What You Need To Know About Special Schools

When your child has been diagnosed with “special education needs”, mainstream education might not be the best option for them. Here is a discussion on how a special school may help.

Choosing the right school is a large responsibility for any parent, and if you are one of the parents of the 1.2 million children in England, with one of the recognised SENDs (special education need or disability), the choice in a school becomes even more challenging.

Around 50% of kids with an EHC plan or SEN statements are typically educated in the mainstream secondary or primary schools. The remaining 50%, usually attend one of the government-maintained special schools. So you may be wondering how to work out which education provider to choose so that they will receive the most supportive and best education to match up to their needs?

What Is A Special School?

The special schools provide education to children with disabilities or special education needs. There are various special school types, but essentially, each one educates children that have needs that can’t be met in mainstream settings, and when a carer or parents have requested or agreed to a placement in a special school, explains Alex Grady, one of the Education Development Officers at NASEN (National Association of Special Education Needs).

At this stage, only 2% of children attend one of the special schools, with most having an EHC or statement plan. Children that receive an education in one of the special schools are identified as a child with a learning disability or difficulty. This means that they require special educational provisions.

Special School Types

The availability of special school types will vary from one area to the next. Some of these schools are independent, a few are academies, while the rest are maintained-state schools. Some of the schools will admit children from the age of 3 to 19 (with some up to the age of 25), while the other schools are secondary or primary. Some areas offer “assessment nurseries“, where children are assessed while attending the school. While others offer Early Years classes in the special school setting, says Alex. There are care vacancies Hampshire.

The government has listed 4 board special school types, according to what they specialise in:

  • Learning and cognition
  • Interaction and communication
  • Mental, emotional, and social health
  • Physical and sensory needs

Some of the generic special schools cater for various needs, including all or a few of the 4 broad areas, states Alex. Some special schools will specialise in specific areas. There are even special schools that specialise within some of these categories, such as language and speech, or autism schools.

It is not always necessary to make a choice between a mainstream or a special school. Alex explains that some of the mainstream schools will have their own resource bases or special units on-site so that children that have SEND will still receive the specialist teaching that they need, but still have access to the mainstream resources while mixing with other children in their age or peer group.

What Can A Special School Offer That A Mainstream School Cannot?

The main difference between a special school and a mainstream school is the staff ratio that is higher in special schools to cater to the needs of pupils with special needs. The teachers in special schools are usually specialists in a specific area, and the care assistant and teaching assistant numbers are also much higher to support the teachers when it comes to meeting the learning, care, and health needs of the children, Alex explains. However, this does not always mean that children will be receiving one-to-one support.