Amaze SENDIASS explains EHC Plan Annual Reviews

Making the most of annual reviews

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan this should be reviewed once a year. When everything is going well and your child is settled in their current school for the next few years, the annual review can be a straightforward look at the progress they are making to set new targets and tweak details of the support they get. On the other hand, when you are approaching transition points like moving to secondary school or college, the annual review has a key role to play in getting this right. And if your child is not flourishing, and you think they may need more significant change to the support they get, the annual review is the process to look at this. So what do you need to know to make sure you are getting the most from annual reviews?

Prefer to access information in video format? If so, you can watch our SENDIASS Zoom Workshop on Annual Reviews on YouTube.

What is an Annual Review?

Every EHC Plan must be reviewed at least once a year by the local authority to ensure it is kept up-to-date and continues to provide the support the child or young person needs. It is also possible to ask for an interim/emergency annual review if things are going downhill for your child and it is too long until the next one is due. Speak to your APO or Casework Officer in this case. It is up to the local authority whether they agree to this.

When we hear the words “annual review” (AR) we often think of the meeting, but actually there are four parts to the AR process. If the child or young person is at a school or college they organise most of this, otherwise the local authority will do it all.

  1. Gathering information: from parent, child, school and other professionals involved. The school should ask for these and send them out at least two weeks before the meeting.
  2. The meeting: usually in school although currently mostly online. Parent, child/young person, school SENCO or head teacher, health and social care reps and other relevant professionals are all invited, but a meeting can go ahead with just the parent and school there, and this is normal if it is not a year when there are big changes or issues to consider. The meeting should look at the needs, provision and outcomes set out in the current EHC Plan, to decide whether these need to change.
  3. Report from the meeting: prepared by school/college and sent to local authority within two weeks. Copied to parent and /or young person. Should include recommendations from the meeting, any differences of opinion and the reports or information that was gathered in advance.
  4. Local authority decision: the local authority must decide whether to continue the EHC plan unchanged, amend it (change what it says about needs, provision or placement) or cease it (end the plan altogether). They should give this decision within four weeks after the meeting date. There’s a right of appeal about this decision if you don’t agree.

Annual Reviews at transition points

There are special rules for the AR process at the points when a child is coming up to a phase transfer (e.g. primary to secondary). For children starting school who already have a plan, or moving from primary to secondary, the AR must take place in in time for the whole process to be complete and a final plan sent out by 15 February. For Year 11s moving to college, the deadline for issuing the final amended plan is 31 March.

Getting ready for the Annual Review

teenage boy looking at woman as if mid conversationYou and your child/young person will be asked to contribute your views in advance. You may be sent a form you can use. If it is a year when everything is going smoothly and nothing much is changing you can keep this quite simple. But some years you will want to say more. You can approach it the same way you did the parental contribution when the plan was first written. Our Amaze SENDIASS service have a guide that might help.

A good tip is to look at what you wrote last year and use this to identify changes that have taken place since the last review. And have a look through your copy of the current EHC Plan too, marking it up with any questions you have or updates to what it says. Minor details don’t need to change every year and may be able to wait until the next essential update point such as moving from primary to secondary school. But if you think major changes are needed, you will need to explain this in your contribution and think about what evidence there is to support this. Are there any new reports about your child? Make sure the school have all of these.

The school may offer to collect your child’s views but you can do this too.  SENDIASS have a guide that might help you do this with them. As your child gets older, it is even more important that their views are central. SENDIASS have a young people’s worker who may be able to help them express their views. This is also the moment to plan how your child will be involved in the meeting itself. Will they come for all or part of it?

When the reports from the school and others are sent, around two weeks before the meeting, read them through. Do they throw up any questions? If you want change, will any of the reports help show this is needed? Think if you want a friend or relative to come to the meeting with you, as you will need to tell the school this in advance.

Just before the meeting, make a final checklist of what you want to say. Include any changes you want to ask for and new outcomes you think are needed, now and for the future. Have a copy of the EHC Plan and the reports ready so you can refer to them in the meeting.

In the meeting

Make sure everyone in the meeting is introduced to you and your child.  Check who is making notes. The agenda should give time to looking back at how things have gone over the past year, but leave plenty of time for looking ahead too. Try not to get bogged down in small details, as this can mean the meeting ends without important issues being covered. There should be time to look through the EHC Plan sections and discuss if there been any changes in your child’s needs: have they achieved their outcomes or do they need amending? Is the provision is still relevant to meet their needs? Are they making progress? If not, “what would help?” is always a good question. If things are really not going well, you will want the meeting to look at whether this is still the right setting for your child. If you are approaching a phase transfer, the meeting should discuss their next possible placement.

In Year 9 and above the annual review should also look at preparing for adulthood i.e. longer term goals around education, employment or training, independence in the community, health and a place to live. You may need to remind the meeting of this as often schools are very much focused on the next 12 months, not the long term. SENDIASS can give you more information to help you look at these preparing for adulthood questions.

Before the end of the meeting, make sure you clarify what has been agreed and who will do what. Check what the school’s report is going to say. If there are disagreements, these should be noted in the report.

After the meeting

Teenager girl studying with older woman with grey hairThe school should write up the report and send it to the local authority and to you. Read through this carefully to check that it is a true reflection of what was said in the meeting. The LA must then decide if they are going to keep the plan as it is, cease it or amend it and let you know. This should be within four weeks.

Ceasing an EHC Plan means ending it altogether and should only be suggested if it is clear that the child or young person no longer needs one, for example when they finish education or if they no longer need the extra help a plan provides. This would be a good time to ask SENDIASS for advice if you are unsure.

Amending the plan means changing what it says about needs, provision or placement. In this case, you will get a copy of the original plan with the amendments as an accompanying note with the plan.  The process is more or less the same as when you first get an EHC Plan. You will have at least 15 days to request changes and a new school, if necessary. The local authority have eight weeks to finalise the plan or to decide not to agree the amendments. In reality then they should get on with this but technically there is no set period except that the plan must be finalised before the next review.  The annual review process is not complete until you have the final plan.

If you are not happy with the outcome of an annual review, you have the right to go to mediation or appeal. SENDIASS can give advice about this too.

More help

SENDIASS run workshops about annual reviews each term and an extra one or two each year on preparing for adulthood. You can find and book our workshops on Eventbrite. Liking our Amaze Facebook page is also a good way to be notified of upcoming events.

If you can’t get to an annual review workshop, there is video recording of the Annual Review Zoom Workshop that you can watch on YouTube in your own time.

The SENDIASS advice line can give advice about annual reviews. Leave a message on 01273 772289 to request an advice call or email sendiass@amazesussex.org.uk

Contact has a useful guide to annual reviews: https://contact.org.uk/help-for-families/information-advice-services/education-learning/ehc-plans-assessments/annual-reviews/

IPSEA has a checklist that sets out the law around annual reviews in detail. You can download it from here: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/the-annual-review-process

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