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Transition - moving on from Early Years to Primary School for a child with SEND

Choosing a School for a child with SEN

Most children with SEN will be able to go to their local mainstream school. They will be taught with children of their own age. They will receive extra help from their class teacher or some other special help provided by the school. 

Find a primary school - Torbay Council provides a list and map view of schools in Torbay.

You may find it useful to:

  • Make a list of all the schools within a reasonable distance from your home - it will be important for you to be able to easily get your child to and from school.
  • Check the school transport policy
  • Get familiar with the criteria for admissions (catchment areas and oversubscription criteria) which can all be found on TIPS 8 - Primary and Secondary School Admissions - Torbay Council
  • Think about the kind of school site and environment you want - Is a faith school important to you? What kinds of playground space do you think suits your child? Modern or old school buildings? etc.
  • Look at school websites for prospectus and policies information and more.
  • Look at the school records on the Torbay Local Offer as all school records also have information lifted from each schools SEN Information reports included within their school record to make it easy for you to see what the school says they provide for children with SEN.
  • Check the latest school Ofsted report - these should be published on the school websites but they can also be located on Find an Ofsted inspection report.
  • Visit at least two schools so that you have something to compare. Go to their open day and don’t be afraid to ask for another opportunity to visit again and speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENDCo).
  • When you’re at the open day or on a subsequent visit, make sure to look at all the areas that are important to you and get answers to all your questions. You make find Checklist for Visiting Schools (SEND) useful.
  • Consider if the school already have all the things your child needs or they can easily be developed.
  • Talk to parents who have children at the schools you’re considering, but be mindful that they can only share their own opinions and experiences
  • Try to keep an open mind until you have looked at all the possibilities and spoken to the relevant professionals.

Choosing a School for a child with an EHCP

Most children and young people with special educational needs can be taught in mainstream schools.

The Torbay Local Authority will always seek to place SEN pupils in mainstream schools providing that:

  • The school is suitable for the child’s age, ability and aptitude and the special educational needs
  • The child’s attendance is not incompatible with the efficient education of other children in the school, and
  • The placement is an efficient use of the LA’s resources.

If your child has more severe or complex needs, their needs might be best met by attending an enhanced provision within a mainstream school or a special school.

In addition to looking at our tips for Choosing a School for a child with SEN you may also want to consider the following enhanced provisions within mainstream schools and special schools. However, it is important to take advice from professionals and remember that the majority of specialist places are allocated following Specialist Education Provision allocation panel meetings held during the Spring term for places in the following September.

Enhanced provision within mainstream schools:

Special schools:

Securing a school place for a child with SEN

Child’s date of birth

When to apply 

Allocation day

Start date

1 Sept 2018 to 31 Aug 2019

1 Nov 2022 to 15 Jan 2023

17 April 2023

Sept 2023

Important things to remember about securing a place in Primary School:

  • Schools are not allowed by law to have more than 30 children in a class per teacher if the children are under 7 years of age, unless there are special circumstances.
  • If your child attends a mainstream school nursery this does not guarantee there will be place in the school. The Local Authority has strict rules about allocating school places.
  • If you wish to apply for a place at a faith school you will need to complete a supplementary form for your application to be considered on faith grounds (and therefore prioritised above other applications).
  • Putting a school as first preference does not guarantee that you will get a place at that school.
  • Places at Enhanced provisions within mainstream schools and Special school places are only allocated by the SEN Team via an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP).
  • If your child is currently undergoing an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment it is important not to presume an EHC plan will be the result.

You should complete the Admissions form and put down at least two but preferably three schools. Places are allocated according to the distance from your home to the school. If there are more requests than places, the local authority will use the Oversubscription Criteria. Further information about the application process can be found in the Tips 8 Booklet criteria and admissions criteria (catchment areas, oversubscription etc.) can be found in the Primary Supplement document. Both of these documents are downloadable from:

Apply for a primary place - Torbay Council

If your child is not allocated a place at your preferred school you may be able to appeal.

Appeal against a school place decision - Torbay Council

Securing a school place for a child with an EHCP

The Torbay Local Authority will always seek to place SEN pupils in mainstream schools providing that:

  • The school is suitable for the child’s age, ability and aptitude and the special educational needs
  • The child’s attendance is not incompatible with the efficient education of other children in the school, and
  • The placement is an efficient use of the LA’s resources.

Usually your preferred mainstream school will be able to cater for your child’s needs. You should apply in the same way as all other parents, either online or using a paper form.

Apply for a primary place - Torbay Council

Admissions for pupils with EHC Plans will be managed by our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) section who will follow the SEND code of practice and consult formally with the governing body of your first preference school to establish whether the school can meet your child’s needs. We will also consider whether this is a good use of the council’s resources. A school cannot refuse a place simply because your child has special needs.

If your child has a new Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) you will be asked to name your preferred school during the draft stage prior to the EHC plan being finalised. If your child is currently undergoing an EHC needs assessment it is important not to presume an EHC plan will be the result.

If your child already has an EHCP in place at pre-school it will be amended following an Annual Review. This is also a good opportunity to update the outcomes and needs of your child within the EHCP. You will be asked to name your preferred school during the draft stage prior to the amended EHC plan being finalised. It is therefore helpful if you and your child start visiting possible primary schools in advance of the Annual Review.

