SEN support and EHC plans at school

There are different types of special educational needs (SEN). A child has SEN if they find it harder to learn than other children their age. SEN also looks at:

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

The SEN code of practice applies in all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools.

There are usually 2 different levels of support for children with SEN:

  • SEN support, which mainstream state schools must always 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 SEN 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.

When your child can get support

A child with SEN has the right to support that will allow them to access education. This can be because your child:

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

Talking to your school about adjustments

Some examples of support are:

  • lessons on how to use language socially
  • 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)

SEN support

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.

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

Your school must get your permission to give your child SEN support. This is sometimes called going on the 'SEN register'.

SEN support plans should have 4 stages: assessment, planning, doing and reviewing.


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 on what the school 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.

Education and health care (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'.

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)

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

To get an EHC plan, your child must have an EHC needs assessment. The local authority will then decide if SEN support is enough to meet your child's needs or if they need an EHC plan.

If your child is assessed and does not get an EHCP


Wales has a different process to England

In Wales, there are no EHC plans, but there are educational statements.

If your local authority does not give you a statement (SNAP Cymru)

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

SEN changes in Wales (SNAP Cymru)

SEN support normally comes before an EHC plan

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

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.

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 applies 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


Your local authority does EHC needs assessments.

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.

Information on why the SEN support has not been enough to help your child to make progress is an important part of getting an EHC needs assessment. This can be from anyone involved in the process. 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.

Your local authority must respond within 6 weeks when you or the school ask for an EHC needs assessment.

Asking for an EHC needs assessment (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)

Most assessments include a headteacher, 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)

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

Getting information and advice

All local authorities have to offer a parent information advice and support service. They help you understand how the system works in your area and how to support your child.

You can also:

Last reviewed by Scope on: 21/01/2020

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