September 2024 school places

Choosing a school for your child is an important decision. If your child has a diagnosis of autism, then the process can be daunting as you navigate what your child needs against what a mainstream school could offer.

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If your child has a diagnosis of autism and an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), mainstream education may not be right for you and your family, and a special school could be an option for you to consider.

Our Options Autism schools support neurodivergent pupils to value their uniqueness and access the world in their own way. From early years through to further education, we support pupils of all abilities and work closely with families and local authorities. Our schools provide inclusive environments in which our neurodivergent pupils are valued and supported to thrive.

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Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve put together some of our most frequently asked questions to guide you in making an informed decision when selecting the best school for your child.

How do I get my child into a SEN school?

Your child will need an Education, Health and Care Plan, also known as an EHCP.

What is an EHCP?

An Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) is a legal document in the UK that outlines a child’s special educational needs and the support they require. This plan is tailored to the individual needs of the child and involves input from parents, schools, health professionals, and social services. EHCPs aim to ensure that children with additional needs receive the appropriate support to reach their full potential in education and beyond.

How do I get an EHCP for my child?

To get an EHCP for your child, you need to apply through your local authority. This process involves providing information about your child’s needs and any existing support they receive. The local authority will assess the application and decide if an EHCP is necessary. It’s important to gather relevant documents and information to support your application.

You can also find more details about how to request an EHCP plan from your Local Authority here: https://www.gov.uk/children-with-special-educational-needs/extra-SEN-help

Is a specialist school better than a mainstream school?

Options Autism schools are proud to offer tailored support for autistic young people. Our individualised approach caters to the unique needs and learning styles of each pupil, enhancing their overall development. We provide smaller class sizes and trained staff, creating a supportive environment conducive to academic and social growth, and offer specialised therapies that are specifically designed to help autistic children thrive and reach their full potential.

How do I choose the right school for my SEN child?

When choosing a school, it is helpful to arrange a visit, particularly when the children are in. You may want to do a visit on your own during school hours, and then with your child perhaps at a quieter time, if you like what you see on your first visit.

It is important that you feel happy with the setting, and the resources, and have time to speak to teachers and staff at the school about the things you want to be in place for your child’s specific needs. Feel free to bring a list of questions – you can ask about transport, food, trips, all the things that you might need that are on your child’s EHCP and how the school would address them.

It is important that you have time to reflect on the school’s response and ask follow-up questions. Email is normally a good way of clarifying anything that you might think of after the visit so that you are fully confident in your choice.

What age range do your schools take?

We take pupils from ages 3 to 25 depending on the school or college. Please see the school finder map for more information.

Do specialist schools follow the National Curriculum?

Specialist schools in the UK are not required to follow the National Curriculum.

At each of our schools, the curriculum on offer to our pupils is bespoke and is underpinned by the values of Options Autism. Our schools provide an education that can transform a child’s life, leading to an engaged, positive and happy adult equipped with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to live a full, rewarding existence.

At Options Autism, we believe that success comes in all shapes and sizes. Irrespective of cognitive ability, all pupils leave our schools with a recognised qualification.

Our full range of additional qualifications means that every student has been able to succeed and achieve a portfolio of qualifications relevant to their skills, interests, and future plans.

What is the difference between the curriculum at a mainstream school to a specialist school?

At Options Autism, we want our pupils to leave us with good social skills and emotional resilience, and a bespoke curriculum helps us achieve that. The curriculum offered within our schools is individualised and differentiated based on the pupil’s academic ability.

A key part of that approach means encouraging those we support to foster healthy and positive relationships so they can have full social interaction with others and form friendships and bonds which last a lifetime.

Our teams of highly skilled staff and clinicians work closely with parents, families, carers and pupils to best ensure that the individual becomes as independent as possible.

Ultimately, the curriculum helps pupils to be prepared and equipped for life inmodern Britain, whatever their hopes and aspirations, be it going on to Further Education, transitioning to employment, or another avenue completely. Whatever they want to achieve, the curriculum helps them get there.

What progression is there for your pupils after they leave?

Options Autism has a bespoke careers pathways team that works directly with pupils.

Our career guidance is tailored to meet the specific needs of our pupils. Each of our expert career advisers gives pupils the opportunity to explore the wide range of qualifications available in preparation for their future.

As well as obtaining vital work experience, pupils are supported on a one-to-one basis in a relaxed and welcoming setting – all of which offer a pathway to preparing for the best possible future.

Do you need to pay for specialist schools?

Our school places are funded by the Local Authority. This funding ensures access to specialised resources and expertise without additional costs for families.

Pupils at our schools will enjoy free school meals, snacks, outings and enrichment activities. Additionally, they will be equipped with an initial free school uniform.

Do you provide transport?

The Local Authority will agree contractual arrangements for transporting your child to and from school. *

*This may differ depending on the Local Authority.

When can my child start at school? Do they have to wait until September?

Your child does not need to wait until September to start at one of our schools, however, there are steps beforehand which must be completed before your child can join one of our schools:

  • Your child will need to have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which will specify that they have SEMH needs, a diagnosis of autism or demonstrate behaviours associated with autism (ASC).
  • Your child will normally have been assessed as within the average ability range of educational functioning.
  • Your child will express a commitment to the placement.
  • Parents/carers will express a commitment to the placement.
  • The Local Authority will provide the school with all current advice and information concerning your child.
  • The Local Authority will name the school in Section IV of their EHCP.
  • The Local Authority will email confirmation agreeing on Core funding and additional funding if specified in the assessment and provide a signed IPA (Individual Placement Agreement).

Does the school have specialist facilities?

We recognise that early identification and effective provision improve long-term outcomes for pupils.

Each of our schools is different, some have extensive grounds with roaming fields, and others are located closer to towns with the option to take part in community settings.

Over the past year, we have built immersive classrooms within many of our schools, allowing teachers to take our pupils beyond the school walls, to places and experiences that they may not otherwise ordinarily encounter, in an environment where they feel safe.

Many of our schools also offer unique onsite school learning experiences such as animal care, horticulture, hairdressing, or mechanics to enable pupils to gain vocational qualifications or explore possible future careers.

Are there therapists on site? How is the therapy integrated into the curriculum?

Options Autism schools have a range of onsite clinicians who will work with pupils, as well as their parents or carers, to agree on a support plan which will become part of their school life, enabling them to build on their strengths and increase their resilience.

Our wider clinical team includes:

  • Speech and Language Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Psychotherapists
  • Assistant Psychologists
  • Therapy Assistants
  • Access to other types of therapy as required.

Is there a waiting list?

We don’t operate a waiting list for our schools. Each application is looked at on a case-by-case basis.

How do I apply for a place at one of your schools?

If you have found a school which you think meets the needs of your child, you can arrange a visit or find out more information by clicking ‘Enquire Now’. Your details will go straight to our admissions team, and they will get back to you as soon as possible.

Get in Touch

If you are looking for a school place for your child and would like to know more about our admission process or how we can support your child in one of our schools, get in touch using the form below.

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