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Choosing a school


Most children and young people with SEND can be supported to achieve their potential in mainstream schools in Devon. We expect all our schools to be inclusive and supportive places where all children and young people can learn, build relationships, fulfil their potential and be part of the community.

There are more than 360 schools in Devon. Choosing a school can be a really big decision, especially if a child or young person has special educational needs.

All schools in Devon have access to support, enabling them to help children and young people with SEND to dream, believe and achieve and fulfil their potential, and we therefore expect most children and young people with SEND to go to one of their local schools.

Here are some ideas to help you choose a school:

  • Use the school directory to see what schools are available in your area
  • Visit schools to look at the facilities and talk to staff
  • Think about how your child will travel to school – check whether they are eligible for school transport
  • Discuss your child’s needs with the school Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCo)
  • Look at the school’s website and read their SEND Information Report, this should explain how they use their funding to support children with SEND
  • Look at the national website Compare School Performance to see schools’ results.

Different types of school

Special schools

As well as mainstream schools we have special schools located across the county that cater for different needs. To attend a special school a child needs to have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). If you would like your child to attend a special school, please discuss your options with the SEN 0-25 Team. Special school places are normally reserved for children and young people with the following types of need, usually defined by Education Psychologists or professionals working with your child;

Complex, mild and severe needs

Children have ‘complex needs’ when an assessment states they have needs which fall into more than one of the four areas of need:

  • cognition and learning;
  • social, emotional and mental health;
  • communication and interaction;
  • physical/sensory impairments.

A child may also be described as having ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ learning difficulties depending on the degree of their needs and the impact these needs have on their lives.

Moderate, severe, profound and multiple needs

  • Pupils with moderate learning difficulties (MLD) may need extra support in some areas of the curriculum
  • Those with severe learning difficulties (SLD) are likely to need support in all areas of the curriculum and have associated difficulties with mobility and communication
  • Pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), are likely to have severe and complex learning difficulties as well as a physical disability or sensory impairment.

Special schools available in Devon include:

Specialist centres and resource bases

To attend a specialist centre or resource base a child needs to have an education, health and care (EHC) plan. If you would like your child to attend one of these units, please discuss your options with the SEN 0-25 Team.

Specialist centres and resource bases support children and young people who have difficulties related to specific areas of SEND. Devon County Council funds these small bases, which are attached to mainstream schools. These specialist bases can take up to eight children and also provide outreach support for other schools so that expertise can be shared.

Communications and Interaction Resources Bases can be found within the following schools:

Hearing Support Centres are based in mainstream schools which provide an environment where communication, sign language, and positive deaf identity is promoted. The centres are staffed by ‘teachers of the deaf’ and supported by specialist teaching assistants.

They work collaboratively with the Deaf and Hearing Impairment Team, specialist speech and language therapists, audiologists and social care staff. They also provide outreach to deaf and hearing-impaired students in other mainstream schools.

Hearing support centres are based in:

Independent schools

Devon County Council will only place children and young people in the independent sector when they have an EHCP, but we will always consider our maintained schools and academies first. We will endeavour to keep children and young people as close to home and in their own local community where possible.

All places in the independent sector need to be commissioned through the SEN 0-25 Team, and if your child has an EHCP you should speak to the Local Authority before taking a place at an independent school.

Placements outside Devon

In very rare cases, a child may not be able to have their needs met by any school or college in Devon. For these pupils, Devon County Council will sometimes organise and fund independent special schools or services outside of Devon. This may include residential schools or settings. These decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis, based on whether the placement is:

  • suitable for the age, ability or aptitude of the child or young person;
  • compatible with the efficient education of others;
  • an efficient use of public resources.

These settings would only be appropriate for children and young people with an EHCP.

We know that children and young people benefit most from being part of their community and close to their family. There are fewer issues with transferring their independence skills when they can learn and develop their skills in the locality where they are likely to live.

We will consider, wherever possible, suitable provision that will be named in an EHCP on a ‘local first’ basis.

  1. We will consider local mainstream provision first, whenever appropriate, before considering a specialist provision or a residential option.
  2.  In line with the recommendations in the SEND Code of Practice, we will consider independent placements with the providers who have been approved by the Secretary of State, who are described as Section 41 providers by the Education and Skills Funding Agency if the child or young person’s needs cannot be met within a mainstream provision.
  3.  We will not consider placements in the wider independent sector unless there are exceptional circumstances.

More information about approved independent special schools can be found on the government website.

Hospital schools

The Devon Hospitals Short Stay School provides education for children whose medical needs mean they have a long stay in hospital in Devon. The school teaches on two sites:

  • Bramble Unit at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter
  • Caroline Thorpe Ward at the North Devon District Hospital, Barnstaple.

This school aims to provide continuity of education and works with children, families, medical professionals and schools to do this. Specialist teachers will work with children and young people to create an individual learning plan.

The Government provides guidance about education for children with health needs who cannot attend school.

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