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Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you'll make- whether your leaving nursery, going to secondary, college, or even if your looking to change your child's school mid way through the year, the info here should help you dependent on your own circumstances.
For all children starting in reception at primary school and secondary school- places
You will apply for your child's school place through the general admissions procedure. The council will notify you when you need to do this, and you'll usually apply online. You can choose up to three schools (mainstream). These should be three schools you would be happy with, and would usually be the closest ones to your home. You will be told which one you've been allocated on National Offer Day. Check online when that date is for your child. Even if your child has an EHC Plan, you should still apply through the general admission routes as described here, naming your mainstream school choices. There is no guarantee that even with an EHC Plan, you'll get a special setting, so you must still apply for mainstreams.
TIP! Local Authorities will not be forced to send your child to a special school if you refuse to name mainstream settings. You will simply be allocated whatever mainstream places are left over, which may not be anywhere near your home.
For all mainstream school admission appeals (both primary and secondary)
When you've been allocated your school, if you are unhappy, you can appeal the decision. On your decision letter there will be details of how this is done. However, it usually consists of attending a hearing where you will go, along with the school, to present your case as to why the council should reconsider the placement, and award you the school you want. Once this decision has been made, it is final, and there are no further appeal routes.
For children with EHC Plans who are applying for a mainstream school place to start in primary school or secondary school
As above, you should apply for your three mainstream schools like everyone else. However, when you receive a draft EHC Plan, you have a legal right to request a school to be named, or, if your child already has an EHC Plan, at their annual review, you will make a formal request to name the school you want in that plan. So, effectively, youll apply for your school twice. Once with everyone else to the council, and once via your child's EHC Plan, to the SEND team at the council. Once the SEND team receive your request, they will do a formal consultation with that school to ensure they can meet your child's needs and carry out what is in the plan. As the law always presumes mainstream, the council MUST name the school you want, and direct them to take your child, unless the school can evidence it is inappropriate, using a legal test, However, it is quite unusual in Bolton for this to happen. This period of consultation takes 15 days. After this time, the council will notify you of their intention to name the school or not.
TIP! If you are expecting a draft plan through, but don't have it at the time of selecting your three mainstream schools, you can choose a different school for the council SEND team to consult with when you get your draft. This is helpful if you've changed your mind about the three schools you chose in the schools admission procedure.
For children with an EHC Plan who want a special school place
You MUST still choose a mainstream school though general admissions round- however, at your annual review, you can make a request for a special setting if you feel thats what your child needs. The LA will be looking to see that there is evidence to say why they need it, as it is expected mainstream schools will be able to meet children's needs. The child would need to be making less than expected progress, despite the support being delivered, or their placement should be at risk (for example, school are concerned they can no longer support the child). This request will have to be taken to a "panel", where members will consult your childs plan, the annual review evidence, and professionals reports, as well as parental prefernce and information, to see whether they feel special school is the right thing. If they agree, arrangements will be made via your child's EHC Plan, for the school to be named and your child to be allowed to attend. If the LA don't agree, you have an appeals route open to you. This will be detailed on the decision letter you receive. You can find more info on this under our Routes of Redress page.
For children without an EHC Plan who want to change schools mid way though the school year
Firstly, you need to check with Pupil Services at Bolton Council what other schools have places free in your local area, and in your child's age group. Once you know where has space, you can call the school and ask to go and have a look around. Once you have decided, you will need to complete an In Year transfer form (also available from Pupil Services), and once completed, send it back to them. They will then make the arrangements with the school for your child to be offered the place, and a start date. This is so long as there is no waiting list.
For children with an EHC Plan wanting to move schools mid way though the school year
Again, this is completed via the annual review process, and, if this needs to be brought forward because it can't wait until the date the annual review is due, you can ask school or the local authority to call an "interim review". After the review, the process is the same as applying for a mainstream or special schoolplace as described above.