Home > Applying for Schools > Applying to Private School: Special Needs Child

Applying to Private School: Special Needs Child

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 13 Dec 2020 | comments*Discuss
Special Educational Needs Private School

Applying to private school can be difficult, but if your child has special educational needs the hunt for the right school can be even trickier.

As a parent, you may want a mainstream school that will take into account your child's own needs or disabilities, or you may want a school that is specifically designed to meet the challenges of special needs kids.

A lot will depend, of course, not only on your budget but also where you live, and how far you are willing to commute every day to get your child into the school you believe will be the best one for them.

Mainstream Schools

Many independent schools accept children with a statement of SEN, or special educational needs, if they believe a mainstream setting is the appropriate place for them (as legislated in the Education Act 1966). Some, however, make it clear from the beginning that they would "prefer" that a special needs child go elsewhere.

It depends, of course, on the type of special needs that your child has – and the type of school you are looking for. A highly academic school, for example, that puts a great emphasis on keeping their exam scores high, may not freely welcome a child with dyslexia who they believe will "bring down" their academic standing. If your child has a very high IQ, however, and is bored in a state school, then this may not be the case.

Schools with a greater emphasis on overall personal development, however, may encourage children of all abilities to apply, and some academic schools may have special dyslexia units to offer support – Eton does – that sometimes come with an extra charge.

Many children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, mild autism and ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, do extremely well in mainstream schools. You are well advised to visit the school beforehand to discover what provision they can offer your child, and to speak with other parents of children with similar special needs to see how they fare in the same setting.

Special Needs Schools

Some of the best independent schools in the country cater to children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, or math disability. For some parents, this is a better choice than sending their special needs child to a mainstream school, especially if their needs or disabilities are more challenging than others.

Specialist schools cater to children with a variety of disabilities, including visual, physical, hearing or learning difficulties, autism, and behavioural and social problems.

When choosing a specialist school, it's important to look around carefully, and make sure it's the best one for your child. In some cases, parents choose a boarding school, where their needs can be met full-time.

Keep in mind that it may be possible to get financial help from your local council to cover at least part of the cost of a private education for your child, if the state school cannot meet his or her needs. Bursaries are also often available from the school itself. Some charities can also help advise on funding.

The Right Decision for Your Child

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most difficult decisions you will make as a parent, especially if your child has special educational needs. Some parents believe that attending a state school will give a child with SEN the support they need; others feel that a private education is better for their child.

If you choose to go down the private route, look at your child's strengths and weaknesses, and see how the school will address them. Visit the school, talk to parents in a similar situation, and try to discover how the school deals with kids who perform either above or below average.

