The information on this page is for families in England only.
I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
In this article
Getting a draft plan
There’s a lot to consider at this stage and timing is crucial, so it’s important to be prepared and act quickly. If everyone has been working together as they should, there should not be any great surprises in your child’s draft EHC plan.
However it is a legal document and the wording is very important, so you need to check it carefully.
You have 15 days from the date the draft was sent to:
- Ask for changes to or make comments (officially called ‘making representations’) about the plan.
- Express your preference of school to be named in section I of the plan.
- Ask the local authority to arrange a meeting with you to discuss the draft plan.
If time is very tight, for example if you are trying to get some help to check the plan, ask the local authority for an extension. Most will agree to this – the exact wording of the regulations is at least 15 days.
As a result of your representations the local authority may:
- Issue a final plan with all or some of the changes you want.
- Issue an unchanged final plan.
- Make changes of their own and reissue the plan in a draft form.
It is always good to negotiate with the local authority, but we would advise against endless ‘ping pong’. If it looks as if the local authority is not going to agree to your changes, it is generally preferable to get a final plan and then go for mediation and/or appeal as necessary (see below).
Even if you “sign off” the draft plan, you will still have the right to appeal once the final version has been issued.
Mediation and appeal
When they send you the final plan, your local authority must also send you a letter informing you of your right to mediation and appeal.
If you disagree with all or part of the final plan, you have the right to:
- Mediation – where you try to reach a negotiated agreement with the local authority.
The aim is to try to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties. Mediation will be facilitated by an organisation independent of the local authority.
You can ask for mediation on any part of the EHC plan’s education, health and social care content. You must make your request within two months of the final plan being sent to you.
- Appeal to the First-Tier tribunal (special educational needs and disability)
You can appeal to tribunal over the education parts of the plan sections, B, F and I (see below) . Any changes ordered by the tribunal are binding on the local authority.
If you are appealing on the education content, you can also currently ask the tribunal to make recommendations on the health and social care content of the plan. This is part of a national trial.
Checking the plan
There is no national standard format for the EHC plan, and different local authorities have different templates. However every plan must have certain sections, which must be clearly labelled.
A: The views, interests and aspirations of you and your child.
B: Special educational needs (SEN).
C: Health needs related to SEN.
D: Social care needs related to SEN.
E: Outcomes – how the extra help will benefit your child
F: Special educational provision (support).
G: Health provision.
H: Social care provision.
I: Placement – type and name of school or other institution (blank in the draft plan)
J: Personal budget arrangements.
K: Advice and information – a list of the information gathered during the EHC needs assessment.
The SEND code of practice has detailed information about what should be in each section. You can find this in paragraph 9.69.
Some local authorities set the EHC plan out in a table form; others in consecutive sections. However your child’s plan is laid out, it will help to understand that there are three sections on needs (your child’s difficulties) that are matched by three sections on corresponding provision (the help your child will get).
Need > Provision
Section B special educational needs > Section F special educational provision
Section C health care needs > Section G health care provision
Section D social care needs >Section H social care provision
The reports are the information and advice gathered from different people as part of the EHC needs assessment. They should be at the back of the plan and listed in section K.
The first thing you need to do is to check the reports, as the content of the plan will be based on this evidence. Check that all reports are listed, including your own views and any independent evidence you may have sent in. If anything is missing, inform the local authority immediately.
You may want to make additional copies of the reports that you can write on. Go through the reports and highlight all difficulties identified and any help that has been recommended. It can be helpful to use different colours for needs and provision. Also make a note of any differences of opinion, for example about what your child can or can’t do, or about the amount of support required.
You can now move on to checking the detail of the plan, section-by-section. We have given some examples to illustrate what may be in an EHC plan. These are fictional and for guidance only, as individual children’s needs will be very different.
Section A can be useful in providing a quick summary of your child. It may be called something like ‘all about me’. It should be based on information given by you and your child or young person. When checking section A, consider whether it would give a quick accurate picture of your child to someone who does not know them.
This section must also include your aspirations and those of your child. Aspirations can be anything that you and your child would like them to achieve in the future, however unrealistic.
Aspirations are not the same as measurable outcomes. Although the local authority must have regard to the views and aspirations, they can’t be held to account if these are not achieved.
- Arthur is eight and has hemiplegia. He loves sport and his aspiration is to be a premier league footballer. This may not be realistic, but everyone agrees that an achievable outcome would be to take part in a disability football tournament with a local club.
Section A of the EHC plan is not legally binding. If most of the detail about how to help your child is in section A, you should be asking for this information to be moved.
Section B describes your child’s special educational needs i.e. what your child has difficulty with. The section may start with a general description of what your child is like.
