Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are legally binding documents that set out the needs of a child or young person that requires additional support at school or in other educational institutions, that the school cannot provide.
This article sets out some of the most frequently asked questions about EHC assessments and plans.
What can I do if I think my child requires more support than their school can provide?
For most children and young people, the support that their school or college can provide will be sufficient to meet their needs. However, it will not be enough for others, and the local authority must secure more support.
If you believe that this is the case for your child, you, or the school or college, can write to the local authority to request that it carries out an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. This begins the process of establishing whether an EHC Plan will be required to secure the special educational provision your child requires.
How long does a local authority have to respond to an EHC needs assessment request?
A local authority must decide within six weeks of receiving the request for an EHC needs assessment whether or not it will carry out the assessment. It must notify you of this decision. If it decides not to carry out an assessment, it must confirm that you have the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal against this decision.
What evidence will the local authority obtain during an EHC needs assessment?
During an EHC needs assessment, the local authority must gather advice from relevant professionals regarding the child or young person’s education, health and care needs, desired outcomes and the special educational, health and care provision required.
Who the ‘relevant’ professionals are will be different for each child or young person, but certain information must be gathered. This includes information from the child’s parents or the young person, education advice (usually from the school, college or other institution attended), and psychological advice from an Educational Psychologist.
I have commissioned private reports. Can these be considered by the local authority when carrying out the EHC needs assessment?
Yes. During an EHC needs assessment, a local authority must seek advice and information from any person requested by a child’s parent or a young person, where the local authority considers it reasonable to do so.
Is a formal diagnosis needed for an EHC Plan to be issued by a local authority?
No. There is no requirement to have a formal diagnosis for an EHC Plan or any aspect of the process preceding that. The relevant considerations are the child and young person’s special educational needs and the special educational provision required to meet those needs. Children and young people can have special educational needs without having a diagnosis.
I’ve received a draft EHC Plan. What happens next?
Once you receive the draft EHC Plan, you have at least 15 days to respond to the local authority confirming whether you agree with the EHC Plan as drafted or setting out any amendments you consider required. You should ensure that all information is recorded in the correct place. This includes the child or young person’s special educational needs in section B, and any special educational provision (provision that educates or trains) in section F. You will also be able to confirm your school preference. After you have returned your response to the local authority, it will consider this to make any amendments before finalising the EHC Plan, including naming the school or college placement in section I.
Does my local authority have to agree with my choice of school for my child?
Parents have a right to express their school choice, but the local authority does not necessarily have to agree with that choice when finalising the EHC Plan. However, the local authority must have a lawful reason if it does not agree.
A local authority must comply with a request for maintained nursery schools, maintained schools, academies, free schools, non-maintained special schools, FE or sixth form colleges, and independent special schools or independent specialist colleges approved by the Secretary of State. That is, unless the school would be unsuitable based on age, SEN etc., or attendance would be incompatible with the efficient education of others or use of resources. If a parent requests one of these schools, that school must be consulted and must be named in section I unless one of the lawful reasons not to do so applies.
For schools that do not fit into these categories, such as independent special schools that have not been approved by the Secretary of State, parents have the right to express their preference for that school. A local authority must consider that request and have regard for the general principle that children are to be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes. That is, as long as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and does not result in unreasonable public expenditure.
What happens if the special educational provision in section F is not being provided?
An EHC Plan is a legally enforceable document. The local authority must secure the provision specified in section F. If it does not, the failure to secure any provision can be legally challenged through a claim for judicial review. The wording of section F will be important in determining whether a judicial review claim will be appropriate. If the provision recorded in section F is not adequately specified and quantified, this can create difficulties with seeking to demonstrate that something is not being provided.
How often does an EHC Plan have to be reviewed?
An EHC Plan must be reviewed at least every 12 months through the Annual Review process. There are requirements about the information to gather before the meeting, when that information must be circulated, and what must happen after the meeting. If an EHC Plan has not been reviewed within the last 12 months, this can be challenged through a claim for judicial review.