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Advice for parents in Scotland

Can I choose the school my child attends?

Most children are educated in their local catchment school. You can, until your child reaches the age of 16, choose another school if you prefer. In some cases your local authority may suggest another school if they feel it would meet your child’s needs better.

Your child can make their own placing requests once they are 16. However, if a local authority does not think they are able to do it themselves you can do it on their behalf.

The law says that children and young people should be educated in mainstream schools unless certain circumstances apply. These are where educating the child in a mainstream school would:

  • not suit the child’s ability or aptitude
  • negatively affect the learning of other children in the school
  • cost the local authority an unreasonable amount of money.

Mainstream schools are ordinary schools that cater for children in the local area. If the above criteria apply it might be suggested by your local authority or you can ask for your child to be educated in:

- a mainstream school with special units or learning centre (for children who need additional support)
- a special school (for children with specific or complex needs)
- an independent schools (which not under the control of a local authority)
- an independent residential special schools (for children who need full-time education and care)
- a grant-aided special schools (charitable special schools funded mainly by the Scottish Government)

Some children may have a split placement where they attend a mainstream school and a special school, each for part of the week.

If you'd like your child to attend a school that is not your local catchment school or a school that your local authority has suggested, you can make a placing request to a school of your choice. (This includes special units or bases that are attached to mainstream schools.)

You can make a placing request by completing a placing request application form or by sending a letter or email to the local authority. When making your request you should include this information:

- your name and address
- your child’s name and age
- the name of their current school, if any
- the name of the school you have chosen
- the reasons for your choice of school. Include any information you think is relevant.

In most cases you make a placing request to the local authority that runs the school. (So for example if your chosen school is in another local authority, you make a placing request to them.)

If you want your child to attend an independent or grant-aided school you can only make a placing request if it is a special school. Before making your placing request you must check that the school is willing to admit your child. Placing requests to independent or grant-aided special school should be made to your local authority (even if the school is in another local authority area).

You can appeal against the education authority’s decision to refuse your placing request. There are two ways to appeal: the education appeals committee or the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.

You can make an appeal (called a reference) to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal if :

- Your child has a co-ordinated support plan.
- The education authority has decided your child needs a co-ordinated support plan, or it is going to assess to see if one is needed.
- You are already appealing against the education authority’s refusal to prepare a co-ordinated support plan.
- Your request is for a special school in Scotland, managed by an education authority.
- Your request is for an independent or grant-aided school in Scotland, or a school in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, which is for children with additional support needs and the managers are willing to accept your child.

If you are considering making a reference to the Tribunal you can access support to help you the proceedings from Lets Talk ASN. They will advocate on your behalf throughout the Tribunal process to make sure your views are heard and represented.

If none of the above apply, you can make your appeal to the local authority's education appeal committee. They will consider your appeal and either agree with the decision of the education authority or agree in your favour. If they agree in your favour, the local authority must place your child in the school of your choice.

If the appeal committee agrees with the decision of the local authority, you have the right to appeal to the Sheriff Court.

If you choose an independent school for your child that is not a special school, the local authority will not be responsible for providing your child with any support they need to learn or for arranging assessments of their needs.

If your child has additional support needs and you would like them to attend an independent school, it is a good idea to talk to your school or schools of choice about what resources and support they could offer your child.

You have the right not to send your child to school and educate them at home. If your child has previously been attending a local authority school, you must ask the local authority for permission to withdraw them. The local authority may ask you to demonstrate how you will provide an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude. If your child has never attended school you do not need to ask for permission.

Your local authority should have policies and procedures in place to support home education. Most education authorities have an officer who is responsible for home education. Parents can contact them to discuss any queries they have about home education.

If you choose to educate your child at home, the local authority will not be responsible for providing your child with any support that they need to learn or for arranging assessments of their needs. The local authority may choose to provide resources or support for a child with additional support needs who is being educated at home, but they have no legal duty to.

You can:

- if your child is currently at school talk to the head teacher about why you are thinking of moving them
- if you attend planning meetings about your child's support ask to discuss placement at the next meeting
- gather information about possible schools in your local authority
- visit the school/s you are interested in your child attending
- take time to think about all the available options - choosing your child's school is an important decision.

Possible conversation starters with prospective schools:

- What would the arrangements be for helping my child settle in to the school?
- Are there any accessibility issues for my child (e.g. stairs, access to toilets)?
- What support staff work in the school and how is support arranged?
- How do the school communicate with parents?

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