Any formal diagnosis, such as autistic spectrum disorder, dyspraxia or cerebral palsy would be in this section, as would details of test scores. These are however not enough on their own. Section B must specify the actual difficulty your child has as a result of their condition.
Look at section B with the reports in front of you to ensure that everything is included. It is a legal requirement to list all identified needs.
The SEND code of practice defines four broad areas of SEN, and many local authoritiess structure the educational sections of the EHC plan in this way. But they do not have to. Some needs may cross categories. Here are some examples of the sorts of things you might find in section B
Cognition and learning
- James has difficulty understanding cause and effect. At age 5 his development is at the 18-24 month level
- Kulvinder has a specific learning difficulty.
- Jennifer’s working memory is at the 1st percentile for her age. She has difficulty processing information and following complex instructions.
Communication and interaction
- Pascal has difficulties with the social use of language. He is not able to hold a reciprocal conversation. He is also very literal and can come across as rude or abrupt.
- Ruby’s spoken language is at an early stage of development. She is able to communicate her needs through a mixture of single words, gesture and Makaton signing.
Social emotional and mental health
- Ahmed has been diagnosed with ADHD. His behaviour can be very impulsive.
- Jessica has very high anxiety levels. She finds the school environment extremely stressful and has had periods of school refusal. She also has a history of self-harming.
Sensory and physical
- Matthew has a severe visual impairment and is registered blind.
- Tabitha has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. She can walk very short distances with a walking frame but cannot manage steps.
Section C contains any health care needs related to your child’s condition or SEN. This can be physical or mental health difficulties, for example difficulties with eating, severe anxiety, or a medical condition such as epilepsy.
Routine health issues, for example, dental check-ups, do not need to be recorded.
- Angus cannot take any food or drink by mouth. He is PEG fed.
- Chantelle has epilepsy. She mainly has seizures at night but they can occur during the school day. After a seizure she is very tired and needs to rest.
- In common with many children with Down syndrome, Abigail has a lowered immune system and gets frequent respiratory infections. She may miss more school than average, particularly during the winter months.
Be aware that if a medical condition gives rise to educational needs, these should be listed in section B. For example a child with epilepsy may have absence seizures which cause them to miss information.
Section D contains any social care needs related to your child’s special educational needs or disability.
These will be things that relate to life in the community and at home, for example: isolation, lack of social opportunities, behaviour impacting on family life.
If there has been a social care assessment then this information should be included. Otherwise, there may be evidence from the school or community organisations.
- Joseph is not able to take part in social activities with other teenagers or go out on his own. He currently relies on his parents to take him out and provide support
- Amira’s challenging behaviour has a severe impact on her family. The family finds it hard to do activities together and her two younger siblings miss out.
If section D is blank then think about whether any evidence has been missed or further assessment is needed. In some cases local authorities only put information in sections D and H where a child was previously known to social care.
Section E contains the outcomes anticipated for your child. The outcomes describe what your child will be able to do as a result of getting the extra help in sections F to H of the EHC plan.
Outcomes should have been discussed and agreed with you before the draft plan was issued. There should be a variety of outcomes covering education, health and social care.
Outcomes can be about reaching a particular educational level, or they can be things that are important to your child, such as being able to take part in an out-of-school activity.
The outcomes should be set over varying timescales but generally look to the end of a key stage or other transition point, for example, by the end of primary school. The outcomes should be measurable and achievable. Beware of woolly outcomes such as ‘will become more independent’ or ‘will continue to make progress in English and Maths’.
When you are checking the outcomes, think about what you want your child to be able to do as a result of the extra help they get. Outcomes should not just be about academic targets but also about things that matter to the child.
- Emily will be able to plan an out of school activity with a group of friends by the time she moves on to college.
- By the end of year 6, Dion will be able independently to read a simple book with chapters.
- By age 18, Jonathan will have achieved a level 1 qualification in maths and English.
- By the age of Key Stage 1, Parveen will be able to use spoken language to communicate her basic needs.
Section F contains details of the help your child will get in school. This section must be specific and quantified. It should be very clear how much help, how often and who will give it. Therapies such as speech and language therapy must normally be in section F.
Section F is vitally important as it is directly legally enforceable. Your local authority has a legal duty to secure the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan. This duty applies regardless of the local authority’s resources.
Local authorities may have a sentence or two about local funding arrangements: for example, the amount of money allocated to your child, or a particular level of support, such as band B. This is not specific enough. The local authority must also set out clearly the amount and kind of extra help that your child will receive.
Go back to the reports. Are any particular interventions, teaching methods or equipment recommended? Is there any mention of staff qualifications or training? Check whether these recommendations have been included in section F.
