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Checking a draft EHC Plan

An EHC plan is a legal document and it should describe your child and their needs fully and clearly. It’s important to check the draft EHC plan before it becomes final, or get help to check it. It’s a key document about your child’s support in the future.

You have 15 days to read the draft plan and give your comments. Or you can accept the plan as it is. The 15 days starts from the day the LA issued the draft plan to you. The LA will tell you the deadline for you to send in your comments about the draft or for you to request any changes.

If you need more time to look at and comment on the plan, you can ask for more time. Contact your case coordinator to ask. Their name and email address should be included in your letter. If you don’t make any comments about the draft plan, the needs, outcomes and support in the draft plan, these will stay as they are when the plan is finalised.

An EHC plan is one of the tools that’s going to help your child make progress and achieve their best outcomes across all areas of their learning.

As they get older it’s also going to help them become as independent as possible and prepare them for life as an adult. It’s important that when the plan is first issued it is accurate and clear. It’s likely to be in use for many years, with changes made as your child grows older.

EHC plans should be supported by the plans made by schools and colleges, which set out how support works day to day. These school plans should also have short term targets for the support for your child.

Your role is to help your child stay at the heart of the EHC plan, so that their views and goals are central to it. You’ll also play a part in making sure their needs are met, and they make progress in the areas that are important for them.

To do this you need to think long-term about what they’re going to need in terms of skills, experiences and knowledge. As they get older, you’ll need to work with them to do this.

The law is very clear that EHC plans should be forward-looking documents that support children and young people to aim high and achieve their ambitions.

The draft plan isn’t the final version yet.

You, or the young person who the plan is about (if they’re over 16), get a copy of the draft plan to comment on. Your child’s school or college, and any other school you’re asking to be considered, should get a copy too. This is so that schools can see whether they can meet your child’s needs.

The SEN Team may reword advice from specialists, for example to make it clearer, but their main role is to co-ordinate things during the drafting of the plan. This may be done using the EHC Hub. The SEN Team will only include the needs, outcomes and support recommended by the professionals involved in the EHC Needs Assessment.

There are two main things for you to do:

  1. Check the draft plan to see whether it’s accurate about your child’s needs, the support they will have and what the outcome of that support should be. It should break down how the support will delivered. For example, how often, for how long, and by whom. This is often called 'specification' and 'quantification.' If you don’t think it’s accurate, you can suggest changes, ask for missing information or more details to be added.
  2. Say which school, college or other educational setting you would like your child to go to.

Once you have read and thought about the draft plan, you have two options:

  • If you think the plan is good, you can accept it as it is, without making any changes
  • You can ask for changes to be made before a final plan is issued. If you’re not happy with the draft plan, you don’t have to agree with it.

The time you have to check the draft plan will go by quickly. Depending on how complex your child’s needs are, you may need a few hours to check it and make comments. Many parents find it easiest to do this in more than one go – half an hour or an hour at a time.

The step by step checklist in the next section below is one way to check the plan. If you want more detail about the law, IPSEA (Independent Providers of Special Education Advice) has a checklist. It gives more detail about what should be in the plan.

Check every part of the plan. This is what each part is and the kind of information it includes.

  • Section A: All About Me and My Parent/Carers’ Views
    This is the information that came from you and your child. If you added your child’s views and yours to the EHC Hub, then this section should be exactly what you wrote. If you sent your views in on paper or before you started using the EHC Hub, check this section to make sure the information you gave is here.
  • Sections B, E & F: Special Educational Needs, Outcomes and Provisions
    This is the education part of the plan. It’s split into the four areas of SEN – Cognition and Learning, Communication and Interaction, Social, Emotional and Mental Health and Sensory and/or Physical Needs. Each of these is split into strengths, needs, outcomes and provision (support).
  • Sections C, E & G: Health Needs, Outcomes & Provisions
    This is the part of the plan about health needs which affect your child’s education. If your child doesn’t have health needs this part may be blank.
  • Sections D, E, H1 & H2: Social Care Needs, Outcomes & Provisions
    This is the part of the plan about social care needs which affect your child’s education. If your child doesn’t have social care needs this part may be blank.
  • Section I: Education Setting
    This is where your child’s nursery, school, college or other education setting is listed on the final plan. On the draft plan this part is left blank.
  • Section J: Personal Budget
    If you asked for a personal budget for your child, this is where the information about it is written. If you didn’t ask for a personal budget this part will be blank.
  • Section K: Information & Advice
    This is the list of all the information and advice (reports and recommendations) given by professionals.

Read the draft plan all the way through once. If you can, do this on a big screen on a personal computer, or download a PDF copy to read on screen or print it off.

Think about what you would expect to see in the plan and look for the things that matter most. Are they there?

This helps you to get a general feel about whether the plan includes all your child’s needs and gives a clear picture of the day to day support they need in class.

Reading the plan is harder to do on a small screen, such as on a smartphone. So, using a larger screen or a printed copy will make it easier for you.

If you can print a copy of the plan, you’ll be able to make notes on it. Many parents find it helpful to have something in their hands which they can pick up and work on when they have time.

You might find it helpful to download the PDFs of the professional reports if you are viewing them on the EHC hub. Rename the PDFs so that they make sense to you and save them on your computer or tablet. Or print them off.

