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SEN support and EHCPs

There are usually 2 levels of support for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN):

  • SEN support, which mainstream state schools must provide
  • Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, sometimes called an EHCP, for when SEN support is not enough for your child to get the support they need

Private schools may manage special educational needs in a different way. They may not offer SEN support.

Every local authority and school will have its own process. But, by law, every state school and nursery must provide SEN support. Find out more by looking at the SEN offer on the school website.

Choosing a school for your disabled child

SEND: a guide to parents and carers (GOV.UK)

Types of support for children with SEN

Some examples of support are:

  • lessons on how to communicate with other people
  • support from a tutor on planning coursework
  • touch typing lessons
  • a laptop with voice recognition software and individual support on how to use it
  • regular tests to check hearing, and how well hearing aids are working
  • training for staff on how to manage seizures
  • sessions with a physiotherapist and training for teachers
  • adaptations at home and school to make personal care easier
  • a reserved place at a local holiday scheme

Education, health and care plans: Examples of good practice (Council for Disabled Children)

When your child can get support

A child with SEN has the right to support to access education. This can be because your child either:

  • finds it harder to learn than other children their age
  • has a condition which means their school or the way they are taught is not accessible to them

SEN also looks at:

  • how your child interacts with others
  • their social, emotional and mental health needs
  • their physical needs

Your child’s rights to SEN support

SEN support

SEN support is available at all levels of education, from nursery to further education. Young people aged 16 to 25 will have a say in their own support.

The school should talk with you if they notice that your child is not making expected progress. If they do not, talk to your child’s school or nursery.

Talking to your child’s teacher or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)

The school must get your permission to give your child SEN support. This is sometimes called ‘going on the SEN register’.

Every state school gets a budget to support children with SEN. It’s up to the school how they spend it. Look at the SEN offer on the school’s website to find out more.

SEN support plans

SEN support plans should have 4 stages: assessment, plan, do and review. Plans can run in a cycle and your child might need another assessment after a review.


Evaluating your child’s needs and the support required. Teachers and other professionals will work with you and your child to look at the support they need.


You and your child agree with the school what support they will do.


The school will support your child, as agreed in the plan.


The school will review how your child is progressing. You and your child can say how things are going and if your child is getting the support they need.

You must be involved throughout the SEN process and kept up to date.

Education, health and care (EHC) plan

An EHC plan, sometimes also called an EHCP, is a legal document. It covers:

  • your child's needs
  • the benefit or difference the support should make to your child (outcomes)
  • the support that your local authority must provide (provision)

Special educational provision is anything that “educates or trains” your child. This could be anything from individual support to speech and language therapy.

EHCPs are there to support children who have needs that SEN support cannot meet.

Example EHC plans, including outcomes (Council for Disabled Children)

Warning Local authorities must provide support in EHCPs

Legally, schools and local authorities must provide the support in your child’s EHC plan, even if your child is not at school.

If your local authority says that they cannot do this, contact your local parent support service for help.

Find your nearest service (Information Advice and Support Services Network)

Wales has a different process to England

In Wales, an EHC plan is called a ‘statement’.

Still have a Statement? (SNAP Cymru)

The Special Educational Needs (SEN) system in Wales is changing to Additional Learning Needs (ALN).

New ALN system in Wales (SNAP Cymru)

Additional Learning Needs (GOV.WALES)

The EHCP process

SEN support normally comes before an EHC plan. If your child did not start school with an EHC plan, they will probably need to have SEN support for at least 2 terms before you can ask for an EHC needs assessment. This is called a ‘graduated approach’.

Example: Your child needs help with speech and language

The school writes a SEN plan with you. The plan includes regular support from a teaching assistant in a group. The assistant is guided by a speech and language therapist. The plan includes the difference that the support should make (outcomes).

The school has tried to support your child, but your child is not making the progress described in the plan. Your child needs specific help that the school cannot provide through SEN support.

After reviewing the SEN plan, your school agrees that your child is not making expected progress. The school helps you to apply for an EHC needs assessment. This leads to an EHC plan.

The EHC plan includes funding for a speech and language therapist. Each week they will spend:

  • 1 hour giving ‘direct’ support to your child
  • 1 hour giving ‘indirect’ support to your child’s teacher

Asking for an EHC needs assessment

To get an EHC plan, you will need to apply for an EHC needs assessment from the local authority. The local authority then decides if SEN support is enough to meet your child’s needs or if they need an EHC plan.

It is easier to get an EHC needs assessment if your school agrees. But if the school does not agree, you can still ask your local authority for an assessment.

Template letter for asking your local authority for an EHC assessment (IPSEA)

Asking for an EHC assessment (GOV.UK)

Asking for an EHC needs assessment (IPSEA)

What’s involved in an assessment

Being able to show how SEN support did not meet the needs of your child is often an important part of showing why your child should have an EHC needs assessment.

Collecting information from anyone involved in the process can help you to show that your child is not making expected progress with SEN support.

For example, you could provide letters or reports from health professionals, including any you’ve paid privately.

Some local authorities prefer a report by an educational psychologist, but this is not essential.

If your school will not give your child an educational psychology assessment

Most assessments include a head teacher, doctor, educational psychologist and sometimes a social worker. Other professionals may also be involved. Your child and their views are also important.

What happens in an EHC needs assessment (IPSEA)

After you’ve asked for an assessment

Your local authority must decide if they will do the EHC needs assessment and respond within 6 weeks.

Template letter: Complaining when your local authority does not respond before the 6-week time limit (IPSEA)

If your local authority says that they will not assess your child, you can appeal.

Appealing refusal to assess for an EHC plan (IPSEA)

Appealing an EHC plan decision

You can also appeal if your local authority assesses your child but decides not to give them an EHC plan. A rejection is sometimes called a ‘non-statutory’ EHCP.

If my child is assessed and does not get an EHCP

Draft EHC plan

If your local authority agrees that your child needs an EHC plan, they will prepare a draft plan and send you a copy to review.

Your views, and if possible your child’s views, must be included throughout the process.

The local authority gives 15 days to make comments on the draft EHC plan. Your feedback is sometimes called ‘representations’.

The draft plan is where you can make suggestions, correct any mistakes or challenge any recommendations you disagree with.

Reviewing and challenging an EHCP draft

Getting your child’s EHCP

Once the EHC plan is finalised, your child is legally entitled to the special educational provision set out in their plan.

The local authority must send you the final EHCP within 20 weeks from your request for an EHC needs assessment.

Template complaint letter for not getting the EHC plan on time (IPSEA)

If you’re not happy with the final EHC plan

You can try the plan and appeal later or formally appeal the plan straight away.

Deciding whether to appeal an EHC plan 

Appealing an EHC plan decision

What to do when you get your final EHC plan (IPSEA)

Annual reviews

Your child’s EHCP must have a formal annual review within 12 months of the final plan or the last review. The annual review is a way you can raise concerns or suggest changes if you’re not happy with the content of an EHC plan.

In some situations, you can ask the school and local authority for an early annual review. This can help you get significant changes to your child’s plan without waiting for the next annual review.

EHCP annual reviews

Talk to your local support service

Talk to your local authority’s independent parent support service. They will know:

  • your local authority’s system
  • the processes
  • any barriers
  • the best ways to approach things

They can also help you understand your and your child’s rights. The service might be able to support you at school meetings too.

The service may have a different name depending on your area. They’re sometimes called:

  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)
  • Information Advice and Support Service (IASS)
  • Parent Partnership Service

You should be able to find your support service in your local authority’s Local Offer.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 03/08/2021

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