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What are your school options in London if you have children with Special Needs?

If you are planning to move to London with a child with SEND, the stress of identifying suitable provision for your child’s needs is probably one of your main concerns.

In the United Kingdom, a SEND child is a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Type of Special Educational Needs can include:

  • General Learning Difficulties – children whose learning progresses at a slower pace
  • Speech and Language Difficulties
  • Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties
  • Dyslexia (difficulties with reading, writing and spelling)
  • Dyspraxia (problems with motor skills, organisation)
  • Autism
  • ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder -ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Downs Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Other Physical or Medical Needs

So, what are your options in London to find the right school for your child?

State school system

State Schools are regulated by the Department of Education. They are government-funded schools which provide education free of charge to pupils.

The majority of state-funded schools are under the control of local councils (Local Education Authorities or LEA), in London, the Boroughs.

If your son/daughter manages to be granted a Statement of Special Needs once in the U.K, he/she would be given some help by a ‘learning support assistant’ working under the direction of a specialist teacher.

How does it work?

When your child’s school identifies that they may have special educational needs, the class teacher, with the help from the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), should provide additional support.

However, the amount of support a school can provide ‘in-house’ is limited to the amount of funding that is made available to them for each child. Generally speaking, it can be seen as a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

If the support that your child needs requires more resource than those available in a school, it is possible that the SEN additional support may not be sufficient and you and/or the school may feel that you need to ask the local authority to assess your child’s special educational needs via an Education, Health & Care (EHC) needs assessment.

This assessment will be managed via your borough or local authority of residence.

Thanks to this assessment, your child could be offered a place in one of the state-funded Special Education Needs Schools of London.

You will find information about the SEN status and how it works on this link:https://www.gov.uk/children-with-special-educational-needs/overview

Independent schools system

If your education budget is comfortable to allow this option, you may want to choose a private education for your child.

In the private system, you would then have two choices:

–          If your child does not have a severe SEN, you could then have to look for an Independent Mainstream Schools with Specialist Provision. As the term suggests, these are private schools that offer SEN support for a limited number of students, usually via individual tutoring.

In London, there are around 40 private schools of this kind and they will address only relatively few learning problems.

–          If you child needs more support, Special Education Need private schools would be the best option.

Exclusively for the SEN pupils, they differ quite substantially from the other types of schools and offer the following characteristics:

  • They are small schools, with total enrolments usually numbering from 40 to 180 children
  • The classes are between 5-8 pupils
  • They will have highly experienced teachers with specialist qualifications such as on-site speech and language and other therapists.

The fees per term for an Independent Special School are around 8.500 £.

To go further, you will find plenty of information in the Gabbitas Guide to Schools for Special Needs.

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