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Mainstream or specialist secondary?

momsen Member Posts: 4 Listener
edited November 2020 in Education
Hi having lots of difficulty with this decision? Anyone been in this situation? 10 yr old ASD/ADD, high functioning but very sensitive, emotional and socially vulnerable. Just got EHCP so don't know what potential with support as up to now had absolute minimum.
Needs environment of special but also want him challenged in classroom not bored. Has no interest in school/ education.
Don't know which to choose? schools I've enquired for secondary completely ignored me, not replied, not interested the minute i mention SEN and can't view schools due to covid restrictions.
Jow can i make a split second decision that could affect child's future path, don't want to make wrong decision. No mainstream with SEN hub in area.
Any advice please?????!


  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 15,289 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi there I dont really know what to suggest but from my experience ( I dont have special needs child) mainstream secondary schools have very little time to deal with anything other than mainstream hence the name

    I would try for a special school initially and see how he gets on but this could give him a false sense of security if then he was to transition to mainstream

    Are there any other parents you can ask in your area of their recommendations 
  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 6,762

    Scope community team

    Hello @momsen and welcome to the community, how are you today? 

    I can understand your worry, it's a big decision to make and you just want to do the best for your child and get him the support he might need. 

    I have moved your discussion to our education and learning category, as I think that would be a better home for it. 

    Again, wishing you a warm welcome, and if you ever need any help navigating the community, please ask.
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  • chiarieds
    chiarieds Community Co-Production Group Posts: 12,270 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @momsen - & welcome to the community. The following website may be useful. Please see:
    You could also try the National Autistic Association to see if they might have advice about schools in your area. See also:
    Hope this helps. :)
  • poppy123456
    poppy123456 Member Posts: 28,607 Disability Gamechanger

    Just because he/she has special needs it doesn't mean that attending a special needs school they won't have challenges in the classroom. Special needs school doesn't mean they'll be sat in the corner all day not doing anything. Special needs students have exactly the same opportunities as those that don't have a disability but they just need some extra support.

    I think you've partly answered your own question here by saying there's no mainstream school with SEN in your area. So the next thing you do is look at other options. Your son's needs will be explained in his ECHP as well as any goals he needs to meet before the next EHCP review.

    His next EHCP review should take place before he starts secondary school and then any information that needs updating in there, will be updated, along with the name of the school of his choice.

    I realise Covid makes things even more difficult because viewing the schools won't be possible, in person anyway but you could ask a school for a virtual viewing. I know it's not the same but it's definitely better than nothing. Then in a few months time, if the situation with Covid improves you maybe able to view the school in person, with your child.

    In the meantime please have a look at the links posted by chiareds and i hope you find them helpful.
  • momsen
    momsen Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Hi when you say they are given the same opportunities, that's the problem, special schools don't do GCSEs so that's the main difference i can't decide on. I don't know now that in 4-5  years time with full support, whether he will be able and i will take that opportunity away in specialist. As draft EHCP still to be finalised i need to name secondary school now, theyre not goibg to review again for another year after finalising. Thanks for your advice, but what are the other options you mentioned?
  • poppy123456
    poppy123456 Member Posts: 28,607 Disability Gamechanger
    I had assumed you had the EHCP already, which was i why i said the review would take place before a change of school. Had you mentioned the EHCP is still to be finalised then my advice would have been different.

    Other options i mentioned are of course the special schools. Some special schools do offer the GCSE opportunities, my daughter's special school offers them, although she wasn't able to take any GCSE's unfortunately.

    Special schools are also often further away from home, so are you going to be able to take your child to school? if you can't is there transport available for them? Your local council may offer a home to school transport system, my daughter had a taxi to school and back for 2 years because she wasn't able to travel alone on public transport. Now as she's past 19 they no longer support home to school transport, so the pressure is on me, not easy when you have a disability yourself, like i do.

    Mainstream school, will your child get the help and support they need from there? Will they be able to cope with larger classes? bigger schools? lots of students around them., changing classrooms for each lesson. Lots of things to consider.

    What sort of support and schooling will a special school have to offer? All special schools offer different things.

    I've had the experience of both mainstream and special school with my daughter. She didn't have her EHCP until she was 17 so attended mainstream with SEN support before that. She's in her final year now and almost 20 and attends a special needs school that only takes students with EHCP, is it better? Yes, for smaller classes... 6 in her class as apposed to 30+ in mainstream. Very few students walking around during breaks, so less stress and anxiety for her.

    For me, it wasn't about her taking her GCSE's because i knew from a young age that it's was likely that she wouldn't cope with that sort of pressure and i didn't want to put anymore stress onto her, than was really needed.

    Whatever your choice of school is, if your child decides they don't like it or they just can't settle into that sort of surrounding then you can look at changing schools at a later date. Once you name the school in the EHCP it's not set in stone, for the foreseable future and it can be changed.

    Lots of things to consider, which i'm sure isn't easy giving the current circumstances. Good luck!
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Posts: 8,262

    Scope community team

    Hello and welcome to the community @momsen :) I hope that the comments above have given you some food for thought? 
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  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Connected
    In September 1987 I was sent to a mainstream school with a "special needs" Unit (I hate that word! Contrary to popular belief I am NOT "special") and it was 5 years of pure hell! If I hadn't become best pals with my ex I would've caught the Bus Home at dinner on the first day.

    There was a Head of the Unit, Mrs Freeman, she was pure evil! The Head of the school though, Mr Dunn was a nice enough bloke, and Mr Pickup, our form teacher for all 5 years, Mr Kearns the English/Drama teacher was a hoot, well he was a Scouser, they're known for being a riot!


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