Children with special needs often flourish in a private school, where the class size is smaller and they can benefit from more one-on-one attention. Look for a school with an open admissions policy, and talk in depth to other parents who have sent their children there. With a little research and leg-work, you can find the right school for your child.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hi, I have 11 year old boy diagnosed ASD- who is currently in Yr6 in a mainstream school with 1:1 support and a Statement. Most of the mainstream public schools are huge with 1200-1600 pupils. We would like to get him into a private mainstream secondary school where the classes are smaller but it is proving difficult as the private schools object to have someone with a Statement. Please let me know if you know of any private mainstream secondary schools in UK that are flexible in accepting ASD pupils. Thanks.
Bonny - 13-Dec-20 @ 9:05 AM
Hi got at girls with autism wat school is good for her
B - 22-Sep-20 @ 9:56 PM
Hello I'm thinking about putting my nearly 14 year old boy either in a boarding school, or private school, he's in a mainstream school and gets by but seems to have a out look on teachers, he has sensory processing disorder and mild autism, he has been hard very controlling growing up but now at home he's abusive? I'm trying to find the right place to have my boy grow up a respectable young man with a bright future, any suggestions would help me think more and decide too.
Donna - 12-Mar-20 @ 4:54 PM
I have a 13 year old who has mild intellectual difficulty, SLD, ADD and is immature for his age.I want a right school for him where he is challenged academically (with the right support), yet is in a safe environment (no bullies).He is currently in a mainstream school - but pulled out to be in a small group for most academic subjects.I am moving back to the UK and want to know what would be the best scenario for him?Inclusion, special school?I have visited a few special schools over the years in UK but wanted something stronger academically for my son, yet want him to be comfortable as he is entering a new system etc., Any advice?
Donna - 23-Sep-19 @ 8:29 PM
Hello I am trying to find a school for my disabled son. He is 2 now with significant lower limb paralysis due to a congenital birth defect of the spine which he was born with. He also has clubbed feet. He also uses a wheelchair and wears braces at home plus he has a pair of special shoes. He is incredibly smart howewer. My daughter has dwarfism and is currently trached. We live in Surrey. Does anyone know of any good special needs schools? She also needs to be challenged. Thanks. Any recommendations will be appreciated. How do I find a school for both of them to attend? I want them to do well and achieve. Neither of them have learning disabilities.
TR - 7-Jul-19 @ 7:08 PM
Hi all, I am from the UK and currently living in Australia. We have an 11 year old son with autism and are looking for private special needs schools. We are willing to base where we move back to as the right school will be so important. I have really struggled to find private schools that only have special needs children. Any help would be greatly appreciated to point me in the right direction. Kind regards,
Mark - 29-Jun-19 @ 9:49 AM
Hi my son is 3 and 9 months old he is good in maths and shapes. But he cant communicate. Anyone tell me whether the main stream school is good or special schools
Noor - 19-Mar-19 @ 6:56 PM
My Adopted son, 9, has FASD (specifically Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder). I gather a lot of my information about education from an online support group(facebook) called FASD UK. THere are some national trainers and experts in the group and the Chief Executive of NOFAS-UK also contributes to the discussion and drives the information forward at an parliamentary level too (due to lack of funding and knowledge nationally about this little known learning disability). Our children often get misunderstood, misdiagnosed and miss out on vital support and strategies as a result, all of which leads them to secondary conditions and mental health problems for the rest of their lives.This is a lifelong disability. Hoping you know all of this as but wanted to share it as it has huge impacts for where we send our children to school. WIthout the FASD UK group on facebook I would probably have given into "experts" who