Choosing a school if your child has special educational needs or disabilities

Understand your child's needs and requirements

If your child has special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), it is important you understand your child's specific needs and requirements before choosing a school as there will be more for you to consider. 

If your child has an education, health and care (EHC) plan or a SEN support plan, these documents will have identified their needs and requirements.

However, if your child isn't receiving support already, you need to get in touch with those who can help identify if your child has SEN.

Research a school

Once you understand your child's needs, you may want to research schools in your area to make sure they can meet those needs. There are many types of schools in Lancashire and there are several resources to help you research.

Things to consider

  • The distance from home to the school as this will have practical and financial implications. Not all children with SEN will be eligible for free travel to school, even if they have a statement of SEN or EHC plan. If travel cost is an important factor in your school preference or you are in any doubt over the distance between your home and a school please check with the area education office they can help find out the distance from your house to a school and whether or not that distance qualifies your child for free school travel.
  • The school's local offer which sets out their arrangements for assessing and supporting children with special educational needs and/or disabilities. This will include information such as specialist facilities, how they provide information and accessibility. If you visit the schools individual website you will find their local offer together with other useful information like the school's prospectus, special educational needs policy, and behaviour or discipline policy.

Arrange a visit

We recommend you visit the schools you are considering to find out more about how they can meet your child's needs.

It is best to arrange an appointment to ensure there is time to talk, it may be best to arrange the visit while children are in the class so you can see the school in action.

To arrange a visit, contact the school and arrange an appointment to meet with the headteacher or special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). Don't forget you can always take someone along with you.

Think what is important for you and your child and prepare your questions in advance. You may also have a list of points that you want clarifying after doing your research the school's local offer, website and/or prospectus.

During the visit write down the name of the school, headteacher and SENCO and the answers to any questions you have asked. This will make it easier to compare schools after you have finished making all your visits.

Some questions you may ask:

  • How many children attend the school? How big are the classes? What additional support is available in the classrooms?
  • How are classes organised? Open Plan? Individual classrooms? Mixed age classes?
  • How are children grouped within the year? Are they in ability or mixed ability groups? What is the balance between whole class/small group/individual teaching approaches?
  • How are the children introduced into school? By visits in the summer term prior to the September start? Gradually during September? How flexible are these arrangements?
  • Are staff from the school able to visit your child in their existing provision /placement?
  • Can these staff liaise with people already involved with your child?
  • How does the school propose to meet the special educational needs and/or disabilities of your child?
  • Are there any other children in the school with similar difficulties to those of your own child?
  • Are there any staff in the school with a particular expertise/interest in the areas where your child has difficulties? Have they experience of teaching children with difficulties similar to those of your child?
  • How are those children with special educational needs supported? Are they helped within the classroom or withdrawn for individual help? What is the balance between these two?
  • How does the school devise its Individual Educational Plans (IEP) for pupils with difficulties? How would your child's progress be reviewed/monitored, how would you be involved in this?
  • How would your child’s progress be reviewed within school? How would the school involve you in helping your child in addition to being part of the review process?
  • What sort of facilities and resources does the school appear to offer in terms of e.g. space, equipment, materials, computers etc.?
  • Does the school seem interested in your child? How would they plan for their possible arrival and meeting their needs once there?
  • Can you talk to parents whose children already attend the school e.g. via the parent-teachers association, or speak with a member of the governing body/SEN governor?
  • What additional support is available?
  • Is teaching by whole class, small group, individual teaching or a mixture?


The Information Advice and Support Team (IAS Team) can provide additional support. You might also find it useful to speak to other parents at local support groups.