The NEW (September 2014) SEND 0-25 Code of Practice was produced to support the legal framework in Part 3 of the 2014 Children and Families Act, which stipulates the involvement of parents and carers in producing an Education, Health and Care Plan for their child.

EHC Plans have now been in existence for a full school year, yet some schools are still unsure about how best to support families going through the application process, or how they can help them to prepare for a transfer from a statement of SEN to an EHC Plan.

If you feel that one of your pupils may require an EHC plan in order to access the curriculum effectively, start collecting evidence immediately. It may be that a parent or carer has approached you with concerns about their child and would like them to be assessed for an EHC Plan, listen to and make note of their concerns. Ask teachers and support staff for evidence that a pupil is failing to make expected levels of progress. Anyone can request an EHC needs assessment, and if a child is brought to the attention of the Local Authority then the LA must consider if they think a needs assessment is necessary. It is helpful to include as much detail about the child or young person’s special needs as possible, and also why it is felt that the current educational setting is unable to meet the needs of the child without further support. Once the request letter is received by the LA they have six weeks in which to decide whether to carry out a needs assessment or not. During this time you can direct families and young people to their Local Authority’s Local Offer. Most schools now have a link to the Local Offer on their website within their SEND Information Report. The Local Offer sets out all of the SEND, Health and social care support that can be accessed in the local area, by children and young people with SEND, whether they have an EHC Plan or not.

In the case of a transfer – the best approach is to work backwards. Both the school and the family of the child or young person should receive a letter from the Local Authority informing them of when their transfer review is due to take place. Once you are aware of this date, you need to start preparing. It is the role of the SENCO and the class teacher to gather any educational evidence to support the development of the EHC Plan. Statements may not have been updated for some years, in which time the gap between the child or young person and their peers may have widened for a variety of reasons. If they have a degenerative medical condition, their symptoms may have worsened, or their special educational need might require greater levels of provision to ensure they can make progress.

Make sure you keep a record of everything, and communicate often with parents and carers so that they are not hearing new concerns about their child for the first time at the transfer review. Ask parents and carers to keep you informed of any new medical diagnoses, or any new social care needs they feel the child may have.

EHC Plans are based around the aspirations of (and for) the child, which will be used to inform the outcomes and provisions in the plan. Many families and young people struggle to think about short term and long term aspirations, so encourage them to think about these long before the review, and perhaps talk them through informally at your meeting with them at the start of the school year. The outcomes are basically what practical and tangible provisions are needed to help the child or young person achieve their aspirations. For example, if a young person with severe epilepsy aspires to travel to college independently of their parents, the provision needed to facilitate this might be a personal assistant to travel with them, three days a week for the full academic year. The changes in the process are designed to involve the family, and take a holistic approach to planning for the child or young person’s future.