EHC Plans: What teacher's need to know

Paul Main

EHC Plans: The process and timelines involved with getting the support your school needs.

What is an EHC plan?

An EHC (Education, Health and Care) plan is a legal document that defines a young person's or child's special health, social care and educational needs, describes the additional help that will be provided to those needs and how this additional help will assist the young person or child to accomplish what they want to achieve in their life.

An EHC plan is a document that outlines the educational goals and services provided to students who have special needs. The plan should be developed collaboratively between parents, teachers, school administrators, and therapists.

Parents often feel overwhelmed when trying to navigate the maze of special education laws and regulations. They may not understand the difference between a more specific plans and an EHC plan. They may not realize that there are different types of special education plans available.

That's why it's important to work closely with educators and therapists to develop a comprehensive EHC plan. This plan will help ensure that every student receives the appropriate level of support needed to succeed academically and socially.

To create an effective EHC plan, you must consider several factors. First, determine whether the child has a disability. Second, identify the specific learning disabilities (SLD) or behavioral disorders that affect the child. Third, decide whether the child requires additional academic supports beyond those already offered at home and in his/her current classroom. Fourth, determine whether the child requires any specialized therapies. Finally, determine whether the child needs accommodations in order to access the general curriculum.

Once you've determined the type of plan required, you need to select the right professionals to collaborate with. These include speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and others.

Next, you must decide which components of the plan will be included in the final document. Some schools require only a summary statement describing the child's strengths and weaknesses. Others require a detailed description of each component of the plan.

In this article, we will unpick what's involved in an EHC assessment and we will also provide a precursor that can be used for early screening. In mainstream school settings, teachers often have firsthand experience of a child's difficulties and are often in a position to make early observations that can inform the diagnostic process. There are often complex reasons why children encounter difficulties at school and we will also offer some practical solutions to make the curriculum more accessible

Who needs an EHC plan?

EHC plans are for young people and children whose special academic needs require more assistance than the children normally get in mainstream schools, specialist colleges or any other educational settings.

Although the EHC plan may include social care or health needs, a child may not fulfil eligibility criteria for the plan if he/ she only needs help with health and care needs such as feeding difficulties and not education.

A child or a young person can be issued an EHC plan from 0 to 25 years.

Typical EHC plan timeline
Typical EHC plan timeline

What is included in an EHC Plan?

EHC plans are formulated by the local authority after carrying out a formal assessment of EHC needs. Parents, a child’s current education setting or a person himself (if aged 16+), can request for assessment to the local authority, which has the responsibility to conduct an assessment process for education health and care needs.

An EHC plan does not follow any national standard format. But, it needs to have some clearly defined sections, including:

  • The main objectives, opinions and interests of parents and child;
  • Special educational needs (SEN);
  • Social care services associated with SEN;
  • Health and care needs associated with SEN;
  • Expected Outcomes – what are the benefits of extra help for the child?
  • Special education support;
  • Social care provision;
  • Health support;
  • Placement – name and type of education setting;
  • Arrangements for Personal budget;
  • Information and Advice – Details of information collected during the EHC needs assessment.

EHCP diagram
EHCP diagram

What is the duration of the EHC Plan?

The local authority carries out an annual review of the EHC plan. After reviewing the EHC plan, the local authority may decide to continue the same plan, end it or make changes in the plan.

For the majority of children, the EHC plan remains in place until they complete their education at the current school or education setting or until the local authority decides that a child does not need the plan to help in his educational provision anymore. If the person shifts to a new local authority, his EHC plan will be transferred as well.

How does the local authority perform an EHC needs assessment?

An EHC needs assessments are amongst the foremost steps to obtaining an EHC plan. It involves a legal process to fill an assessment form, performed by the local authority. It is different from the other assessments carried out by the teachers, GP or any other professional. The main purpose of an EHC needs assessment is to assess how much education health and care a child needs.

The local authority collects details to make an education health and care plan for students' needs with the help of:

  • Parents and the child;
  • The school, nursery, or any other institution the child attends;
  • The specialist teacher/s, if the child has other barriers to learning such as hearing or vision impairment;
  • An educational psychologist;
  • Social and Health care services;
  • Other persons whose opinions may be important.

For anyone aged 14 or above, the advice about independent living and preparing for adulthood.

The local authority gives them six weeks to provide all the details requested by them.

The local authority would not ask for any additional details from professionals if the details have been provided recently. But, the existing reports must provide all the necessary details about the child. The reports must contain essential details about a child’s needs, the health care provisions or support a child may require, and the expected results (how the provision would be beneficial for the child).

The parents and child can seek help from the local authority to take part in the child's EHC needs assessments process. The local authority must offer the desired help one may need in providing the correct details, suggestions and support in this process.

If a child's details have already been provided as part of the local authority's request, there is no need to provide the details again. However, if parents wish to add more details they can do, such as reports from special schools or independent health visitor. It is also possible to provide contact details of any professional, who has not been contacted as yet. For instance, it is possible to ask for a child's assessment from any speech or language therapist.

As part of the EHC needs assessments, the local authority will collect details about the child’s health and care needs. If the family is not already receiving any assistance from children’s services, they can ask the local authority to carry out a new assessment and then decide if the child needs support in the house or the community.

ehc plan poster
ehc plan poster

What if the local authority declines the request to do an assessment?

If the local authority agrees on issuing an EHC plan, they will send a draft plan. The family or the child gets 15 days to respond to it and put forward their views to the local authority concerning the contents of the draft EHC plan. The final EHC plan is usually issued within 20 weeks of the initial EHC plan request.

The local authority may decline the request to assess if they think the child does not need an assessment. They may feel that mainstream schools would more effectively provide the desired support to a child's everyday life needs or they may think that there is insufficient evidence to prove that the learning difficulties of the child are severe enough. If a request for the health and care needs assessment has been declined, one may appeal to an autonomous tribunal within 4 to 8 weeks of the EHC needs assessment decision.

An EHC plan identifies educational, health and care needs and ensures the delivery of additional support to address those needs. An education, health and care (EHC) plan is a great way to support children and young people aged up to 25 through special educational needs support. It provides children with the desired support needed to meet their SEN, going further what the school can offer and providing additional and assistive resources to enhance the quality of their learning experience.

After the EHC plan is in place

Support for children with learning needs has improved in recent years as our knowledge in this area has advanced. Educational needs provision varies from school to school and the SENDCo is best placed to make decisions about extra support needed. Some regions do have gaps in services as budgets and demand have swung in different directions. Below, we will outline some ideas for alternative provision for cohorts of children who need that extra support.

  • Graphic Organisers - using visual tools helps children to think outside of their head where they have more space. The use of these tools enables the development of more organised thinking.
  • Scaffolding approaches - providing clearer instructions that are broken down into bite-size chunks.
  • Developing spoken language - Oracy programs provide opportunities for children to advance their spoken language for communication and attainment purposes.
  • Writing Frames - Providing scaffolds such as writing skeletons helps children to plot out their ideas before committing pen to paper.
  • Embodied cognition - Using physical tools can help the curriculum to become more accessible.