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

The move from primary to secondary education can be stressful for any child and can be especially a child with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND).

It is vital to start planning for the move well in advance, whilst your child is in Yr 5.

Child’s date of birth

When to apply (deadline in bold)

Allocation day

Start date

1 Sept 2010 to 31 Aug 2011

1 Sept to 31 Oct 2021

1 March 2022

Sept 2022

1 Sept 2011 to 31 Aug 2012

1 Sept to 31 Oct 2022

1 March 2023

Sept 2023

The deadline for amending an EHCP with the details of secondary school/provision is 15th February in the year they are due to transfer.

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 usefull to:

  • Talk to your child to find out thier preferred choise of secondary school. You and your child may have different reasons for picking a school and it is important to discuss these together.
  • Make a list of all the schools within a reasonable distance from your home - it will be important for you and/or your child to be able to easily get to and from school.
  • Get familiar with the criteria for admissions (catchment areas and oversubscription criteria which can be found in the Secondary School Admission Criteria for 2021-22 document that is downloadable from Apply for a secondary school place for September 2021 - Torbay Council.
  • Think about the kind of school site and environment you want - Is a selective place or faith school important to you? What GCSE or alternative options do you think would suits your child? e.g. are vocational courses avialable? 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 thier 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 anwers 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 thier own opinions and experiences
  • Talk to your child about thier preferred choise of secondary school again once you have explored the option with them.
  • Consider how important it is to your child to go to the same school as thier friends.
  • 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

It is good to start choosing your prefered secondary school in advance of the Yr 5 Annual Review.

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. Therefore, any possibility of a specialist education provision being considered should have been discussed within the Yr 5 Annual Review meeting and appropriate referral made in relation to the Specialist Education Provision allocation panel.

Enhanced provision within mainstream schools:

Special Schools:

  • Brunel Academy - for pupils with complex Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs
  • Combe Pafford School - for pupils who have Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) including some pupils with MLD and physical difficulties and/or autism
  • Mayfield School -  for pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties

Securing a school place for a child with SEN

Child’s date of birth

When to apply (deadline in bold)

Allocation day

Start date

1 Sept 2009 to 31 Aug 2010

1 Sept to 31 Oct 2020

2 March 2021

Sept 2021

1 Sept 2010 to 31 Aug 2011

1 Sept to 31 Oct 2021

1 March 2022

Sept 2022

1 Sept 2011 to 31 Aug 2012

1 Sept to 31 Oct 2022

1 March 2023

Sept 2023

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

  • If you wish to apply for a selective place (Grammar school or Grammar stream) you will have to have registered for and taken the relevant selective test. Selective tests are normally sat in the first term (Autunm) of Yr 6.
  • 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 Secondary School Admission Criteria for 2021-22 document. Both of these documents are downloadable from:

Apply for a secondary school place for September 2021 - Torbay Council

If your child is not allocated a place at your prefered 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 transition from primary school to secondary school starts early, from Yr 5, for children with an education, health and care plan (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 reception place for September 2021 - 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 primary school it will be amended following an Annual Review. At the Yr 5 Annual Review secondary placement should be discussed and appropriate referals submitted if a move to a special school for Secondary transfer is being suggested. 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 with the details of secondary school/provision is 15th February in the year they are due to transfer.

Process for amending an EHCP at Secondary transition phase

If you would like to discuss the school, college or provision that is named in the EHC plan then you can contact the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Service. If you disagree with the setting or provision we have named you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal - HM Courts and Tribunal Service - Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

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 starts a new school, it is important that current school staff discuss their needs with both you and their new school and with the involvement of your child. If your child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP) this may be done as part of an annual review.

Arrange for your child to visit their new school as often as they need before they start. It is likely that additional visits will automatically be arranged as part of the transition planning.

A guide has been produced to help children with the transition to secondary school and is available on the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities website.

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

Preparing your SEN child for Secondary School

Before starting school you could:

