It is estimated that only around 3% of children and young people will ever need an EHC Plan- however there are many more who still have special educational needs, and have these needs met without an EHC Plan. This is because it is expected that the legal framework, SEN support, will provide for the vast majority of children.
For a few though, SEN support simply isnt enough. For some children, despite quality first teaching, the implementation of SEN support delivery, and the advice and support of professionals, they still fail to make expected progress and need over and above what is typically needed for a child in a mainstream to develop. This is when it may be the right time to ask about whether an EHC Plan is needed.
The law says that the legal test for whether or not a local authority should conduct an EHC needs assessment is that; the child may have SEN, that may require SEN provision. However, the Code Of Practice 2015, allows Local Authorities to consider different evidence strands to help them make this decision, including what school do already and whether your child is making expected progress. In Bolton, the SEND team use the CoP to help them understand;
1. How long the child has been accessing SEN support for- has it had time to have an impact? has it been done correctly? Usually, around 2 terms of evidence shows good assess, plan, do review support. This should also include outside agency support, such as Ladywood, SALT, Behaviour support, CAMHS or EP- they should have provided reports too.
2. How much money this is costing the school- is it sustainable? Anything over £6000 per year is considered more than the notional SEND budget amount, and indicates high level need.
3. Whether the child is making expected progress- not in line with their peers, but for them as an individual.
School should apply for an EHC Plan if they feel they have evidence that supports the three points above. Schools can get support from our service if they feel they need it, to apply, and to get the right support in place. Bolton has issued schools with a SENCO handbook, that tells them exactly what the local authority expects them to be doing for different children and their needs. Once this has been exhausted, they may wish to apply.
There are some occasions where parents and schools will disagree about whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary. In these cases, we feel that it would be useful to have a meeting to discuss your concerns, and try to understand why school are reluctant to do it. It may be that they don't feel they can evidence they've done everything they can, or, it may be they dont feel your child meets the severity criteria for a plan.
Whatever the outcome of your conversation with school, you can choose to apply yourself. The form for this is in our downloads section. In this form you need to explain to the council why you feel your child needs a plan, and what educational outcomes they're not meeting. A child doesn't have to have cognitive difficulties to be eligible for a plan assessment, but they do need to have a very high level of need that has an impact on their education. The LA will still ask school for their evidence though, and if school dont have it, the application could be declined until school can show what they have been doing at SEN support to meet your child needs.
Once the council reviews all your information, and that from other professionals, they will decide whether to initiate an assessment. They will write to you and tell you what the outcome is. Even if you do get your assessment, there is no guarantee you'll get an EHC Plan at the end of it.
Every local authority decision is appealable in some form. Please read our routes of redress section for more information on this.
MYTH BUSTER!- applying for a plan yourself is not a quicker way than if school applied for it. The statutory process is the same irrespective of who applied.
MYTH BUSTER!- just because a child is working below age related expectations, doesn't mean they automatically will need an EHC Plan.