For Families and Carers : Right to school preference

Naming a school in part 4 of the statement

Part 4 of a statement of special educational needs names the school where the child will be educated. There are a number of occasions when your local authority will ask you to express a preference for a school. The most usual are:

  • When your child gets a statement for the first time. In this case you will be sent a proposed statement with the name of the school left blank.
  • When your child moves from one phase of education to another e.g. from primary to secondary school. In this case the LA must issue an amended statement with the new school by 15th February.

Which is the right school for my child?

There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. The majority of children with Down’s syndrome are educated in mainstream primary schools and a growing proportion in mainstream secondary. If you have older children, your starting point will probably be the school they go to. Some things to bear in mind might be:

  • Size of the school and suitability of the environment
  • Experience of children with SEN generally and Down’s syndrome in particular
  • Involvement of class teachers with children with SEN

Most important is an inclusive attitude and willingness to learn and to get to know your child as an individual.

Some parents of children with DS and more complex needs prefer them to go to a special school. For a special school you may want to think about:

  • What is the specialism of school?
  • What sort of peer group would your child have?
  • Are there good role models for behaviour?
  • Are therapies and medical support available at the school?

Do I have a right to the school I want?

Your right to have the school you want named on the statement varies according to the type of school.

Maintained schools

These are standard state schools, both mainstream and special. Maintained schools include community schools, foundation schools and voluntary aided (mainly faith) schools, but not Academies. If you want a maintained school, the LA must name it as long as it is

  • suitable for your child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have – can this school meet your child’s needs?
  • not incompatible with:
    • the efficient use of resources i.e. too expensive, or
    • the efficient education of other children – educating your child at the school would be very disruptive. The school should look at ways of overcoming these barriers.

You do not have to show that this school is the best school for your child, merely that it is ‘good enough’.

You also have a general right to mainstream education so that if the mainstream school you want is not suitable the LA must look at other mainstream schools in the area.


Academies are state-funded independent schools. The local authority does not have the same legal duty to name your preference if it is an Academy. However newer Academies (and some older ones) do have an agreement to take children where the LA has named the school on the statement. In many cases the LA will be happy to name your preference.

Independent special schools

The LA is under no obligation to name these if there is a suitable state school. You can make a case for an independent special school but you will have to prove that no other school can meet your child’s needs.

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