Local Authorities(LA’s) in Wales have a DUTY to favour education for children at mainstream maintained schools.
This reflects the principle that mainstream schooling will be in the best interests of the child in most cases.
There are exceptions:
- where educating the child in a mainstream maintained school is incompatible with the provision of efficient education for other children and there are no reasonable steps the LA could take to avoid this
- where a child’s parent wishes their child to be educated otherwise than in a mainstream maintained school.
This means that, the local authority MUST NOT name a maintained special school, PRU or other institution such as an independent school or board and lodging in the IDP (for admission purposes), UNLESS one of these exceptions applies.
The degree or complexity of a child or young person’s ALN, and the suitability of mainstream, is not a reason in law for refusal of mainstream. This applies not just to attending a mainstream school or college but also to taking mainstream courses.
Once a school or college is named in an IDP, it must admit that child or young person
If you have questions, or need more information, you can scroll down to read through our frequently asked questions, we’ve covered many different topics to make things clear for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve put together some answers to questions about placement:
Can I choose a mainstream maintained school?
Most children attend their local school and priority is given to children who live within the area. If there are any spaces left, then children outside of the catchment area could take up these spaces. In general, you can choose a mainstream maintained school for your child, but placement availability is normally subject to numbers.
A mainstream school must not refuse a place base on a child or young person’s additional learning needs or disability, to do so is not in line with inclusive education and could be discriminatory and not lawful..
Parents or young people can request that a particular school or college is named in an Individual Development Plan (or to express a preference for an independent school, college or other institution).
A parent or young person will be able to request a particular school or college when developing an IDP or when amending an IDP.
This might be when an IDP is developed for the first time or if the child’s or young person’s needs change for example, if the child or young person has to move schools or their needs have changed and cannot be met at their current placement.
LA’s may name a Maintained school in Wales for the purpose of securing admission for the child at that particular school. (LA’s have the power to do this under Section 48 of the Act) regardless of the prescribed numbers.
The school must then admit the child. Before exercising its power, a LA MUST consult with the school.
If the school is outside the LA area, then, before exercising its power, the local authority MUST also consult with the local authority for the area in where the school being named is located.
A local authority MUST NOT exercise its power unless:
- the local authority is satisfied that the child’s interest requires Additional Learning Provision identified in his or her IDP to be made at the school named, and
- it is appropriate for the child to be provided with education or training at the school.
What does a local authority consider to be relevant when considering whether to name a school?
When deciding whether to name a school the LA will consider:
- whether the specific school is especially good at securing the Additional Learning Provision in the child or young person’s IDP
- whether the school has members of staff with specialist expertise
- whether the school has the required specialism in a specific provision, such as visual or hearing impairment.
- If it would be unreasonable for a more local school to provide the child’s ALP.
Where a school is named in the IDP, the LA should set out in the plan why it is appropriate for the child to be provided with education there.
In addition to naming the school, if the ‘reasonable needs’ of a child, young person or ‘looked after child’ for ALP cannot be met, unless the LA also secures provision, the local authority MUST include a description of the additional provision in the sub section on the IDP and MUST secure that provision. This means that any additional support is the responsibility of the local authority.
How can my child access a Specialist Placement?
Most children will have their additional learning needs met in a mainstream school. However, if the mainstream school is unable to meet the child’s needs, this will be discussed with you when preparing the child or young person’s Individual Development Plan (IDP). The Local Authority will become involved in developing a plan at this stage.
When your child’s additional learning needs are identified, the LA will then need to consider the Additional Learning Provision (ALP) required to meet your child’s needs. They will always consider if your child’s needs can be met at a maintained mainstream school, as they have a duty to so under the Act.
However, if your child or young person additional learning provision can’t be met at a mainstream school, the LA must include a description of any other appropriate provision in the plan.
The kinds of provision are—
- a place at a particular school or other institution
- any board or lodging required
What will the Local Authority take into consideration when deciding on a placement?
The local authority should consider the following when making a decision whether a place at a particular school or other institution is needed.
- Whether or not the additional learning provision(ALP) (that is reasonably) required by the child or young person’s can be delivered in full at any maintained school or FEI or not.
- Whether specific characteristics of a school or other institution make it especially good at making the required ALP – this might include a variety of different matters, including the school or institution’s physical characteristics.
- Whether the school or institution has members of staff with specialist expertise or training.
- Whether the school or institution has the required specialism.
The local authority should also set out why it is satisfied that the child’s interest requires the ALP identified in the IDP to be made at that school, and why it is appropriate for the child to be provided with education or training there.
The IDP should also include the reasons for any placement decision and also when there has been a difference of opinion.
This might be a difference of opinion between professionals, or a difference of opinion between the child, child’s parent or young person and professionals, or any other difference of opinion.
It should explain how different opinions have been taken into consideration before a particular decision was reached.
What if my child needs a residential placement?
Sometimes a child’s needs can only be met at a residential school. When deciding whether a child or young person needs a residential school (board and lodging) the local authority must consider whether:
- the child or young person’s needs cannot be met in day provision.
