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What types of schools and colleges are available for autistic children?

Below is some general information on schools and colleges for autistic children, how special needs are supported and how they are generally funded.







Schools are overseen by the Department of Education. Local Authorities are responsible for implementing policy in schools. There are 3 age bands for schools:

  • Nursery — ages 3 and 4
  • Primary — ages 5 to 10
  • Secondary — ages 11 to 18

Children are required to stay in the education system until the age of 16 and they can stay in education till the age of 25.

There are state-funded schools and privately-funded schools. State-funded schools receive their funding from Local Authorities and are free of charge for pupils.

There are a small number of City Technology Colleges and academies. These are secondary schools which are funded directly by the Department for Education. Academies can also accept funding from private individuals or companies.

All state-funded schools are regularly inspected by OfSTED (Office for Standards in Education).

Approximately, 7% of all school children and 18% of secondary school children attend independent schools.


Special Educational Needs and Disability in Schools

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) is a term used for children who have learning difficulties or difficulties that make it harder for them to learn or access education. If you have any concerns about your child’s learning it is important to get help straight away.

Most children with SEND can be supported in their education and needs within a mainstream school. A school will use the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice to assess your child’s needs and to guide the school in how best to meet your child’s needs.

If your child’s teacher or their SEND co-ordinator (SENCO) feels that your child needs support from outside the school, such as speech and language therapy, they will get help through the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plan).

Sometimes, schools cannot fully meet the needs of your child. In that case, you can ask for an ‘education health care assessment’ direct from the Local Authority. This assessment will help to identify in detail your child’s educational, as well as their health and care needs. If your request for an assessment is accepted by the Local Authority they will carry out an assessment within 20 weeks. Once the assessment has been carried out, the Local Authority will write an EHC Plan. This plan will help your child access extra support. Some autistic children might need to attend a specialist autism residential or day school for their needs to be met.

Sometimes, however, the local authority decides not to write a Plan or names a school on the EHC Plan which might not be suitable for the child. In this case they should always explain why. You have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. If you decide to appeal it is important to do this within the time limit you are given by the local authority.







After school at the age of 16, students will continue their studies in a sixth form college or a further education college. This sector is called Further Education. Further education lasts until the age of 19. There is discretionary financial support for students over the age of 19. Funding is accessed through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). Funding for children with an EHC Plan can continue to age 25. Some young autistic adults might require a specialist autism college to meet their individual needs.

Special Needs in College

Colleges have an obligation to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments for special individual needs. However, sometimes those ‘reasonable’ adjustments are not sufficient to support an individual. In this case, there are specialist colleges which cater specifically for the needs of people with autism and/or learning disabilities. These colleges are usually independent and, often, residential. Funding can be accessed through the Education Funding Agency or the EHC Plan.

If you need support in getting a specialist independent placement for an autistic child or young adult, we can help. Click below for our Autism Schools and Colleges Placement Support Service.

Autism placement support services