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Visiting and placements in a special school


In Plymouth we expect all children to be attending a mainstream educational setting wherever possible.  However, some parents may feel their children need a more specialist setting to support them during some of their education.  In Plymouth we have a range of specialist settings:

  • special schools: support for children with complex special educational needs. 
  • specialist support centres: support for children whose complex needs can be met with specialist support within a mainstream setting.

Professionals working with families should be familiar with the various types of specialist settings available across the city.  They should be able to accurately describe each provision and discuss the ways in which a given special school or support centre may or may not be appropriate for meeting the needs of a particular child.  Alongside this, it is important that professionals discuss with families how their child's needs might continue to be met in a mainstream school, should their child not be offered a specialist placement. Each school has an information report on the Plymouth Online Directory.

Places in special schools are limited and those children who have the most complex needs are prioritised.  Decisions about place allocations are taken by the Single Multi Agency Panel (SMAP) and take into account parental preference. 

The Panel meets on a weekly basis and is made up from a range of professionals working within the field of SEND.  Representatives include educational psychologists, Local Authority Officers, Head Teachers as well as Health Professionals.

Visits to special schools and specialist support centres

The local authority acknowledges that considering a visit to a special school or specialist provision is an important step for families. However, it is requested that a visit is arranged only if you are considering whether a mainstream setting is unable to meet your child's needs and after a discussion with a relevant professional.  In addition to this one of the following criteria must be satisfied:

  • The child has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • The child is undergoing a statutory assessment of their special educational needs

Arranging a visit

Professionals from the following teams are able to advise families about the appropriateness of a visit to individual special schools or specialist provisions within a mainstream school:

  • 0-25 SEND Team
  • Sensory Team
  • Communication and Interaction Team
  • Early Years Inclusion Service
  • Educational Psychology Service

Panel make a decision, using parental preference, to consider which specialist setting could be considered appropriate for a child/young person. If required, support is available from Plymouth Information, Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS).  On initial contact with the school it is important that families provide details of the professional who has advised the visit.

More information about the designation of a setting and the support that they offer is available from the individual schools web site or the Local Offer.

In instances where schools are contacted by families without professional discussion, schools should refer families to:

  1. the local offer, providing specific reference to this document
  2. the SENCO at their child's current school

Requests for a place in a special school or specialist support centre

Where a child has an Education, Health and Care Plan and attends a mainstream setting, a parental request for a change of placement to a special school or specialist provision can only be made at either an annual or interim review meeting.   A request for change of placement must be supported by a recent report from an Educational Psychologist and any other professionals working with the child.

It is the responsibility of professionals to ensure that the family is clear about the role and remit of individual special schools and specialist provisions. 

Submitting a request

All applications should be sent to the 0-25 SEND Team. Requests should be accompanied by:

  • a copy of the recent annual/interim/early review copies of reports from relevant professionals
  • other relevant supporting documents

The Single Multi Agency Panel will discuss if they feel a child/young person is appropriate for specialist setting (stage 1) based upon the reports received.  If the Panel consider specialist placement appropriate, the reports will be forwarded to the next 'Matching Panel' to discuss which placement would best to meet the child's needs also taking in to account parental preference.

Transfer into Plymouth with an EHCP

When a child transfers into Plymouth and a special school or specialist placement is named in Part 'I' of their plan, there is a duty on the Local Authority to identify a place in a similar provision within the city, at least until the next annual review has taken place.  The LA will use the child's plan to consider appropriate placement, along with parental preference.

At the next scheduled annual review, professionals involved with the family are expected to recommend the type of provision most suited to the child's needs based on available evidence.  A request is then made to SMAP.  

Useful contacts

0-25 SEND Team. Tel: 01752 307409 or via email:

For impartial advice and support you can contact Plymouth Information Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS) Tel: 01752 258933/0800 9531131 or email: further information on this service can be found on the PIAS website.


The Children and Families Act Article 33(2) states that in a case within section 39(3)(4) & (5) or 40(2), the local authority must secure that the plan provides for the child or young person to be educated in a maintained nursery school, mainstream school or mainstream post-16 institution, unless that is incompatible with -

(a) the wishes of the child's parent or the young person, or

(b) the provision of efficient education for others and article 39.

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (Sections 9.78 - 9.90) (The Children and Families Act Article 39 (3)) outlines the right of parents/carers to express a preference for the maintained school (whether special or mainstream) that they wish their child to attend. Local Authorities must comply with such a preference unless: (Article 39(4) applies

This subsection (Article 39(4)) applies where -

(a)  The school or other institution requested is unsuitable for  the age, ability, aptitude  or special educational needs of the child  or young person concerned, or

(b)  The attendance of the child or young person at the requested school or other institution would be incompatible with -

(i)     The provision of efficient education for others, or

(ii)   The efficient use of resources.

If the Authority determine (Article 39(4)) they must secure an EHCP names a as school or institution or type of school or institution they deem appropriate for the child or young person Article 39(5). The LA must consult with the governing body, proprietor or principal of any school or other institution the authority is considering having named in the plan or if the school is another authority area that authority (CAFA39(6)).



Plymouth's Local Offer is organised into four main categories covering the following age ranges:

 Plymouth Local Offer homepage



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