When can we apply for a school place?

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When can we apply for a school place?

Parent asks:

My son is currently in Year 6 Primary and was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism earlier this year. He has received High Needs Funding for several years, and we are now in the process of applying for an EHC plan, but this application was delayed due to Covid-19.

We now need to apply for a secondary school place, but the EHC plan will not have been completed the approval process by then. The LA is advising us that we need to apply for mainstream schools, as the EHC plan is not in place yet, but when I filter the local offer list for the LA to find schools that have provision for ASD, there are only 2 in our area & both are Special schools requiring an EHC plan! Everyone agrees my son should go to a special school - is SENCO, Ed Psych, Post Adoption team. We are all decided in the ideal school for him. Do we have to apply to a mainstream school before the deadline? Or can we wait for the EHC plan process to conclude (a matter of weeks after the deadline for mainstream applications)? I feel like we are stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, being told by the LA that we HAVE to apply for mainstream or he might be left without any school place for Sept 2021, but knowing that none of the schools is a right choice for him.

Ipsea answers:

You state the EHC plan process should conclude a matter of weeks after the deadline for applying for mainstream places. On this basis we assume that you now have a final EHC plan. (If there has been further delay, please note that any delays due to Covid-19 apply only to deadlines which fell between 1 May 2020 to 24 September 2020, as this is the period for which the law was amended. There is more information available here.) Where there is a phase transfer from primary to secondary approaching, the LA is required to review and amend all EHC plans to name the school which will be attended from September by 15 February.

Where an LA is issuing an EHC plan for a child in Year 6 (or approaching another phase transfer), it would make sense for them to name both schools when the EHC plan is first issued (i.e., “Will attend X Primary until July 2021 and Y Secondary from September 2021”). From your question, we assume your LA have not agreed to do this. As the deadline of 15 February has now passed, if your child’s EHC plan does not name a secondary school, you can make a complaint.As the parent of a child with an EHC plan, you have a right to request that a particular school is named in that plan. The LA must then name that school unless one of three exceptions applies. Please see our page on choosing a school with an EHC plan for more information.