Parental choice and school placement: issues for parents of children with statements of special educational needs

  • Meanu Bajwa-Patel

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This doctoral study set out to explore how parents of children with statements of special educational needs and disability (SEND) made their decisions with regards to school placement. It aimed to explore both how these decisions were made and parents’ perceptions of how well the schools, that they had placed their children in, were meeting their needs. The perceptions and views of these parents are given voice in this research. The project is very topical as sweeping changes (Part three of The Children and Families Act 2014 (DfE), the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (DfE, 2014) and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 (DfE, 2014)) have recently been brought in with the aim, at least in theory, to reform the SEND system and give children, young people (up to the age of 25) and their families greater control and choice. This research is also very relevant at a time when there is an exponential increase in the numbers of academies and free schools, with their own admission procedures and curriculum.

    Through the use of a pragmatic approach, using surveys (n=65) and semi-structured interviews (n=20), a range of views, across three Local Authorities in the South East of England, were collected and analysed. The main findings indicate that for many parents, despite their resources, social capital and education, finding a school that they felt could meet their child’s needs was a difficult task. To find a mainstream school, within their local community, that could support their child’s educational and social needs was virtually impossible for all but a small minority of participants. Parents whose children were diagnosed with a statement for Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) found it particularly difficult to find suitable schooling whether in a mainstream school, a special school or a specialist unit. A range of difficulties were identified, including in the areas of communication, between parents and providers, school curricula and funding. Some of the difficulties identified may be addressed by the new legislation and guidance, giving greater control and choice, others require schools and LA to work more collaboratively and flexibly with families. Other recommendations include improving LA practices, with regards to information and guidance about schools; and more effective teacher and head teacher training. However, on a more positive note, there were some schools, in the primary sector, which did manage to successfully meet the needs of some of the children. This indicates that such an ideal is achievable.
    Date of AwardJul 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    SupervisorRichard Rose (Supervisor) & Cristina Devecchi (Supervisor)

    Cite this