Your child must receive a full-time education after the age of 5. Most children with special educational needs go to their local mainstream schools.

You can find details of local schools and colleges, including special schools and specialist provisions on our Find a school page.

All schools have admission criteria to decide which children get places. The school or local council usually set these. Admission criteria are different for each school.

They may give priority to children:

  • who live close to the school
  • who have a brother or sister at the school already
  • from a particular religion (for faith schools)
  • who pass an entrance exam (for selective schools, for example, grammar schools)
  • who went to a particular primary school (a ‘feeder school’)
  • who are eligible for the pupil premium or the service pupil premium
  • whose parent has worked at the school for 2 years or more.

All mainstream schools and academies must publish their local offer, outlining how they support children with special educational needs and disabilities, on their website.

You can graduated response and provision that is ordinarily available in Somerset schools that the local authority expects to be available for Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities.

If your child has significant special educational needs it is advisable to begin the process of choosing a secondary school or post-16 provision for your child two years before they are due to transfer. You may wish to speak to your child’s current school and professionals who work with them for their views about the schools or provisions you are considering.

Special schools

For some children, the Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) process may identify that a special school would be the best place to help them thrive. However, these schools also have Learning Support Centres (LSCs) to share their skills, equipment and resources with local mainstream schools and parents of children and young people with SEND.

Children don’t have to be attending school to be helped in this way. You can find details of the LSCs on the school website. There is also a list of independent special schools and colleges approved under Section 41 of the Children and Families Act.

Post 16

All young people must stay in a designated learning environment until the age of 18. This does not necessarily mean staying in school. It could be full time study in a school, college or training provider, full time work or volunteering combined with part-time education or training, or an apprenticeship or traineeship. You can find out more about the options in the Preparing for adult life section of this site.

Young people with EHCPs may need longer education or training to achieve their outcomes and make an effective transition into adult life. If necessary the EHCP can stay in place until the young person is 25 years old, although this is not an automatic entitlement or requirement.

Higher Education

Higher education describes the post-18 learning that takes place at universities and other colleges and institutions that award academic degrees, professional qualifications and Continuing Professional Development modules.

Pupil Referral Units (PRU)

These provide education and support for pupils with medical, social, emotional and mental health needs.

PRUs support the local authority’s statutory duty to make provision for pupils who have been permanently excluded from school, who are unable to attend school for health reasons and children moving into the county who are unable to secure a school place because of their challenging behaviour.

PRUs can also provide education, support and advice for children who are on the roll of a mainstream school. Often the children and young people are displaying challenging behaviour in school or require more than can normally be provided by a mainstream school.

Referrals for education provision and support from a PRU can only be submitted by a school or one of a number of local authority officers. Decisions about referrals are made by the area ‘Panel for Excluded and Vulnerable Pupils (PEVP)’. Parents are fully consulted as part of the referral process, but outcomes cannot be guaranteed.

Elective Home Education

You can take responsibility for your child’s education outside the school system. If parents or carers don’t make adequate provisions or don’t provide evidence of an efficient and suitable education when asked, we have a duty to look for a solution. You do not have to be qualified or follow the National Curriculum.

The education provided must match the age, aptitude and abilities of your child. It should also meet any Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities the child has. There is more information about Home Education on the Council website.

We do not pay for Elective Home Education and full financial responsibility rests with you, as the parent or carer. Exam Boards can tell you where the local examination centres are when exams are taking place and any costs involved.


If you do not get the school that you applied for, then there is an appeals process. Full details of this process and how to appeal can be found on our Appeal a school admissions decision page.

Somerset Choice Advice Service may also be able to support you with the process. You can find information on the Somerset SENDIAS website.

If your child has an EHCP (Education, Health and Care plan) there is a different appeals process. More information can be found on our Appeal a school admissions decision page.

Last reviewed: January 10, 2024 by Gemma

Next review due: July 10, 2024

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