Admission to independent and non-maintained schools

Guidance on admission to these schools for pupils with an EHCP.

What are independent and non-maintained schools?

Independent schools are usually privately run for profit and are also described as private schools.

Non-maintained schools are usually managed by charitable organisations and are not profit-making.

Neither are maintained or overseen by local authorities.

There is a fee for admittance to these schools.

Find information about your rights to request an independent or non-maintained school in sections 9.78 to 9.84 of the SEND code of practice.

How does this work in West Sussex?

Locally maintained school placements will always be investigated before the consideration of an independent, or non-maintained school. This is because they are fee-charging organisations. The local authority (LA) are publicly funded and have a duty to consider the most efficient use of their resources in all decisions. 

Maintained schools are already funded in part, and are often geographically nearer so they are usually less costly than non-maintained or independent schools.

If a parent carer or young person expresses a preference for a non-maintained or independent setting approved by the Secretary of State (often called Section 41 providers) the SENAT will consult with that preference alongside their work to consider other maintained options.

If a parent carer or young person expresses a preference for an independent school not approved by the Secretary of State, the SENAT are not required to consult with the school. They may engage with them to learn about their offer and ability to meet the child or young person’s needs, but are not required to.

Responses from possible settings inform SEN panel considerations. They focus first upon meeting the needs of the child or young person, then the cost.

Section 41 Secretary of State Approved List

This is a list of Secretary of State approved independent special schools and post-16 institutions who have completed the Section 41 (Children and Families Act 2014) application process. You can find the full list on the GOV.UK website.

You can find a list of Section 41 approved schools in West Sussex in our Local Offer service directory. Note that some schools may choose not to have a listing in our directory.

Dynamic Placement System (DPS)

West Sussex County Council has established a dynamic placement system (DPS) that supports finding suitable placements for children with disabilities and special
educational needs when a placement is required in an independent or non-maintained special school. Some of these schools are located outside of West Sussex.

Independent and non-maintained schools are invited to be part of this system which allows West Sussex to co-ordinate admissions and ensure appropriate contractual and other monitoring mechanisms are in place for these settings.

If the SEN Assessment Team considers that a non-maintained or independent school might be required, they will do a referral to the DPS. This involves sending anonymised information about the child or young person’s needs to all of the approved providers on the system.

Providers are asked to express an interest in meeting the child or young person’s needs. Ideally, they will do this within 5 working days of the initial referral.

SENAT will then consider the responses and most likely refer the expressions of interest and all other work that has taken place to consider local placements to
the SEN Panel for discussion.

If placement in an independent or non-maintained placement is agreed in principle by the SEN Panel a formal consultation will also take place (if it has not
already) before the placement can be agreed or named in an EHCP.