Reading all the reports and advice helps to show you what should be in the draft plan. Even if you’ve read them before this will help to get them fresh in your mind.

You should be able to see clearly if anything major, such as advice from a specific professional, is missing.

Some parents find it helpful to print the reports and advice to refer to when checking the detail in the plan.

If you are using the EHC hub, downloading the reports as PDFs will make it easier for you to see both the report and the plan on screen at the same time. Renaming the PDFs of the reports makes it easier for you to find what you need quickly.

Go through each of the professional reports and separate out the needs, outcomes and support (provision) that they have recommended. The needs and support are usually easy to find, but sometimes professionals don’t include outcomes in their reports.

If you’ve printed the reports, you could use different colour highlighter pens to separately colour code these.

If you’re reading the reports on screen, write down each of the needs, outcomes and support as you’re going along.

The information in the draft EHC plan is made up almost entirely of what is written in the reports from professionals. So, the main things from those reports should be in the draft plan.

An EHC plan contains information about your child’s needs and the support (provision) they should get to meet those needs. It should also include an outcome for each need – which is like a target that says what difference the support will make.

Checking the plan this way helps you to be sure that each of your child’s needs is included in the plan, alongside the relevant support and outcomes.

Crosscheck what is in the draft plan with what is in each professional report. So, look at the needs, outcomes and support you have found in the professional reports and check that it is included in the plan. You’re looking to see if anything is missing.

Do this in a careful way so you don’t miss anything. You can either

  • go through each professional report and tick off everything that’s in the plan and make a list of what is missing or not clear enough or
  • go through the plan section by section and check each professional report, ticking off everything that’s in the reports and make a list of what is missing or not clear enough

 This is the part of checking the plan that is likely to take you longest, so give yourself plenty of time.

It can be easy to get lost among all the paperwork and to lose the thread of what you’re aiming to do, so be as orderly as you can be. You can ask someone to help you with this part. One of you can read out the needs, outcomes and support and the other can check the plan.

By ticking off everything that’s made it into the plan you can see whether anything is missing. If you do find things that are missing, you can put them in the comments boxes on the EHC Hub and ask for them to be included in the final plan, or email the SEND Team. 

Now that you’ve worked out what should be in the plan, you also need to check that there’s enough detail in it. What’s written in the plan should be clear and straightforward. It should be specific and measurable.

Make a note of anything in the plan that is unclear or anything you don’t understand.

When you’re reading the plan, ask yourself what does this actually mean? Is it clear what my child is going to get, who is going to deliver it, how often and for how long? If it is not clear, then it’s not specific enough. 

A need only needs to go in once. So, for example, several professionals might list a need such as anxiety. But it only needs to appear once in the plan, alongside the support recommended by each of the different professionals.

Check to make sure that the key support and the wording used to describe it are correctly written in the plan. The level of support given in class can include the ratio of staff to children for example, working in a small group of up to four children, or one-to-one support daily for 10 minutes etc. and the level of supervision needed to keep your child safe.

The SEND Code of Practice says that “EHC plans should be clear, concise, understandable and accessible to parents, children, young people, providers and practitioners.”

You should know from the plan exactly

  • what support your child will get and how often
  • who is going to do give the support and
  • what skills qualifications or training they staff should have

The plan should also be clear about how often the support should be reviewed to see what progress is being made.

It’s important to get the details right, to make sure the support is given in the right way at school or college. However, try not to get too bogged down in the smallest detail and making sure absolutely everything is in it. It’s often important to find the right balance between making sure the plan is clear about key support, while giving some flexibility to staff and your child day to day.

This is where you bring all your work together to make any comments you have.

You can comment on needs, outcomes and provision for each of the four areas of SEND, and for health and social care if they’re part of your child’s plan.

You might find it easiest to do one area of SEN at a time. You can make a note of all the comments you have about cognition and learning for example and comment on that section.

If you’re asking for information that’s missing to be included, it helps if you can be clear about what report that information comes from. So for example, page 7 educational psychologists report or page 2 of therapists report.

When they get your comments, the SEN Team will consider them and based on what you’ve said, they may make changes to the draft plan.

They may then issue another draft version for you to look at or issue a final plan. This may or may not have the changes you asked for in it, but they should let you know if they are unable to change something.

Section I of the draft EHC plan should be blank when you get it. This is where you say which setting (nursery, school or college) you would like your child to go to.

You can name the setting your child already goes to or somewhere different. You can find out more about that on the IPSEA website.

You have the right to ask for a particular school for your child, including any mainstream or special school. You can also ask for an independent school or an independent special school.

The SEN Team will consider your request, but the local authority makes the final decision (you can challenge the decision). If you don’t ask for a specific school the local authority will choose for you.

When you have detailed all your comments for each section, and identified the nursery school or college you want your child to go to, you can either update this on the EHC Hub, or email your comments to the LA SEND Team.

All your comments and your choice of nursery, school or college will be considered by the SEND Team along with everything you have sent.

If the final plan is issued and you disagree with either the school or college that’s named or with any of the needs or support, then you have the right of appeal. This means you can ask for mediation or challenge the local authority’s decision at an appeal tribunal.