Your local authority might decide that your child does not need an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, also called an EHCP. This usually means that the local authority thinks your child’s Special Educational Needs (SEN) support in school is enough to meet their needs.
If this happens you can either:
accept this decision and work with the school to add to or change your child’s support
Your local authority uses EHC assessment reports to decide what provision your child needs. Special educational provision is anything that “educates or trains” your child. This could be anything from individual support to speech and language therapy.
The EHC assessment reports can include advice from:
you and, if possible, your child
your child’s nursery, school or college
an educational psychologist
specialist teachers (for example if your child has a hearing impairment)
health and social care services
others whose views may be important, such as a GP
Reports can also include advice on adulthood and independent living for young people over 14.
The local authority will use the reports to decide if your child needs an EHC plan.
It’s important to talk to the school first. Your child’s support might change following the EHC assessment.
Speak to the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or school about the local authority’s decision. Ask if the school:
agrees with the local authority’s decision and can include the EHC assessment report recommendations in your child’s SEN support
thinks you can appeal the decision (you can still do this without school support)
Go through the reports with the SENCO to talk about your child’s needs and the recommended provision. Check what the school can and cannot provide from the assessment reports.
Every state school gets a SEN budget and it’s up to them how they spend it. It can help to ask how much of that SEN provision is shared by other pupils. You could also check the school’s SEN offer on their website for more information about what they can provide.
Speak to the headteacher about your concerns. If you’re still struggling to work with the school, follow the school’s complaints procedure. You can usually find this on the school website.
If you decide not to appeal
Talk to the SENCO about your child’s existing SEN support, sometimes called an Individual Education Plan (IEP), and review the targets. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART).
Ask the SENCO what they can add or change. This could be things like a referral to a specialist teacher or support with handwriting, reading and behaviour. You can use the EHC assessment reports to make sure the school gives your child the recommended support.
contact your local MP to raise your concerns and ask for support. They may be able to write to the school.
re-apply for an EHC plan (you can do this without school support)
Keep a record
It can help to keep a written record of everything between you and the school. This could include:
emails or letters to the school
any replies from teachers, the SENCO or headteacher
your complaint to the school and how they dealt with it
meetings you’ve had, when they happened and what they were about
Doing this can help you show how the SEN support is not working and what steps you’ve taken to try to resolve the problem with the school.
Deciding to appeal
You can appeal with or without the school’s support. It’s usual to try mediation with the local authority first and get a certificate. You can then submit a formal appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).
Whether at mediation or the SEND tribunal, you will need to show that the school cannot meet your child’s needs without an EHC plan.
If the SENCO thinks you can appeal, talk about why they disagree with the local authority’s decision. You can work with them to collect evidence to support your appeal. Ideally, the SENCO should be able to support you at both mediation and the SEND tribunal.
Check the recommendations from the EHC needs assessment reports. Look at information on:
your child’s needs
the support or provision needed
the expected outcomes (how the support will make a difference)
The EHC needs assessment should include reports from your child’s school too. These can include information about existing SEN support, progress, grades, assessments and anything else sent to the local authority. You can use these reports to support your appeal.
Keep a copy of letters or emails. You might be able to use them in your evidence.
Write to the professional and the local authority to ask them to review the reports if they:
do not include needs, provision or outcomes
have a mistake
If you need guidance, paragraph 9.51 of the SEND code of practice says:
“The evidence and advice submitted by those providing it should be clear, accessible and specific. They should provide advice about outcomes relevant for the child or young person’s age and phase of education and strategies for their achievement.
[…] They may comment on the amount of provision they consider a child or young person requires and local authorities should not have blanket policies which prevent them from doing so.”
You might need to get a second opinion if you do not agree with the professional or local authority. This may mean paying for a private assessment from another professional. Conflicting assessments or recommendations between the local authority and the second opinion might need mediation.
If you think there’s something missing from the school’s assessment report or you want to see your child’s full school record, you can ask the school for this in writing. Try to keep a good relationship with the school, especially if the school is not supporting your appeal.
But if you have problems with the school, you can ask for the records as a Freedom of Information request and they must give it to you.