- What is an Annual Review
- Appealing against a decision after an annual review amendments.
- Annual Reviews at education phase changes
- Phase changes for school-aged children
- What must the local authority do?
- What can parents do if the LA has missed the deadline?
- Post 16 Education Transfer Reviews
- Annual Review problems
What is an Annual Review?
An EHC plan is not “set in stone” once it is finalised. Children’s needs change as they get older and EHCPs need to change accordingly. An updated EHCP needs to reflect how the child has developed and to ensure the “outcomes” it aims to support are still relevant.
Every year, the local authority must review your child’s EHCP to see if it is still up-to-date. This is called an annual review. It is especially important before your child moves to secondary school and in Year 9, as they start to think about post-16 choices. There are special rules for annual reviews at these stages that we will cover separately below.
You should be informed two weeks before the review that it is to take place. If not, you can ask for it to be delayed so all relevant people, including you and your child, can be present.
There is a process for annual reviews and you and your child, where possible, should be fully involved.
After an annual review your LA can decide:
- To maintain the EHCP as it is, and not make any changes;
- To amend your child’s EHCP;
- To cease the EHCP if they think your child no longer needs one.
The local authority must communicate this to you within four weeks of the annual review meeting.
We are happy to support you during or after an annual review, ensuring you achieve the outcome your child needs.
Appealing against a decision after an annual review
Sometimes, the LA decides not to amend a plan when you want them to. It may also decide to make changes, but you don’t like the changes it has made in an amended plan. These can include changes in provision or placement.
The local authority may decide to stop, or “cease to maintain”, your child’s EHC Plan at any time. This can happen, in particular, when your teenager finishes compulsory education. However, an EHCP can continue until the age of 25 if needed. It can support educational needs in further education, a supported internship, a residential placement that is educational in nature, a training scheme or an apprenticeship.
You can appeal changes you are not happy with at the SEND Tribunal. The appeal process is the same as for other EHCP appeals.
The prospect of lodging an appeal with the SEND First-Tier Tribunal can be daunting. We are happy to work with you and support you throughout the process. We can often reach a positive agreement on your behalf before a Tribunal hearing.
You can read more about what happens when you appeal to the SEND Tribunal in our Tribunal FAQs page here
Annual Reviews at education phase changes
When your child is about to change education “phase” there are statutory deadlines of 15th February for compulsory school-aged children and 31st March for post-16 EHCPs. This is so that preparations can be put into place for the coming move, ensuring all the provision is in place and allow sufficient time for an appeal to be determined by the Tribunal if you are unhappy with the EHCP.
These are legal deadlines.
The annual review for EHCPs at phase changes should take place in the autumn term. If your child’s annual review has not taken place by the end of November, you should contact their school urgently to ask for a date for a meeting.
Phase changes for school-aged children
The 15th February is a date of great significance for parents of children who have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan and who are transferring to the next phase of their education e.g. secondary education.
This is a statutory deadline by when the local authority (LA) must have reviewed, amended and finalised the child’s EHC Plan so that it names the new placement the child will be moving to at the start of the next academic year in September.
This deadline exists to allow parents sufficient time to challenge the LA’s decision by lodging an appeal with the SEND Tribunal and allows for the appeal to be heard and determined before the start of the next academic year.
You can download our leaflet about phase transfers for school-age children with EHCPs here, or by clicking the image
What must the local authority do?
By 15th February the LA must issue a Final EHC Plan for every child going through a phase transfer (primary to middle or junior, primary to secondary, middle or junior to secondary) even if the school they attend goes from 3 to 19 years.
Parents can challenge the LA’s decision and the school named in Section I by appealing to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.
What can parents do if the LA has missed the deadline?
If the LA misses the 15th February deadline parents must act immediately and contact the LA to find out what is causing the delay and ask the LA to issue a Final EHC Plan immediately in order to obtain their right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal. Tribunal appeals take time to prepare and once an appeal is lodged a 12-week appeal timetable is set and a written decision is sent out 10 working days after the appeal hearing. Therefore, time is of the essence.
If the LA has missed the statutory deadline parents must NOT allow the situation to run on indefinitely. The SEND Tribunal is very busy and the number of appeals lodged with the Tribunal increase during the summer term. To ensure parents either come to an agreement with the LA during the appeal or have a decision by the end of July they must act promptly.
If the LA fails to issue an EHC Plan by 15th February and continues to delay, the child/young person (represented by their parents) can take action against the LA for failing to carry out its statutory duties i.e. by firstly issuing a Pre Action Protocol letter for Judicial Review and thereafter Judicial Review proceedings if all other options available to parents have been exhaustive without success, i.e. such as writing or speaking to the LA.
For Post 16 transition deadlines for EHCPs to be amended for placement after Year 11, the deadline is March 31st. See below for more details or our information leaflet here.
If parents would like to speak to an experienced SEND solicitor, please call 01452 555166 and ask to speak to Rukhsana, Langley Wellington Partner, who leads the Education legal department
Post 16 Education Transfer Reviews
If you/your child has an EHC Plan and you are due to transfer from your current secondary school to a post 16 provision next September, the local authority must issue a Final Amended EHC Plan, naming the post 16 placement that you will be attending in September by the preceding 31st March. This is a statutory deadline.
In order to meet the 31st March deadline, the local authority should have already carried out the transition review meeting and should have made a decision within four weeks of the meeting to conclude the review. Within a further eight weeks, the LA should have issued the Final Amended EHC Plan. If you disagree with the placement named in your Final Amended EHCP, or the description of your special educational needs and special education provision to be delivered, you can challenge the LA’s decision.
Where a young person has already reached the age of 16, they have a right of appeal to the special educational needs and disability Tribunal. They can be supported by their parents in any such appeal. For more information download our Post 16 PDF
Annual Review problems at phase changes
If your transfer review meeting has not taken place towards the end of the autumn term or even later, you should ask the local authority to complete the review as a matter of urgency.
You can write a letter of complaint to the Director of Children’s Services pointing out the failure to start an annual review or a missed deadline, if you think this will be sufficient for urgent action.
If your LA fails to issue a Final Amended EHC Plan by 15th February or 31st March for Post-16, and continues to delay, you can take action against it for failing to carry out its statutory duties.
If you would like us to assist, we can send what is known as a Pre-Action Protocol letter to the LA at a fixed-price, drawing its attention to the failure to meet the statutory deadline. If the LA fails to take the necessary action then judicial review proceedings could be brought for an Order compelling the LA to issue a Final Amended EHC Plan within a certain timeframe.
If you would like to speak to an experienced SEND Solicitor at Langley Wellington LLP Education Lawyers, please call 01452 555166 and ask to speak to Rukhsana.