What should the SEN journey look like?

Do you think or have you been told that your child might have SEND and needs support in school?

If you haven’t already, you are about to embark on a journey and we hope it’s helpful to set out what you might expect to find.

If your child is in a mainstream school, and has SEN identified, the setting has a duty to use its best endeavours to support those needs with the resources it typically has available.

The stages set out below are what you can expect if you or the school are applying to the LA for an EHC Needs Assessment (EHCNA).

The EHCP process

A child or young person may need an EHCP if he or she is:

  • Struggling in education in one or more of the four categories of need
  • Not making expected progress
  • Receiving provision that is inadequate
  • Needing provision beyond what is provided by mainstream school’s normal SEND resources

Categories of Need:

SEN may include one or more of the following:

  • Cognition and Learning
  • Communication and Interaction
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health
  • Physical & Sensory
A diagram showing the stages in the EHCP process. The stages are Parental or School request for an EHC needs assessment, LA decision, Assessment, LA decision, Draft EHCP, Final EHCP, Annual Review within 12 months, LA decision to amend, Issue draft and amend, finishing with Review Annually.

What's involved?

Speak to your SENCO at school to find out if they are willing to submit a request for an assessment. If not, you can submit a request yourself.

Here are the steps that will be taken to begin the process, and what to expect if you are granted an EHCP for your child or young person.

Statutory timeline: the whole process from the point of requesting an EHC needs assessment through to the final EHCP being issued must take no more than 20 weeks. This can only be extended in very limited circumstances, generally where advice has been requested from the school over the summer holiday, the child is absent from the area for at least 4 weeks, or there are exceptional personal circumstances affecting the child/parent. Additionally, if the LA refuses to assess or issue but subsequently changes its mind or loses an appeal against that refusal, the clock stops at the point when they refuse but restarts when the process restarts.

  1. Request for a needs assessment
    Parents/carers of a child, young people and schools are able to submit a request.
  2. LA decision
    The LA must advise its decision within 6 weeks in writing.  ‘No’ to assess triggers the right of appeal.
  3. Assessment
    If the LA agrees to assess, contributions are gathered from parents/young person, school, educational psychologist,  health and social care professionals, and any other ​appropriate person ​or person who is reasonably requested ​by the parent/carer.
  4. LA decision
    If LA agrees to issue, it must issue a draft plan.  It must advise at 16 weeks if it is not going to issue and this triggers a right of appeal.
  5. Draft plan
    At least 15 days for parents to review and provide placement preference. No school or type of school is named in the draft. LA may suggest a meeting.
  6. Final plan
    Must be issued at 20 weeks. Parents have right of appeal of contents and placement.

Once a plan is issued, the process of review begins, on an annual basis, until the EHCP is no longer required.

  1. Annual Review within 12 months of date of issue of EHCP or 12 months of last Review.   The Code of Practice also recommends that reviews be held every 3-6 months for children under 5.
    School or LA calls Annual Review and issues date and papers at least 2 weeks ahead of the meeting. After the meeting the school sends report to LA within 2 weeks.
  2. LA decision to amend
    LA must confirm within 4 weeks following the meeting whether it intends to amend EHCP, leave it unchanged or cease to maintain. A refusal to amend triggers right of appeal.
  3. Issue draft and amend
    Draft issued within 4 weeks of meeting. At least 15 days for parents to review draft and give any placement preference. Right of appeal with final amended plan issued within 8 weeks of draft.
  4. Cease to maintain
    The LA must consult with parents and the young person when it intends to cease to maintain the EHCP. Right of appeal triggered and LA must maintain EHCP until appeal concluded.

So what are your options when things aren't going to plan?

There are a number of options if the process is not being followed. The type of action you can take will depend on where you are in the process.

Click here to take a look at our article in the Help Centre on what recourse is available.