The SEND code of practice suggests that education, health and care plans should be reviewed and amended in sufficient time so that planning and commissioning of support can take place before children move between key phases of their education.

The deadline for amending an EHCP including the name of Primary School/provision is February 15th in the year they are due to transfer to the new school.

If you would like to discuss the school, college or provision that is named in the EHC plan then you can contact you assessment and placement officer. If you disagree with the setting or provision we have named you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

Transition planning

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) often find change difficult. As part of transition, schools, educational settings and families must work together to create a plan for your child. The plan should be in place to help with any specific needs, strengths, interests and potential anxieties and learning styles.

The move should be part of a process, rather than a one off event, allowing your child to feel confident and happy when the time comes.

When your child is moving up to primary school into reception class, arrange to visit and talk to staff about your child’s needs and how you help them at home. This would also be part of the planning meeting as school would be invited to attend

Arrange for your child to visit their primary school as often as they need before they start. (Additional visits are often agreed and supported where possible by the education setting staff)

Try to spend time in key areas of the school when they are empty for your child to get used to the classroom.  Ask if your child could meet their new teacher, teaching assistant and any other support staff on their own. (take photos for a book or ask if school would provide one)

If you have any concerns about your child’s progress when they have started school, arrange to meet their teacher or the school Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCo).

Transitioning children with SEND from their EY setting to school will almost certainly be more complex than the support needed for most other children. Children with SEND will face challenges of adjustment and adaptation and will need time and planning by the adults to ensure a smooth transition. They may need individual care plans and risk assessments, and school staff may need to be trained in the use of medical equipment, adaptive aids and emergency medication.

  • The child with SEND may need a longer period of preparation and adjustment
  • Parents/carers may be concerned that the new setting will not be able to offer the expertise and level of support necessary to support their child. Cultivating a trusting partnership with the school will be important for the parent and the child
  • Professionals involved with the child with SEND will need time to support school staff, share ideas and/or specialised equipment. School staff will need clear and updated information about the child, best gained from the parent and the EY setting. Everyone will have a part to play in making the transition successful

Torbay LA provide early years settings with Enhanced Transition planning tools including a Torbay Enhanced Transition Planner to support them taking timely action, towards effective transitioning, by providing month by month guidance. The enhanced transition tools are downloadable from SEND Inclusion in Early Years - Torbay Council.

Preparing your SEN child for Primary School

Before starting school you could:

  • Prepare them for change by:
    • Talking with your child about starting school - What do they think it will be like? What are they looking forward to doing there? Do they have any questions or worries? - talking about school in a relaxed way so that your child can start to process the move from preschool to school.
    • Practicing the school run during the summer holidays, this helps children to become familiar with the travelling to and from school.
    • Getting them to try on their new school uniform to help them feel comfortable in their new clothes, they may experience sensitivity to some fabrics or fastenings
  • Boosting their self-confidence, ability to make their own choices, get along with others and other useful skills by:
    • Using a visual timetable - Many schools use visual timetables to help children get used to their new routines. Using a visual timetable at home can also be a great way to support their independence.
    • Helping them take responsibility for belongings and work together - Trying to tidy up together and make it part of any activity you do. In the classroom children will be expected to start talking responsibility for their belongings and working together to keep the classroom a nice place to be.
    • Promoting independence - Letting your child practice dressing themselves, can they do up a zip or buttons? Can they put on their own socks?
    • Encouraging curiousity – ask questions about the world around you and they will start to do the same
    • Helping them practice how to stay calm - this could include taking slow, deep breaths together.
    • Letting them make mistakes – praise them for trying and help them learn from it by not always fixing it straight away
    • Helping them get on with others – playing turn taking games and ‘Acting out’ situations with toys. E.g. “how can teddy ask to play with the dolls?”
    • Practising sitting still and paying attention – look at books, crafts or puzzles without distractions
    • Encouraging them to use more words – instead of “did you like it?” ask “what did you like about it?” so they have to use different words
    • Staying active – running, jumping, climbing, catching, painting and sorting small objects will improve their control over their bodies.
  • Pre-empting any potential issues about using the toilet: 
    • If your child is worried about managing their toileting or needing help then talk with them about it. Talk to them about who they could ask for help and talk to the teacher about your child's worries and needs - it is much easier to help when you know what to look out for.
    • Get spare clothes ready to take to school if your child is not fully toilet trained
    • Teach your child to flush the toilet and get used to different types of flush
    • Chat about the importance of good hand washing
  • Pre-empting any potential issues about having lunch at school:
    • Practice using a knife and fork pouring water from a jug into a cup, opening a lunchbox and carrying a small plate of food. You can also encourage your child to try some new foods. 
    • Using a knife and fork with playdough is a great way to practice cutlery skills.
    • Make sure that your child can open their lunchbox and manage the food inside

Additional and Different support - what mainstream schools are expected to provide

Every child or young person with special educational needs should have SEN support. This means help that is additional to or different from the support generally given to other children of the same age. Schools must identify pupils who have SEN and need extra help through SEN support. Schools should involve parents in this process. For further information please see:

SEN Support in Mainstream Schools | Torbay FIS Directory (openobjects.com) 

More detailed descriptions of the special educational provision the Local Authority (LA) expects to be available for children and young people in its area who have SEN or disabilities and how SEN funding works can be found in: