When should I start thinking about an EHC Plan?
Is your child struggling at school and you are wondering about asking for an EHC Plan (EHCP)? Perhaps you’ve heard people speaking about an EHC needs Assessment (EHCNA) and would like to know more? This month’s blog explains what these are and when you should consider requesting one.
Please note: quotes from the SEN Code of Practice 2015 or the Children and Families Act 2014 uplifted directly will be in blue.
What is an EHCNA and EHCP?
An EHCNA (Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment) is an assessment done by the Local Authority of the educational, health & social care needs of the child or young person (CYP). This is a legal process used to determine whether an EHCP is needed.
An EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) is a legal document that describes the aspirations, desired outcomes, the Special Educational Needs (as well as Health & Social Care needs) of the CYP and the support (Provision) required for them. It also names the education setting that the CYP will attend (and sets out any personal budgets that have been agreed).
The legal circumstance for considering an EHCP?
If a CYP has a learning difficulty or a disability which is holding them back at school or college, and the school or the parents of the CYP (or the young person themselves) believe that the school or college is not able to provide the help and support which is needed, then a request should be made to the Local Authority (LA) for an EHC needs assessment.
For the Local Authority to agree to undertake an EHCNA, 2 criteria must be met:
1) That the child has or may have SEN (Special Educational needs) and
2) That it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.
The definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Special Educational Provision (SEP) are set out in the Children & Families Act 2014:
20 When a child or young person has special educational needs
(1) A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
(2) A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she—
(a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
(b) has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
21 Special educational provision, health care provision and social care provision
(1) “Special educational provision”, for a child aged two or more or a young person, means educational or training provision that is additional to, or different from, that made generally for others of the same age
(2) “Special educational provision”, for a child aged under two, means educational provision of any kind.
(5) Health care provision or social care provision which educates or trains a child or young person is to be treated as special educational provision (instead of health care provision or social care provision).
What should happen before making an EHCNA request?
When looking at SEND, the main thing that is considered is a child or young person’s desired outcomes. These outcomes should be based on their needs. The provision required will then be decided upon, in order to meet those needs. Whilst diagnosis can be important and the process of diagnosing should offer insight into a CYP’s needs; SEN Support or an EHCP will not be given based on diagnosis alone.
Every school is required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils that they support. Mainstream schools (including academies etc.) must:
- use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN
- ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN (6.2)
(for more information on what ‘best endeavours’ means, follow link to IPSEA website)
Schools should make regular assessments of progress for all pupils and should be able to identify any pupils making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances. (This should include national data and expectations of progress to compare the results against). This can be characterized by progress which:
- is significantly slower than that of their peers starting from the same baseline
- fails to match or better the child’s previous rate of progress
- fails to close the attainment gap between the child and their peers
- widens the attainment gap
To note: It can include progress in areas, other than attainment – for instance where a pupil needs to make additional progress with wider development or social needs in order to make a successful transition to adult life.
Where a pupil is identified as having SEN, schools should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place. This SEN SUPPORT should take the form of a four-part cycle known as the graduated approach.
Note about school funding
Schools receive SEN funding in the form of notional SEN budget and it is expected that this should be used to make the special educational provision (support) (i.e. 1:1 support, small group work, specialist equipment, pay for needed therapies, consult with specialist services etc).
Note: Although the Government currently suggest that schools should provide up to the first £6,000 of this provision, there are many factors involved in this and not all schools will have the ability to spend this amount on your CYP’s needs (especially if they have a lot of children with complex needs etc). Whilst Local Authorities are allowed to develop criteria as guidelines, such as this, they must be prepared to depart from these criteria where there is a compelling reason to do so (SEND CoP 2015 9.16). Bottom line, a child should not miss out on needed support because the school does not have the resources and should not have an EHCNA request refused just because the school have not spent £6,000 on your CYP.
Reason for applying even if school are using best endeavours:
Lack of progress – If school have been giving support but expected progress in those areas of concern is not being made, then an EHC Needs Assessment request should be considered as more resources or more specialised resources may be needed to meet your CYP’s needs. School would be expected to make the request themselves but as parents, you also have the right to make this request directly (but please make sure the school are aware as they will still need to gather and upload evidence).
Moving to next level of education – A young person who was well supported … while at school may move to a further education (FE) college where the same range or level of support is not available. An EHC plan may then be needed to ensure that support is provided and co-ordinated effectively in the new environment (CoP 9.15). This could also apply to moving from primary to secondary.
If there is a concern then have a conversation with any colleges / secondary school you may be considering, to discuss how they may be able to support your CYP should they attend there. The college is then able to decide if an EHCP will be needed to make all the required provision. If they are stating that they would not be able to provide the right support without one, obtain that in writing as you will be able to use that as evidence when making your EHCNA request.
What if you feel that school are not using best endeavours?
If you feel that the school are not doing all they can and your child is still struggling, then further discussion with the school may be needed to explore this further. If all other avenues have been exhausted and you feel that their duty to make best endeavours to provide support is not being fulfilled, then you may consider making a complaint to the school (please follow your school’s complaint policy).
The LA would expect schools to fulfil their duties first before agreeing to do an EHCNA and therefore would likely refuse any request in these circumstances (although of course you would have a right to appeal to the SENDIST tribunal against a refusal).
If you still feel that an EHCNA is needed
In the meantime, keep any records of ILPS or equivalent (Individual learning plans), yearly reports or communications that demonstrate any barriers to his/her learning, what the school have done about these and whether the provision has worked / not worked (and the reasons why). These can then be used to evidence that support over and above what the school would be expected to provide is needed.
Coming up next – How to make a request for an Education, Health & Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA). Please sign up to our blog to receive automatically.
For more information:
If you are considering making an EHCNA request, there is information on the West Sussex Local Offer that may be helpful.
Also on the Local Offer, SENDIAS have put together a general ‘questions and answers’ page related to EHC Plans.