Should you move a child with (suspected) SEN to a different school?

I’m in the middle of moving house at the moment and it’s summer, so we’re mid GCSE and A Level exam season with Year 11 and Year 13 leaving school/college, so I’m thinking a lot about “endings”, in a way that’s relevant to this question.

I moved schools when I was in Year 3, when we moved house from one side of Tadley to the other. I continued to feel like an “outsider” a lot of the time, until we went to secondary school, as both Tadley Primary School and Burnham Copse Junior School (as it then was) fed to the Hurst Community School and I was “reunited” with people from Tadley Primary School.

Children are capable of ongoing nastiness to each other, in ways that are really unpleasant for the child on the receiving end. And yes, they are children who need to be helped to learn how to interact with others they don’t necessarily like, not people to be condemned.

Children are also capable of being much more accepting than many adults are of people who are “different”. See #DisabledTwitter for examples of positive interactions between visibily disabled adults and (probably non-disabled) children. Children who grow up in homes with a variety of configurations other than as a nuclear family with two parents of different genders are fine with how their own lives are.

Generally speaking the younger children are, the easier it is for them to be open and accepting of children who aren’t quite like them.

There is therefore something special about the first school a child attends and the peer group they meet there, when they’re four or so, that it won’t be possible to replicate at another school when they’re older. Sometimes changing school is unavoidable due to say moving house or intolerable bullying, but as a first intervention when you think a child might have special educational needs, it isn’t one I can recommend.

Moving a child from one mainsteam school to another is unlikely to help with SEN – because the features of the school environment and teaching that don’t work for a child are likely to be the same in the other school. [There are occasional exceptions to this as a general rule].

Moving a child from state funded education to a mainsteam independent school is both unlikely to help with SEN and expensive. There’s no evidence that being in a class of say 20 rather than 30 helps [there is some evidence for much smaller classes of say up to 12, depending on the children’s needs, when looking at specialist schools for SEN]. The teaching models are likely to be equivalent to those in the state sector and in some areas, where few children with SEN go to the school, the understanding of SEN and disability can be poorer than in the state sector.

Even where it’s thought fairly likely that it will be better for a child to change schools, moving them to the ‘wrong’ school, will just lead to them having to move again, with all of the losses associated with losing another peer group. It’s usually better for them to stay where they are and to move once from their original school to a school for which there is evidence it is highly likely to be able to meet their needs.

Where a child is attending a school with an insufficient level of support, it can be very useful for an EHC Needs Assessment for them to carry on attending that school, in the short to enable assessments to be conducted of them there, so that the difficulties experienced are seen and fully documented.