Before you start
Before you begin, you need a current (less than 2 years old) educational psychologist’s report with a clear diagnosis of the SEN condition. The vast majority of UK private schools will not consider an admission before they know the specific needs they are being asked to provide care for. Many schools will even refuse to accept a school visit without that diagnosis. You can find many ed psychs on the database of the British Psychological Society’s website. If you are enquiring from overseas then we can arrange for you to have an assessment done by a UK Chartered Educational Psychologist either in London or nearby.
Here at Education Advisers we only deal with independent (= private = fee paying = non maintained ) schools. For State (= maintained = free) schools you need to ask your Local Education Authority)
Where are SEN schools located?
There are specialist SEN schools located in most counties in England but perhaps not nearly as many as you might expect. Scotland and Wales are quite poorly served with less than 15 in Scotland and less than 10 in Wales. Whilst there are also many mainstream private schools who say they will consider SEN children, you may find they will only take children with mild to moderate conditions where they have relevant learning support staff and where SEN children’s behaviour does not disrupt the education of others.
You may start by using the school search facility on our database (in the Find a School Section) where we try to maintain details of most SEN private schools in the UK firstly by region (county) and secondly by main SEN conditions. However, you may still feel dismayed by the lack of choice. Firstly, in the specialist sector there may not be a school near enough to your home for your child to attend on a daily basis. Secondly some mainstream schools are reluctant to publicise or explain which SEN conditions they will consider. Thirdly, if you are international parent (from outside of the EU / EEA and need a boarding school , you should know that you need a school capable of issuing a CAS letter for you to obtain a visa. Most schools do not publicise whether they are licensed to issue the CAS letters required by UKVI to issue a visa.
You do need to accept that you may need to find the closest match to your requirements rather than an exact match.
Whilst we do try to list details of all private schools on this website, we do carry much more detail in our own records and we do encourage you to take up our bespoke advice service because it is such a complicated field. Contact us on +44 (0) 1622 813870 or fill in an enquiry form and you can have a free initial consultation before deciding if you need our full fee paid consultancy service.
What age is your child?
For a number of SEN conditions the symptoms may not become apparent until the child reaches say age 7, particularly true with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia. It is a lot easier to find a suitable prep school than when they get to 11 when most senior schools become more selective. Thus, the sooner you start your search the better. When you get to the 11+ ages, then the curriculums taught by schools becomes far more important. SEN children often find it difficult to keep up with highly academic courses in A Levels. Dyslexic children sometime struggle with English or Modern language courses and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme has mandatory subjects of English and one Foreign Language and thus may be unsuitable. There are alternatives to the classical A Level academic subjects – particularly BTECs which are often more practical and vocationally oriented. However, at the time of writing there are only about 30 private senior schools offering these curriculums – so speak to us for advice.
How do you evaluate an SEN school?
There are so many variants of SEN that it is impossible to be definitive about this process, and you need to visit target schools with a long list of important questions. We provide questionnaires to our bespoke advice clients.
Here are a few general tips:
Before deciding on your target schools, ensure they will consider your child’s SENs and their severity.
Try to ascertain what type of learning support is available before you choose to visit. A mainstream school should have a SENCO to coordinate learning support. Is she / he just an inexperienced part timer or is she / he a full time qualified professional with a senior position on the Leadership Team? How many therapists are there of what type? Are there visiting doctors or educational psychologists? Your visit needs to address the learning support in detail.
What percentage of the school pupils are SEN and what percentage of those have the same SEN as your child? Find out about the progress of such children.
Are their admission selection tests which could be difficult for your child?
Consider your child’s specific needs first and the academic issues second.
Is the target school prepared to assist you in winning funding support from the Local Authority. You should be aware that many private schools will not help in LA Funding applications / appeals and will expect you to fund fees yourself.
What are the school fees? Most SEN specialist schools in London postcodes are day schools but can cost just as much as mainstream boarding schools elsewhere. SEN specialist boarding schools can be incredibly expensive depending on the degree of therapist support and smallness of classes. Mainstream schools can look great value by comparison but bear in mind they will nearly all charge extra by the hour for learning support lessons.
What is the distance from your home to the school? Can you carry out the school run every day or will the Local Authority provide a taxi service. Frequently, the scarcity of schools in your area means that you need to use a boarding school outside of your area. Bear in mind that a lot of specialist SEN schools do not provide residential facilities at weekends, some saying the parent must find a guardian of home stay family to fill in the gaps in boarding.
When you first visit schools, it is best not to take your child with you, as they might become excited, agitated or confused. If you can refine your targets to a short list, you should be able to arrange taster days at the school.