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Specialist Admissions Process Guidance | Community Directory

Specialist Admissions Process Guidance

With effect from September 2019, the way in which the local authority consider admission to special schools, specialist units, alternative provision and pupil referral units is changing.


  • Requests for admission to special schools, specialist support centres, specialist units, pupil referral units (PRU) and alternative provision (AP) will all be managed under one Specialist Admissions Process.
  • The In Year Fair Access Panel (IYFAP) will no longer be the forum for agreeing PRU and AP places.
  • The IYFAP will continue to be in place to manage in year admissions to mainstream school, re-integrations to mainstream school and managed moves.

This guidance will give you the information you need to understand the new process and use it appropriately. Please see the appendices to this document which include a process map, timetable and template referral form.

How to make a referral

The Inclusion Service Referral Form will be used to make a request for consideration of placement in a specialist setting (LA maintained, Academy or Free School), alternative provision or PRU. This is a redesigned universal form which can also be used to refer for IYFAP, the Multi-Agency Assessment Programme and for outreach services.

The referral form is attached as Appendix 1.

The form should be completed, and all required supporting evidence attached. The form should then be emailed to:


Please note: The practice adopted in 2018-19 of requesting specialist placement through the Annual Review of an EHC plan has now ceased, and requests will only be considered if made through the new process.

Any requests for specialist placement and/or PRU /AP placement considered in 2018-19 which were unsuccessful will not be carried forward to the new process. A fresh referral will be required.

Requests for specialist placement should be discussed with the SEND Family Services teams.  If you are considering a request for a specialist setting for a child with an Education, Health and Care Plan, please ensure this is accompanied by an up to date Annual Review report which has been discussed with the SEND Family Services Team.

Decision making

  • There will be a 3 meeting round each academic year, Autumn and Spring meetings will consider requests, Summer will be a round up and transition planning meeting
  • Autumn term: request deadline 31st October. Meetings in November
  • Spring Term: request deadline by 14th February. Meetings in March
  • Summer term: round up and transition planning at the end of May
  • Meetings will be held by area in Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich so that all local provision can be considered at the same time.


Suitability panels in each area will first look at all the requests to the specialist settings and PRU /AP area provision, and decide on suitability and what type of provision can meet need:

Chair: Family Services Manager

Attendees will be representatives from:

  • Family Services Team
  • Health
  • County Inclusion Support Service
  • Virtual School
  • Early Help
  • Educational Psychologist
  • Multi-Agency Assessment Programme


Placement panels in each area will then consider the most appropriate placement and whether a place can be offered

Chair:  Family Service Manager

Attendees will be representatives of:

  • Family Services teams
  • Heads of special schools, specialist units, PRUs and  alternative provision
  • A representative of each area mainstream secondary and primary schools
  • Provider Development team
  • Passenger Transport
  • Placement Officer

In Year Admissions

There will continue to be a requirement to manage any In Year Admissions for students with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans to comply with the SEND Code of Practice, and be able to be dynamic in managing admissions to PRU/AP provision:

  • The SEND Family Services teams will continue to consult where a specific school has been named by the parent as parental preference in Section I of an EHC Plan
  • Consultation will require a response on suitability and compatibility with the efficient education of others
  • The decision whether to name a school in a plan sits with the local authority having considered the response of the school, and will be agreed at the weekly Specialist Education Panel (SEP)
  • PRU/AP placements which are needed urgently and cannot wait for the next referral round can be negotiated directly between the PRU/AP setting and Family Services, and agreed at SEP
  • Each PRU provider will be commissioned to hold a certain number of places for students permanently excluded and requiring provision by the 6th day. These places will be short term, and will be used at the discretion of the Family Services teams, and will be monitored by the FS teams to ensure turnover and prevent children becoming stuck in PRU provision inappropriately

Placement confirmation

  • The offer of place will be sent out to current school, parent and identified provision by letter from central Business Support Team following each placement meeting to ensure clarity and avoid any mixed information.
  • The placement offer is expected to be for following academic year in the majority of cases.
  • Placement offers following In Year Consultations will be agreed by the weekly Specialist Education Panel (SEP) and offer letters sent out centrally following the weekly SEP meeting.
  • 6th Day placement will be at the discretion of the Family Services Manager and monitored by the team.