suggested our son should go to a SEMH (Social, emotional, mental health) special school but actually he needs specialist help with learning around his disability which is his primary SEN issue. He has complex needs and requires a therapeutic/nurturing approach, not one that is too rigid either as woudl be the case with SEND schools who are experts in ASD. Anyway, I digress - if you would like help/advice/support with education from other people who have been there,done it, etc. then go to facebook and search for that group, They have beena lifeline for me when I've been very low ... spread the word! and apologies if you already know abotu the group - you may even already be part of it and I wouldnt' even know! PS - there are also people from other countries inthe group,specifically Canada and USA.
Lou - 21-Jun-18 @ 2:31 PM
My son is 14 and in a school woth social behaviour. He has AdHD and his behaviour has gone worse. What international schools are good in Jamaica
Vee - 25-May-18 @ 6:07 PM
Hi Mi son is 3 he will going to reception on September 2018 he is diagnosed with autism but I would like to know which is the best option to him, actualliy he reads and is very interesting in the alphabet and phonics, his school offered us to left him 1 year more in nursery if I want but I dont the best option to him. I read that is possible put them in a private school, how can I apply? Many thanks to your help.
Caroty - 22-May-18 @ 12:17 PM
Hi mydaughter has leaningdifficulties she going to aspecial school The school is not good for her Going She’s changed so much
Jasm - 24-Apr-18 @ 4:18 PM
Hi, I am UK expat currently living in New York. I am looking to move back to the UK in 2018, specifically to educate my 10 year old son who has a learning disability. We left the UK with a diagnosis of Dyslexia but further tests in the US have proved he was mis-diagnosed. The tests so far show he has weak executive functioning skills and hyper sensitivities. If anyone can recommend a day/boarding school in the UK I'd appreciate it. I'm currently looking at London, Greater London but eat this point I just want to get him the most appropriate school.
Muffin - 10-Dec-17 @ 11:56 PM
Hi I’m looking for a secondary school for my daughter, she is currently in year 5, she has speech & language issues (speech dispraxia) and delayed learning skills (GLobal Development Delay) she is a very good girl, well behaved, she tries really hard at everything. We are looking for schools in the Southend area, stuggling to find a suitable one, any suggestions pls
Bunny - 16-Nov-17 @ 10:55 AM
Hi, My 12 years old niece is diagnosed as Global developmental delay, she is a lovely girl want to learn but i cant find good school for her, we are from Saudi Arabia, unfortunately we struggled with school there and i think i am having same bad experience in UK. I am in Manchester and trying to find a school for her, she is slow and cant write or read by herself she need help. anyone can help will be appreciated...
Bas - 17-Oct-17 @ 9:14 AM
Hi I’m looking for a secondary school for my boy he has speech & language issues (speech dispraxia) and delayed learning skills, he such a good, well behaved, very sorry, confident little boy who tries his best at everything.We are looking for schools in the Northamptonshire area, private or not but are stuggling to find a suitable one, any suggestions pls
Deb - 27-Sep-17 @ 1:08 PM
Anju - Your Question:
Hello, we are keen to move my son back to the UK to study his 6th form and thereafter. We are UK citizens and a UK status family living in HK for my work. My son would like to relocate back. He is a SEN student with social communication disorder (previously known as mild autism level 5 as it is now). He has been in LSC/SEN since primary 2. He is now in year 11 within a modified curriculum taking his igcse in biology and geography and functional maths and English. he has completed azdan, food and hygene and peers. We are local status UK residents and our home is there on which we pay our bills as well as council tax. please could you let me know how to find the right school for him as he will be leaving his current school in HK in June 2018 after he completes his exams. he will need to start in the UK in September 2018 in a school that is specialised to others similar to him. I would not want to send him to a mainstream school due to the stigma and judgement he has gone through in HK. thanks. Anju

