What private schools offer children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

What private schools offer children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Private schools are well-known for having superior facilities to schools in the state sector. And it isn’t just in mainstream education that they excel in bringing a wealth of opportunities and facilities to their students. Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) can also gain huge benefits from attending an independent school.

If your child has been assessed as needing extra support, it’s important to find a school that will meet their needs and allow them to flourish into their potential.

So what do you need to know? What facilities do private schools have to offer children with additional needs? Let’s take a look.

SEN support in mainstream private schools

Most mainstream private schools – including elite names such as Eton – offer support for children with additional needs. They recognise that pupils with diagnoses such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or autism can have a lot to offer in terms of academic ability, and that giving support in areas can help children attain incredible results.

With greater resources available to children with additional needs than many state schools, the support that private schools can give to children is often far higher quality than they’d receive in a state school setting. For example, Fulneck school in Yorkshire has not only a Learning Support Unit, but ensures all teaching staff are trained in teaching pupils with dyslexia. This is in stark contrast to many schools in the state sector, where a school might have just one SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) who may be part-time or may have another role within the school.

It’s important to talk to your preferred schools about your child’s additional needs at the beginning of the application process. You’ll be able to discuss the support your child might receive, and the school will be able to take their needs into account when assessing entrance exam papers. For instance, this could mean looking beyond irregular spelling or challenging handwriting to see the ideas and understanding a child has around a topic.

However, not all children with Special Educational Needs are best served by a mainstream school, even one in the private sector. If that’s the case for your child, it’s worth looking at private schools who specialise in helping children with additional needs to find a place where your child can thrive. There are many benefits to finding a school that caters to your child’s specific needs, both during their school days and in the rest of their life.

Smaller class sizes

As is common across independent schools, private schools that cater to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) recognise that a better teacher-to-student ratio means children can flourish. They get a more personalised approach to their education.

When teachers and teaching assistants have lower class numbers, they have capacity to meet children at their current stage, and they can tailor their learning and development accordingly. So your child can enjoy their school experience and reach their potential.

A group of children programming robots.

Varied, vocational and academic learning for children with SEND

Special schools often offer a wider variety of learning for their students. They focus not only on typical academic subjects, such as science, maths and English, but also on vocational studies too. Beeches School in Dorset enables children to study topics like horticulture, caring for animals and vehicle engineering to boost their ability to find employment after leaving school. They also offer a bushcraft programme within their extensive grounds to capture the imagination of their children.

Dovetree School in Leicestershire even has a dedicated Vocational Centre, where students can gain accreditations in subjects as diverse as product design, hair and beauty, and hospitality.

For families who have tried mainstream schooling but found that their child experienced difficulties, there are even schools specifically aimed at helping your child. A great example of this is Eccles School, which helps children feel safe and begin to regain trust in the school environment. Once they’ve settled in, the school helps children embark on an education that can include the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, GCSEs, and access to further learning. Private schools like these provide a place where children can discover the skills they need to manage their well being and find their place in the world.

Specialist support on-site

One of the many benefits offered by private schools that specialise in supporting children with additional learning needs is that they have the expertise in-house. Schools are likely to have not just one trained practitioner but a whole team. This means that, while most children learn in lessons alongside their classmates, there’s plenty of provision for one-to-one support whenever individual students need it.

Appleford School in Wiltshire has a team of occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and a pastoral staff to give children the environment and resources they need to learn and grow. They review each child’s progress and support every term – whereas some state schools review just once a year. And support isn’t just found in timetabled lessons, there’s also a ‘drop-in’ service where children can talk informally about their concerns when they feel ready.

Bridgeway School in Preston also has a broad team, including person-centred therapists, clinical psychologists, speech and language therapists to support their students. They even have a family liaison team to keep parents and carers up to date all the time.

A girl and a dog sat together reading.

A school’s best friend

Schools offering specialist SEN support don’t just rely on teaching and pastoral staff to support their children, but also get help from four-legged friends. Several private SEND schools have therapy dogs on site to help ease students’ anxieties and find a sense of calm.

For children who have difficulty getting through the gates in the morning, a therapy dog can be invaluable in helping them feel comfortable in getting to the classroom. Therapy dogs are also used to help children feel more confident with their reading – they’re patient listeners – and to help children understand and discuss their emotional wellbeing.

Applying for a place at a private specialist school

Fortunately, some children are able to access a place at a UK private specialist school with help from their local authority. However, local authorities will only fund places at a private SEN school in particular circumstances – usually if there is no other suitable provision nearby. So it’s likely that some parents who choose to give their child the benefit of a private education will have to fund the fees themselves.

Specialist schools can be expensive in comparison with mainstream private schools. For parents weighing up the costs and benefits of mainstream and special private schools, school fees may be an important consideration. If you’re attracted by comparatively lower school fees, remember that some mainstream private schools charge extra for learning support lessons. This means that the price may end up higher than you expect – and there may be extra costs on top. If budget could be a constraint for you, it’s worth weighing up all the options thoroughly.

If you’re considering a private school for your child, but you’re concerned about the impact of school fees on your finances, it’s time to take expert advice. Understanding your financial position means you can be confident that the school fees are affordable, and that your child will be able to thrive at a school they love throughout their education.

And what’s more, paying school fees doesn’t have to mean you sacrifice other lifestyle goals like family holidays or long-term dreams like early retirement. Get in touch to find out how we can help you pay school fees with confidence.