Every special educational need identified in section B must be matched by special educational provision in section F. This is a legal requirement. For example:
Section B – special educational needs > Section F – special educational provision
Difficulty understanding social rules > Social skills group, use of social stories
Misses instructions >All learning to be reinforced and repeated;checking back that child has understood
Lack of self-help skills, not yet toilet trained > Individual Toileting programme adult support to change
Becomes overwhelmed by sensory stimuli > Quiet space within school; OT to provide programme of sensory activities
Difficulty managing transitions and changes to routine > Visual timetable; advanced warning of any changes
Drawing up a similar table for your child’s EHC plan may help you identify gaps.
The provision in F must be specific and should normally be quantified. If your child’s EHC plan lists a particular intervention or type of support, the following must be clear:
- Type of support.
- How much?
- How often?
- By whom? This should include any necessary staff qualifications.
- Jasmine will receive 45 minutes direct speech and language therapy every two weeks delivered by a qualified speech and language therapist.
A vague EHC plan will not be enforceable. Beware of words such as access to, opportunities for, regular.
- Absalom will have access to extra help from school staff as required. This will include opportunities to work in a small group.
In the above example it is not clear how much help Absalom will receive, and who will deliver it.
Special educational provision can be wider than just teaching arrangements aimed at academic progress. The law says that health and social care provision that educates or trains a child is to be deemed special educational provision and thus contained in section F. The most frequent instance of this is speech and language therapy.
In the example above, if the local NHS service cannot provide the 45 minutes every two weeks then the local authority will have to commission a private therapist.
Section G is the healthcare provision reasonably required as a result of your child’s SEN. It should be detailed and specific and normally quantified.
It may include services such as audiology, psychological therapies, continence services, specialist nurses, equipment or training for school staff.
- Carly will continue to attend the paediatric diabetes clinic every six months. Before she starts school, the specialist diabetes nurse will deliver two training sessions to school staff.
It’s important for the EHC plan to give a full picture of your child, including any health needs that may affect them in school. If your child already has an individual healthcare plan, that should be incorporated into section G or cross-referenced. Our page on medical needs in school may be helpful here as may our general information on health services.
Resources can be taken into account when deciding what goes in section G. The relevant commissioning body, generally the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), must agree what is in section G. Once they do it is legally enforceable, but they may refuse to agree provision that is not commissioned locally.
For example, in many areas the local occupational therapy service does not provide sensory integration therapy. We generally advise to get as much as possible into section F, so that it’s classed as educational provision. This is then directly enforceable, and if the NHS can’t provide it the local authority must.
Section H is social care provision. This section can be extremely complicated.
H is divided into two subsections. H1 is social care provision provided for children under 18 under s2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. This is a rather old fashioned list, but in essence covers everything except residential short breaks, for example:
- Help in the home.
- Help for a holiday.
- Leisure facilities.
Subsection H1 only applies to children under 18.
Subsection H2 is any other social care provision, for example:
- Residential short breaks for children.
- Other social care provision not related to the child’s SEND but only with parents’ consent. For example a child protection plan.
- Any social care provision for adults over 18 provided under the Care Act 2104.
Local authorities are required to seek advice and information about social care needs as part of the EHC needs assessment. However, we have come across instances where section H is completely blank. In some cases this is fine, but if you do need help from social care and no assessment has been carried out then challenge this. There is more information about social care assessments and services in the social care section of our website.
Section H is particularly important where young people require support in order to achieve as much independence as possible in adulthood. Some young adults may have a mixed package of educational and social care support.
Section I names the school or other institution your child attends. In a draft EHC plan this must always be left blank, because this is when you can tell your local authority what school you want your child to go to.
For detailed information on naming a school in an EHC plan, see our page on school admissions.
In a final plan, section I will contain the type and name of the school or college, for example:
- A mainstream primary school – Hillview School.
- A secondary special school for pupils with severe learning difficulties – Lakeside School.
When the local authority informs you that they will be issuing an EHC plan, you have the right to ask for a personal budget to be prepared.
This is not an extra pot of money, but a way of giving you, as a parent, more input into how the money allocated to your child is spent. Personal budgets may relate to education, health or social care.
For more information see our detailed factsheet on personal budgets.
Section K contains all the reports gathered as part of the assessment process. Your child’s needs and provision in the EHC plan should be based on these reports.
SEND Code of Practice
Information for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Read our information about education in Wales.
In Scotland, the system of support for children with additional support needs is called additional support for learning. You can read more about it on the Enquire website.
Support in the early years
How early years education settings in England support children with special educational needs (SEN).Read more
Extra support in school
Read about the extra support provided in mainstream schools for children with special educational needs in England.Read more
Education beyond 16
Read about education after 16 years for young people with special educational needs (SEN).Read more