A special school or provision is an establishment which is designed specifically to provide education and support to people with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities. Children who attend special schools have been identified as having special educational needs or a disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them and most have an EHC plan.

The government lists four broad types of special school, according to their specialism:

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, emotional and mental health
  • Sensory and physical needs

Some special schools can accommodate for a wide range of needs, including some or all of these four broad areas.  Others may focus on one of these particular area’s or specialise further i.e. they may specialise in Autism or Speech and Language difficulties.


What are the differences between mainstream and special schools?

There are many differences between maintained Special and Mainstream schools. Some of the advantages of a special schools for children with a higher level of need includes:

  • Specialist schools receive a higher amount of basic SEN funding per pupil compared the mainstream schools.
  • Staff are more likely to be trained in specialist areas relevant to supporting children with SEN giving them a better knowledge of some of the difficulties children face and the intervention used to support them.
  • Classes are usually smaller in special schools and there is generally a higher staff to student ratio.
  • Special schools provide a range of additional support and intervention to meet student’s needs. This may include speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and school nurses.
  • Many special schools have specialist equipment and resources which may not be readily available or available at all in mainstream schools including sensory rooms, Hydrotherapy pools and adapted play equipment.
  • All maintained schools (schools controlled by the local authority) whether a mainstream or special school, have to follow the National Curriculum. However, in special schools teaching is geared towards the individual needs and abilities of the pupils and teachers have the freedom to make necessary adjustments.
  • Children’s progress is generally monitored more closely in all area’s, not just educational attainment.
  • There is generally more communication between school and home.