A step by step process for getting an EHCP in England
Who do you talk to?
If your child requires special educational support due to their special educational needs (SEN), they may require additional assistance during their time in nursery, school, or college. It is mandatory for every educational institution to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that your child can access the available education.
For children of school age, the primary point of contact regarding your child’s needs is the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at the school. The SENCO’s role is to provide assistance if you believe your child would benefit from a specialised learning programme, extra support from a teacher or assistant, participation in smaller group activities, classroom or break-time observation, assistance in engaging in class activities, additional encouragement in their learning journey, help in communicating with other children, and/or support with physical or personal care challenges.
What is an EHCP?
The Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) is designed to provide additional support to children and young individuals who require more assistance than what is available through SEN Support. This includes the involvement of external professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Educational Psychologists and Speech and Language Therapists.
EHCPs replaced the statements of special educational needs. They consider not only your child’s educational support needs but also their health and social care requirements. Theoretically, they cover your child until they reach the age of 25. In practice it’s usual for most to cease as soon as your child finishes school/college, and they don’t cover further education.
EHCPs are used in England only. In Wales there is the Additional learning needs (ALN) system, In Scotland there is the Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP) and in Northern Ireland the statement of special educational needs.
How do you apply for an EHCP?
Parents, as well as doctors, health visitors, school staff members, or nursery workers, have the right to request an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) assessment for a child. Once you submit the request to the Local Authority (LA), they have a period of six weeks to decide whether to proceed with the EHC assessment. During this process, the LA may ask for school or nursery reports, doctors’ assessments, and your own written input regarding your child’s needs. Theoretically, within 16 weeks, you will be informed of the decision to create an EHC plan for your child.
If the EHC plan is approved, the LA will develop a draft plan and provide you with a copy. You will have 15 days to review and provide comments, including requesting that your child attend a specialist needs school or specialist college. The final EHC plan must be provided by the LA within 20 weeks from the date of the assessment.
In cases where the LA decides not to assess your child, declines to create an EHC plan, offers insufficient support, or suggests a school you disagree with, you have the right to challenge their decisions. If you are unable to resolve the issues with the LA, you can appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal.
Applying for an EHC plan can be a demanding and time-consuming process. It is important to be convinced that this is the most suitable way for your child to receive the necessary support. Prior to initiating the process, have a conversation with your child’s head teacher or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) to gain an understanding of the current level of support, previous intervention attempts, and their outcomes.
At AGN, where possible we recommend that the parent initiate the application, so that they are in charge of the process and can follow up when, as is common, deadlines are not adhered to. There is a very comprehensive guide to EHCP application on the IPSEA website, including a template email for that first contact, which is the only part of the process extra to a third party applying.
1. Request an EHC needs assessment yourself (use the template email from IPSEA) or through your school SENCO. State the reasons why you think your child needs an EHCP in the email. This is Week 0.
2. Complete the sections for child and parents as required by your Local Authority – try to make sure you capture your child’s opinions and wants, and list all the professionals currently involved with your child.
3. The LA will send forms for school to complete, commission an Educational Psychologist report and contact other agencies already involved.
4. A parent or young person can request that the LA ask the advice from professionals within education, health or social care, as long as it is a reasonable request. This could be a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist or a CAMHS practitioner (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). You may need to make sure this is done.
5. If there are up to date existing reports, they can be used (less than 2 years old).
6. All advice should be specified and quantified – these reports will be used to make up the body of the plan should it be approved – and must be given within 6 weeks.
7. There are two points in the process where the LA needs to make a decision – whether to assess and whether to issue a plan. Both points have high refusal rates by LAs but equally the vast majority (over 90%) of parents win at appeal, whether that’s at tribunal or before that point. If the LA refuse to assess, they must let the parents/young person know by Week 6.
8. If your child is in Year 9 or above, the assessment process and plan must include Preparation for Adulthood.
9. The LA must inform the parent or young person of their decision to issue or not by Week 16.
10. There’s no legal timeframe on when a draft plan must be issued but in order to finalise within the 20 week deadline it should be around Week 14. The parents or young person then have 15 days to assess the draft plan and inform the LA of their choice of schools/college.
11. The LA should consult with schools or colleges including the parents or young person’s choice by Week 16. The professional reports and subsequent draft plan should have indicated whether this would be mainstream or specialist placement.
12. The LA has an obligation to send the final plan to parents and young person by Week 20. In practice, many LAs take longer than this to complete.