Statutory Assessment and EHC Plan – Does Your Child Need One?

Do you feel your child might have special educational needs ? That his or her school simply isn’t providing enough support? Or that a mainstream education setting isn’t working?

It might be time for a statutory assessment and EHC plan. 

What is a statutory assessment?

It’s not just about testing your child’s educational needs, it’s also a legal process.

A statutory assessment is also called an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment.

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It’s when your child is struggling at school or hindered by a disability, and your local authority instigates and oversees a thorough look at his or her special educational needs.

The end result is a legal document that identifies your child’s special educational, social, and health needs, and gives a clear plan of the steps your local authority must now take to help. This is called an “EHC Plan”. 

What age does a child have to be for an EHC needs assessment?

This service is available here in the UK for children and young people up to 25 years of age. According to the Department of Education, in 2018 over 300,000 people were given assessments and plans. Although children aged 11-15 accounted for almost half of this statistic, the biggest increase in applications was in the 16-25 age group.

What are all these acronyms and terms?

When it comes to talking about your child’s special needs you will be faced with different acronyms. To clarify:

SEND – special educational needs and disabilities

SENCO  – special educational needs co-ordinator, also called just “SEN

EHC – education, health and care plan. It is the legal document that describes the education, health, and social needs of your child or adolescent. 

**The reason you might be confused if researching is that terms  have changed. A transition that started in in 2014 and was finalised in April 2018, the term “EHC/ ECH plan” replaced both “SEN/ SEN assessments” and “LDA” (learning difficulty assessments for 16+).

What sorts of things would make my child right for assessment and an EHC plan?

Special educational needs and disabilities have an affect on the ways your child learns.

This can look like:

*Note that even though EHC plans do look at your child’s health and social care needs as well as his or her educational needs, the EHC plan is uniquely for children who do struggle with learning. 

What happens in a statutory assessment?

It can involve you and your child being interviewed by your school and social services, then being sent for testing with medical health professionals such as doctors, educational psychologists, and speech and language therapists.

What is included in an EHC plan?

The actual plan itself identifies the special educational needs of your child, looking at cognition and learning, communication and interaction, sensory and physical issues, and social/emotional/mental health.

It then identifies the health needs and social needs related to those special educational needs.

Provisions (recommended steps) are then offered for each of these three categories – educational/health/social.

There will a section about any recommended placement at a school or institution.

Other things discussed in a EHC plan include the views and goals you and your child have shared in your assessment, the outcomes expected once the EHC plan is in place, and talk about budgeting and how the funding allocated to your child might be used. You’ll also find all the reports made by the various health care workers involved in your child’s assessment.

What will an EHC then plan provide for my child?

What does the EHC plan then actually pan out to? It depends on the age of your child.

In the aged under fives, an EHC plan can include written progress checks, a child health visitor, and an assessment of your child’s first year of school.

From five to 15, it can look like:

  • extra help from an assistant or the teacher including to take part in class activities
  • a special programme of learning
  • having someone observe and watch over them in class and at break
  • help with communication skills
  • support for physical or personal care challenges
  • extra encouragement.

If you child is 16 or over, then your child’s school and your local authority will talk to him or her about the support required.

Who can recommend my child for a statutory assessment?

You can contact your council yourself, or your school can refer your child for assessment. And in actual fact others can request an assessment as well, such as doctors, heath visitors, and even family friends.

If your child is aged 16 to 25, he or she can actually request the process themselves.

If you decide you want to start the process, it’s worthwhile talking to the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child’s school. They might be more than happy to help you with the application.

Or you could take your child to an educational psychologist who will test your child in advance and give you their advice over whether or not a statutory assessment is likely. If so ,they can also advise you on the application process.

How long does an assessment and EHC plan take?

From the point that a request is made until the plan is issued is not supposed to take more than 20 weeks. In practice they can sometimes take longer.

Note that you’ll be given a draft of your child’s EHC plan first, and have a 15-day window to comment or challenge it before a final plan is drafted.

What can I do if I disagree with the ECH plan?

If you disagree with the verdict on your child’s needs, or with the plan offered and the educational institutions suggested, you can first challenge your local authority and see if that helps.

You have the choice to also appeal to a Tribunal that deals with SEND. If you are thinking of appealing to the Tribunal you’ll be offered to contact a mediation adviser to decide if you prefer to instead apply for mediation.

You can also challenge your local authority if:

  • they decide to not do an assessment and you want one
  • you don’t agree with the school mentioned in the EHC plan
  • you don’t like the support outlined or the verdict given. 

Useful resources about SEND and EHC plans

Worried if you should get your child an assessment and want professional advice first? Harley Therapy connects you with established and expert educational psychologists in central London, who can also diagnose ADHD and learning differences. 


Still have questions about if your child needs a EHC plan? Use the comment box below. 

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