- Whether there is evidence which demonstrates that an essential element of the child or young person’s education or training can only be provided in a residential setting
the learner requires a consistent programme during and after school hours that cannot be provided by non-residential schooling when combined with support from other agencies
Whether the child or young person’s needs require a programme outside school hours is often called a ‘Waking Day Curriculum’. A waking day curriculum, as the phrase suggests, means that a child needs to be educated across all of their waking hours.
Whether or not a child or young person’s need is an education or social care need is key to the consideration as it directly impacts on what provisions and what school placement they obtain.
The local authority should ensure that any additional services required alongside education, such as board and lodging will be available from the outset. These might include:
- health care
- personal care
- social care
This is an area in which multi-agency and cross-departmental working is important. In particular, local authority education and social services departments and NHS bodies might consider appropriate joint funding arrangements.
All Local Authorities have a duty to consider the efficient use of resources, and will consider whether a maintained day school and social services package combined would be a more appropriate option than a residential setting.
Can my child get a placement at an Independent School?
Parents or young people have a legal right to request that a particular school or college is named in an an individual development plan (or to express a preference for an independent school, college or other institution).
Under s. 9 Education Act (“EA”) 1996, LAs must have regard to the general principle that pupils should be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes, so far as that is compatible with “the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure”.
The local authoriy can refuse the request if:
- The setting is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs (“SEN”) of the child or young person; or
- The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others; or
- The attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient use of resources.
Where a child or parent favours a placement at an independent school but the child’s reasonable needs for ALP can be met within a maintained education setting or FEI, the local authority is not required to fund the learner’s place at the independent school. Section 9 of the Education Act 1996.
However, where this situation arises, the local authority should explain to the parent and child how the learner’s needs could be met without recourse to an independent placement.
If the LA have already finalised your childs IDP and named a different school to your choice , you can make an appeal to the Education Tribunal Wales – see our informatin on making an appeal.
What are the duties on Local Authorities?
Local Authorities MUST have regard for the Parent, Childs and Young Persons views and wishes. Section 6 of the Act.
Local authorities must also have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure. Education Act 1996, Section 9.
The Local Authority will need to consider whether:
- evidence demonstrates that the ALP required to meet the child or young person’s ALN is only available in that independent school.
- the child or young person has medical and/or social care needs that cannot be met by, or in conjunction with, local providers in a maintained school setting or FEI and which would prevent them from accessing education or training suitable to meet their identified needs;
- if provision to meet the child or young person’s needs could also be secured at another independent school
- whether placement at that particular independent setting would be compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.
Naming an independent school on the IDP
For a local authority to describe an independent school in Wales in the IDP and secure provision at that school, the following conditions MUST be met:
- the school is included in the register of independent schools in Wales, and
- the local authority is satisfied that the school can make the ALP described in the child or young person’s IDP.
( Similar conditions must be met when describing and securing provision at independent educational institutions in England.)
What if my child is not attending a school?
A local authority may arrange for the Additional Learning Provision (ALP) or any part of the ALP, described in a child’s IDP to be made otherwise than in a school but it MUST NOT do so unless it is satisfied that it would be inappropriate for the ALP to be made in a school.
Section 53(2) of the Act.
What if I’m unhappy with the LA decision on my child’s placement?
When considering a parental request a local authority must establish
- the child’s needs,
- the suitability of the placement and
- whether the parents’ choice of placement is more expensive than that offered by the authority.
Local authorities must have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.
If you disagree with a local authority placement decision, the new ALNET Act 2018 provides rights of appeal to children, the parents of children and young people regarding ALN in the following circumstances:
- The description of a person’s ALN in an IDP(14(6)Act)
- The additional learning provision (ALP) in the plan – or the support not in the plan (19(4))
- The school named in an IDP or if no school is named (S.48 Act)
- If no school is named in an individual development plan for the purpose of section 48, that fact
Appeals MUST be made within 8 weeks of the LA decision
Where a parent or young person are asking for an independent school or a residential school and have made an appeal, the Education Tribunal in Wales must first consider whether the parents’ and the LA’s choices can meet the child or young person’s need.
A parent or young person’s preference can only be displaced on the grounds of being:
‘incompatible with the efficient use of resources’ where the extra cost is significant or disproportionate’
If both placements can meet need, then it must then consider whether the additional expense is justified by any advantages attending that school would have for the child or young person.
If the preferred placement is more expensive this doesn’t necessarily constitute unreasonable public expenditure.
The tribunal must carry out a balancing exercise and can look, in addition to the educational benefits, at the wider health and social care benefits for the child to attend the school of the parent’s choice.
Costs savings to the LA of the child attending the school the parent prefers are also relevant. For example, the saving to the LA of a respite care place which will not be needed if the child goes into a residential school, onsite staff specialism/therapies which would otherwise present a cost to LA/NHS, or direct payments for social care which the parents may now no longer need.
Section 9 of the Education Act (“EA”) 1996, where LAs must have regard to the general principle that pupils should be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes, so far as that is compatible with
“the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure” remains in place.