therapy whilst at school, or reasonable adjustments to promote accessibility. The aim of the school must be to include all children and young people with SEND in the full range of activities offered by the school. The approach a school has toward achieving this will be set out in their SEND Information Report which you can download from the school’s website or from their record on the Local Offer. 

SEND Support in schools is overseen by a specially-trained teacher called a SENDCO. They hold responsibility for the identification, assessment, support and monitoring of all children and young people with SEND in the school. As a parent, you should expect to be involved in planning your child’s support at all stages and, if you have any concerns, the first person to speak to would be the school SENDCO. 

My child is not receiving the right support at school. What do I do?

The first person to speak to if you are concerned about the support your child receives at school, would be the school SENDCO. The SENDCO is a specially-trained teacher who holds responsibility for the planning and monitoring of support for children and young people with SEND. They must work in partnership with you as parents to find an approach to support that is able to meet your child’s needs.

If, after speaking with the school SENDCO, you continue to feel dissatisfied about the support your child receives, you may wish to contact your local Independent Advice and Support Service (IASS) for impartial advice and support on the situation.

Depending on the advice received and the outcomes of any further attempts at resolution you make, you may then consider making a formal complaint in line with the school’s complaints procedure. You should find this procedure on the school’s website.      

What is a SENDCO?

A Special Education Needs and/or Disability Coordinator (SENDCO) is a qualified teacher who has been specially trained in supporting children and young people with SEND. Every school must appoint a SENDCO and they will be responsible for overseeing the identification, assessment, support and monitoring of all children with SEND at the school.

The SENDCO has a responsibility to work with you as parents, and with other staff at the school, to make sure there is a support package in place that can meet the individual needs of your child. If you have any concerns or queries about the support your child receives, you should contact the SENDCO in the first instance.

Is there extra support available to help my child achieve qualifications (e.g. GCSEs)?

If your child attends school, you should expect the school to provide the support necessary for your child to achieve qualifications such as GCSEs. This might include extra classes in specific subjects, securing allowances from the examination board (e.g. awarding extra time, arranging a scribe, or other reasonable adjustments), and signposting to external resources to aid learning (e.g. BBC Bitesize).

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s progress towards qualifications, you should raise these with their class teacher or the school’s SENDCO in the first instance.

Is there a different curriculum for children/young people who have a special educational need and/or disability (SEND)?

All local authority controlled schools, including special schools, must focus on the provision of support and adaptations that will help children and young people with SEND access the standard National Curriculum. This means that children and young people with SEND will study the same subjects as their peers without SEND but with extra support. This might include one-to-one or group support in-class, and your child might also approach the subjects in a different way, and at a different pace that is more suited to their individual needs.

Some special schools, and specialist provision in mainstream schools, may also compliment the National Curriculum with activities aimed at developing skills in other areas appropriate to your child’s needs. You should check the individual school’s website and/or contact the school to find out if this is the case for your child’s school.

If your child attends a free school, academy or private school, they will study a curriculum that is set by the school. You should check the school’s website and/or contact the school to find out what curriculum your child with SEND will follow.

What is a learning support assistant and how can they help my child?

A Learning Support Assistant (LSA) is somebody employed by the school to offer in-class support to children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). They may work with a child on a one-to-one basis or as a group.

The way an LSA works depends on the school. However, they will most often be responsible for the following:

  • Working with children on a 1:1 basis in the classroom
  • Providing targeted support outside of the classroom
  • Assisting with activities for groups of children with SEND
  • Promoting development in an individual child’s area of need
  • Working with teachers to monitor progress of children with SEND
  • Accompanying children to any therapy carried out in the school

What do I do if the person who usually supports my child at school is away?

If you are worried about the way a staff absence may affect the support your child receives at school, you should contact the school SENDCO or your child’s class teacher. They should work with you to organise suitable cover that will continue to meet your child’s needs.

If it is the school SENDCO who is absent and there is no sign of them returning in the foreseeable future, or you have an urgent matter to discuss with the school while a SENDCO is away, you should contact another member of school staff such as your child’s class teacher or the head teacher.

Should your concerns not be resolved by the school to your satisfaction, you may wish to contact the Independent Advice and Support Service (IASS) who can offer you impartial advice and support on your situation. Depending on the advice given and the outcomes of any further actions you may take, you may also decide to make a formal complaint. To do this, you should follow the complaints procedure of your school which can usually be downloaded from their website.

Last Updated 09/04/2019

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