  • Talk with your child about starting Secondary 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 primary to secondary - be aware that they may have heard rumours from older friends or siblings or may have seen films that depict secondary school in a concerning way.
  • Encourage your child to talk to older friends or siblings to help allay their fears, but also be aware that they may spread unhelpful rumours.
  • Practice your child’s journey to and from school during the summer holidays, this helps children to become familiar with the new route - it may be that they will be traveling more independently e.g. by bus or walking alone or with friends - Discuss what to do if the bus doesn’t arrive, they miss the bus or lose their bus pass, etc.
  • If eligible, make sure you apply for free school meals and/or transport (e.g. bus pass) in good time.
  • Help your child practice how to stay calm (this could include taking slow, deep breaths together) and make sure that they know to tell you or a member if pastoral staff at school if they are struggling with their emotions or have any other worries e.g. friendship issues, bullying etc.
  • Encourage your child to see mistakes as learning opportunities - offering constructive feedback can help your child discover more effective ways of learning and doing things, which in the long run, will help them achieve better results. 
Explore the differences between Primary School and Secondary School:- 
  • New uniform:– 
    • When buying uniform, remember your child will grow over the summer. Buy early and do not label it until you have checked the fit again at the end of August - most suppliers will exchange if unworn.
    • Get your child 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 and they may have to learn to wear a tie and blazer for the first time.
  • New equipment - bringing in and carrying their own equipment:– 
    • Pens and pencils aren’t provided like they are in primary school — in secondary school, children need to make sure they have a fully equipped pencil case. Children will have to also bring in any items needed for certain lessons or activities on specified days, e.g. PE kit, cooking ingredients etc. and may also need to bring in books or workbooks for different subjects.
    • Find out which type of school bag most pupils at the school use. Carrying their own books means that flimsy choices won’t last: rucksacks are a popular choice.
    • Check what everyday equipment (e.g. pencil case, pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, eraser, ruler, highlighter pens, note pad, etc.), and subject specific equipment (e.g. geometry set, calculator, text books, PE kit, etc.) your child will be required to take to school
    • A clear pencil case will allow a quick visual check that all items have been picked up.  If your child tends to lose their pencil case regularly, having an emergency kit ready will avoid anxiety.  A hole-punched pouch, which attaches inside a ring binder is may be better option for some students.
  • A new bigger environment:-
    • Ensure your child can read and make sense of a map.
    • Help your child to familiarise themselves with the new school layout from a school map provided at open or induction days or looking on the school website to prepare them for moving around the school and moving to different classrooms for different lessons.
  • A wider range of subjects/lessons, extra-curricular clubs and activities:-
    • Talk to your child about any concerns they may have in relation to new subjects. Subjects are grouped together in primary school but are separated out in secondary school into distinct subject areas e.g. Science may be split into Physics, Chemistry and Biology, English may be split in to Language and Literature, etc.
    • Get your child to think about whether or not they may like to explore taking part in extra-curricular clubs ad activities on offer - Joining a club or after school activity can be a good way to meet new people and make new friends.
  • Using a school diary/planner and timetable:–
    • Ensure your child can read and follow a timetable. It may be useful to copy out their timetable and put it on the wall at home. Using colour coding to note the different equipment required each day (e.g. PE kits, food tech ingredients) may also be helpful.
    • Some schools may operate a two-week timetable. If so, get your child to label which week is which in their planner/calendar/diary, to avoid confusion.
    • Some schools provide a physical school diary/planner for students a carry around with them whilst other schools provide similar via an online portal.
    • Encourage your child to be able to organise themselves as independently as possible – Having a timetable on the wall or memory jogger at the front door for important items might be useful e.g. a written or photo checklist.
    • You may also find it helpful to see:
  • New school rules:-
    • A mobile phone is almost a ‘given’ these days and can give reassurance to you and your child in an emergency. Schools have differing policies about them though, so be sure to check.
    • Jewellery and make up – most schools have rules on what is and is not allowed.
    • Behaviour and discipline policies – make sure your child is aware of acceptable behaviour and sanctions that will be applied if they do not follow school rules e.g. detention
  • Break and Lunchtime arrangements:-
    • Some schools have designated playground and other areas for different year groups at break and lunchtime.
    • Some schools have vending machines or tuck shops for students to buy snacks at break times.
    • Get your child ready for handling money or a payment card to be able to use vending machines, tuck shops and the school cafeteria – some schools use a payment card to avoid students having to carry cash.
    • If your child will be taking a packed lunch to school, check if the school has designated areas for packed lunch to be eaten.
  • Homework:-
    • There will certainly be more homework tasks to remember and complete on time than there were in primary school.
    • Ensure your child will have a suitable work space at home to do their homework.
    • Although not essential, access to a computer and printer at home is definitely recommended. Many schools set homework online or encourage pupils to complete work via secure document-sharing sites.
    • Find out about homework clubs at school – often homework clubs are an easier way for your child to get their homework completed without having to spend too much time on homework at home. They may also be able to get support at homework club if they are not clear on how to complete the homework set or require additional support with their learning and homework.

Additional and Different support - what 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. SEN Support in Mainstream Schools | Torbay FIS Directory (openobjects.com) explains what this means in more detail.

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 can be found in Torbay’s Guidance and Descriptors for SEND Support (A Graduated Response) | Torbay FIS Directory

SEN funding for Children and Young people in mainstream Schools, Academies and Free Schools | Torbay FIS Directory