Our Response:
You can see more via the Special Needs UK site here which should be able to help.
GetTheRightSchool - 8-Sep-17 @ 11:55 AM
Hello, we are keen to move my son back to the UK to study his 6th form and thereafter. We are UK citizens and a UK status family living in HK for my work. My son would like to relocate back. He is a SEN student with social communication disorder (previously known as mild autism level 5 as it is now). He has been in LSC/SEN since primary 2. He is now in year 11 within a modified curriculum taking his igcse in biology and geography and functional maths and English. he has completed azdan, food and hygene and peers. We are local status UK residents and our home is there on which we pay our bills as well as council tax. please could you let me know how to find the right school for him as he will be leaving his current school in HK in June 2018 after he completes his exams. he will need to start in the UK in September 2018 in a school that is specialised to others similar to him. I would not want to send him to a mainstream school due to the stigma and judgement he has gone through in HK. thanks. Anju
Anju - 7-Sep-17 @ 11:13 AM
Hi I have a 15 year old ADHD boy with mild Autism.We are in Mumbai right now where he goes to a centre for Autistic Individuals,they follow RDI programs where parents are trained to handle the kids.Everything is ok but I want him to go ahead in Academics as well. Also I am joining my masters degree course in New York this Fall 2017,he is coming along with me.Want the right curriculum,right learning environment and a right Mentor for him.He is very bright in Music,Arts,Sports and Drama.Want him to be very very happy where we will move and his holistic growth must happen. Please guide me the right people and the right place to approach.We will be at Hempstead near Hofsra University in New York.
GUDDU - 25-Jun-17 @ 7:46 PM
I teach a delightful 7 year old moderately autistic boy in an inclusive international school in Norway. The family have suddenly been told they are relocating to London. Can anyone suggest potential schools with support services? The parents have finances I believe to support him in private schooling if necessary.
Vix - 7-Jun-17 @ 11:02 PM
I am sorry if this sounds like I am a bit stressed out but I can not get a straight answer and I honestly have no options to turn to. My son is due to start mainstream school in September that was named on an EHCP by a panel that did not know about and I can not appeal (no one will even speak to me). I am exhausted with two sen children so right now I will take all the help i can get. I am trying to find schools that are ASD appropriate but its allways the same. No interview until the local authority say yes and they wont do that as my LA wont fund anything with out a fight (as in getting a lawyer that I can not afford). Does anyone know how I can break this cycle and if there are any ways that I can get help that dont include a 6 week wait for SENDIAS and spending 10 grand on an education fight program.
suluco - 12-May-17 @ 8:11 PM
hi i have a 16 years old son with autism, i would like to enrol him in a boarding school in uk, please advice me with the best special need school for autism in uk who accommodate my son , we are overseas family who dont have enough support in my country and i would like to find the best in uk. thanks
maiautism - 24-Apr-17 @ 5:34 PM
Hi I have a 10-year-old who is born with downs syndrome also attend mainstream school in Gloucester. I am looking for a mainstream school with small classes that will meet the needs any ideas which school would be best to view inGloucestershire. so far I have looked at some of the larger schools and feel they are too large any ideas?
SV62 - 26-Mar-17 @ 4:25 PM
Marta, I'm not sure where you live, however there is an amazing school in Staffordshire called anbotsholme.A real game changer if a school, very outdoors and what seem small classes and excellent teaching staff. Great provisions for dyslexia. I was in the same position last year and it's now my choice of school.
Subo - 14-Mar-17 @ 7:46 PM
Hi, I have a14 year old with cerebral palsy but bright academically who has been home schooled all along but want him to go to school this September . Is there a special secondary for cerebral palsy that he can attend in London as I think such a school will have all the equipments of training to help his mobility and independence. I was initially thinking of him joining mainstream. Thank you
Joy - 26-Feb-17 @ 10:05 AM
Hello to everyone i have a 10 years lovely girl has been diagnosed with dyslexia. I have to apply this year for a secondary schools and icompletely confuse because i don't know which school i have to look. I will like to apply for dyslexia private school but there so expensive and for normal school the SENCO help it is not sufficient as the government cut money to the school and they can't help the kids as they need. if anyone can help. thank you very much i will be appreciated marta 24-02-17
marta - 24-Feb-17 @ 4:22 PM
My 7 year old son has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, he attended a mainstream school, and was doing well up until September 2016 where the big transition from moving term and different teachers was put in place, then things turned for the worst. even though he has a ehcp in place it was not put into practice and my son was not given the care and support he needed. This became a big problem for both of us. he was getting excluded frequently and is now permanently excluded without a school. My son is a very bright boy he catches on quickly but gets bored easily. I'm now been pushed to place my son in a Sen school but I strongly believe that is not the right setting for him. I believe the mainstream schools just cannot be bothered and would rather get rid of children with any special education needs. The school my son attended did nothing for him and made our life's a living hell. Now trying to get my son back into a mainstream is almost impossible due to bad reports given by his previous school. I am considering quitting my job and home tutoring.
Kez - 21-Jan-17 @ 8:23 AM
Hi. My 6yr old daughter has mild CP in her lower half which means she finds most physical activity a challenge. She is, otherwise, a happy, confident girl who is performing well at school. We would like to move her at the beginning of yr 3 to a private prep school (smaller classes etc) but are worried we may be putting her in a position that highlights her disability (as with most independents they offer a full sporting calendar) even though they offer arts and music also. Anyone else faced this conundrum - any POV's welcome x
NZ - 20-Dec-16 @ 7:00 PM
Hi all, i have an 11 year old son . He has never really settled in school and himself and all teachers are finding it extremely difficult at present. The teachers say he struggles to follow instructions, complete work, asks lots of questions as well as questioning everything and they find him very disrespectful. I ateend meetings throught the school weeks due to his behaviour. I know my sons not perfect but the things school have put in place have not been very affective and they can fail to be consistant with him soo in my sons case and schools case i feel they are both wrong. He has been restraint , put in isolation, internally and externally exculded a number of times and things are getting worse. My son dislikes school and teachers and doesnt trust anybody there. He feels he is mistreated as he has been called names by teachers , teachers have also lied which he picks up on and brings to their attention and is told of for things which have included him and another person but the other person doesnt get any punishment when he tries to explain himself they dont listen and say his being rude. Personally i dont think mainstream school is appropriate for my son since day 1 and dont know where to turn next. I have enough of discussing things with the school as we get nowhere and end up in the same situation within a day. Can some one give me some help of what to do next... this is just a short version but there is soo much more.
Misty - 6-Dec-16 @ 3:32 PM
12yr old ASD girl bullied so schl refusing due to severe anxiety.Where to go?NOT
Dondon - 28-Nov-16 @ 8:12 PM
Hi, I'm the mother of a 4 year old son who has recently been diagnosed with ASD. The doc refused to mention anything more. He said ds suffers from social communication and imagination issues. The report from the doc is still awaited. He goes to a local private school. The school has a very good reputation here and I'm not sure if they would be willing to make the adjustments for him. He seems to be doing ok at school but I'm really worried of his future. Should I be looking at private schools that are for special needs only or focus on his current school to provide the support. I'm not considering council for now looking at the wait time for evthg. I'm really worried. Pls advise what should I do.
MightySky - 17-Nov-16 @ 8:00 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments