Moving to high school

Moving to high school

Moving to high school is a big change, and it is important that your child feels confident in their next steps.

You and your child should be involved in transition planning so that the right support is in place when your child starts their new school.

How will my child’s move to high school be planned?

The planning and organisation that takes place to support your child with their move to high school is called ‘transition planning’. It should involve all the professionals who work with your child, as well as providing the opportunity for you and your child to share your views. Transition planning aims to make sure that your child’s new school understands your child’s needs and has plans in place to support them.

Transition planning should begin by gathering information about your child’s needs. Your child’s primary school should prepare, with your permission, what your child’s needs are and what support has worked well for them in primary school. This information gathering should start no later than 12 months before your child is due to start at their new school. Once this information is collected, it should be shared with your child’s new school (with your consent) no later than 6 months before your child is due to start. They should also send you a copy of this information.

Your child’s transition planning should be co-ordinated by one person. This is usually someone who knows your child, e.g. someone from their primary school or another professional who has worked with them.

  • Planning for moving to high school

    This factsheet explains what local authorities and schools must do to plan for children with additional support needs moving to high school.

I think my child will find the move difficult, can they get extra support?

For some pupils, the move up to high school will be particularly worrying or challenging, and extra support can be put in place to help them. This is called an ‘enhanced transition’. An enhanced transition supports pupils with their move to high school by putting additional support in place through the process. It often involves extra visits to the new school, with the chance to meet new staff and get to know the new environment. It can also include joint meetings between you, your child if they would like to attend, staff from your child’s current school, their new school, and any other professionals who work with them.

If you feel that an enhanced transition might be helpful for your child, you should speak to their current school. You could ask to meet with the person responsible for their transition planning to ask that an enhanced transition be put in place.

How will my child and I be involved in transition planning?

You and your child should be given the opportunity to share your views throughout their transition planning. This can include sharing your views about what school might best suit their needs, as well as what support they might need at high school. Your child’s school should keep you informed of the progress of their transition planning.

How will my child be supported at high school?

Your child has the right to support that meets their needs, no matter what school they go to. There are lots of ways that your child can be supported at high school. Your child’s new school should work with you and your child to find the support that best meets their individual needs.

For most children, moving to high school will be a big change. It is likely that their high school will be a bigger and busier environment, with more staff and pupils to get to know. The change might mean that they need different support than at primary school. There might also be changes to how your child’s support is planned and delivered.

Planning in advance for your child’s move should mean that you and your child will have a good idea of what their support will look like before they start.

It’s also important to remember that your child’s support must be kept under review. This means that if any issues come up after they start school, the school can still make changes to their support. It may be that your child will need less support than planned, or that they find certain parts of high school more difficult than expected. You can speak to your child’s new school about how they will monitor your child’s support and keep you up to date with how they are getting on.

For more information, have a look at our page Providing your child’s support.

How do I choose the right high school?

Most children will go to their local catchment high school or another high school in their local area. Some children will be offered a place at a specialist unit or base attached to a mainstream school. Some children will go to special schools.

It is important to remember that your child has the right to support that meets their needs, no matter what school they attend. Mainstream schools are able to offer a wide range of support. For some ideas about things to consider and questions to ask about the schools in your area, have a look on page 7 of our School Placements factsheet.

As part of the transition planning process, you and those working with your child should identify whether the catchment school can meet your child’s support needs. Together, you should identify what extra help your child would need to attend the school. Your local authority should work with you to get this support in place.

If your local catchment school may not be able to meet your child’s needs, then the decision about where to offer your child a place will go to your local authority. In most local authorities, there are panels of people that make decisions about school placements for pupils with additional needs. Usually, someone working with your child will refer your child to this panel, like someone from their primary school or an educational psychologist.

As a parent, you also have the right to make a placing request if you would like your child to go to a particular school. A placing request is a formal request, in writing, that your child be placed at a specific school.

For more information, have a look at our Choosing the right school page and School Placements factsheet.

  • School placements

    Factsheet explaining the different types of schools that pupils with additional support needs might attend, how school placements are usually made, tips on choosing a school. and your rights to make a placing request to a school of your choice.

Can my child get a place at a special high school or support base?

Special schools offer a range of specialist services not usually available in mainstream schools. They provide specific support for pupils with more complex needs. Often, special schools offer support for particular needs, such as learning disabilities, behavioural problems, or physical or sensory impairments.

In Scotland, there is a ‘presumption of mainstream. This means local authorities have a duty to provide education in mainstream schools unless certain exemptions apply. Your child may be offered a place in a special unit, base or school if:

  • a mainstream school would not suit their ability or aptitude
  • providing their education in a mainstream school would negatively affect the learning of other pupils in the school
  • the cost of placing your child in a mainstream school would be unreasonably high.

If one or more of these exemptions apply, the local authority can still provide your child’s education in a mainstream setting, but not without considering your views and your child’s views.

If the local authority decides to place your child in a special school or support base, they should involve you and your child in the decision. You may be able to visit the school in advance to make sure you feel happy for your child to go there, and to learn about how your child will be supported.

  • School placements

    Factsheet explaining the different types of schools that pupils with additional support needs might attend, how school placements are usually made, tips on choosing a school. and your rights to make a placing request to a school of your choice.

I’m not happy with the high school place my child has been offered. What can I do?

You should first ask for a transition planning meeting to discuss your concerns. At the meeting, you could share the reasons why you feel the place that has been offered will not work for your child. You may be able to find out more about what support will be available for your child or agree to put more or different support in place.

If you are still concerned after the meeting, you could contact your local authority directly. You could ask that the local authority reconsider your child’s placement, and ask if they have an appeals process. You can find the contact details that we have for your local authority on our local authority contacts page.

Following this, you could also consider making a placing request. This is a request to your local authority that your child be offered a place at a specific school. Placing request decisions are made by a panel at the local authority. If your placing request is refused, you have the legal right to appeal the decision. For more information on this process, have a look from page 7 of our School Placements factsheet.

  • School placements

    Factsheet explaining the different types of schools that pupils with additional support needs might attend, how school placements are usually made, tips on choosing a school. and your rights to make a placing request to a school of your choice.

Watch our Q+A session on starting or changing schools to hear our helpline team cover some key information and answer parents’ questions:

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