This information looks at how children and young people might receive support for their special educational needs (SEN) at school and college.

Education, health and care plans (often simply referred to as 'plans') can be accessible for children and young people from 0 - 25 years of age, if the young person stays in some form of education or training. Students going to university will not be eligible for a plan.

Before a plan is issued, the local authority will need to make an Education, health and care needs assessment of your child’s SEN. A plan will describe your child’s needs and the specialist help and provision required to meet those needs.

What should the plan contain?

The SEND Code of Practice, which provides guidance to the Children and Families Act 2014, sets out what must be included in the plan in each section. It reads as follows:

Section A: You and your child's views, interests and aspirations.

Section B: Your child's special educational needs.

Section C: Your child's health needs which are related to their SEN.

Section D: Your child's social care needs which are related to their SEN.

Section E: The outcomes sought for your child, including outcomes for adult life. The plan should also identify arrangements for the setting of shorter term targets by the early years provider, school college or other education/training provider.

Section F: The special educational provision for your child's needs.

Section G: Any health provision reasonably required to help with the developmental and/or learning difficulty/disability which have resulted in your child having SEN.  Where an Individual Health Care Plan exists, this must also be included.

Section H1: Any social care provision which must be made for your child in accordance with section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

Section H2: Any other social care provision reasonably required to help with the developmental and/or learning difficulty/disability which have resulted in your child having SEN. This will include any adult social care provision being provided to meet a young person's eligible needs under the Care Act 2014 (through a statutory care and support plan).

Section I: The name and type of school, maintained nursery school, post-16 provision or other educational setting to be attended by your child or young person.

Section J: Where there is a Personal Budget, the details of how that will support particular outcomes and the provision it will be used for. This should include any flexibility in it's usage and the arrangements for any direct payments for education, health and social care.

Section K: The advice and information gathered during the EHC needs assessment must be attached (in appendices). There should also be a list of this advice and information.

Health care provision and social care provision

Health provision could include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy services, physiotherapy and mental health services.

Social care provision could include support for independent living.

Health or social care provision made wholly or mainly for the purposes of education or training must be treated as special educational provision.  For example it has been established that since communication is a necessary skill to enable learning, speech and language therapy is generally considered as education provision.

Parents and young people will have the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (SEND) about such provision.

The draft plan

When the local authority writes a plan they will first send you a copy of the ‘draft plan’ so that you have the chance to comment on it. Along with the draft plan, the local authority will send you copies of all the professional reports, which were prepared during the EHC needs assessment.

The local authority should send you a letter with the draft plan which tells you that you have 15 days to ‘make representations’, that is, to make comments. If when you first receive the draft plan you either do nothing or write back accepting it, the local authority will send you a final plan with a letter explaining your right of appeal to the First tier Tribunal – Special Education Needs & Disability (SEND) if you disagree with the plan.

It is important that the plan accurately reflects your child’s needs and that the support is put into place to meet them.  When you receive the draft plan, we suggest that you:

  • read the reports and advice first: here is where you will find the evidence on which the plan is based
  • check that all the reports gathered during the assessment have been attached to the plan and contact your local authority if anything is missing
  • check that the evidence you provided during the assessment is included
  • use a marker pen to highlight any special educational needs mentioned in the reports. It's these needs that should be mentioned in the plan
  • refer to the sections 'Categories of needs' and 'Possible types of provision' in these pages for an indication of what you might expect to see on the plan
  • finally, read the plan to see if it accurately summarises all the information in the reports and make a note of anything you think is missing.

When you start to read the plan itself, consider the language that is used. Is it easy to understand? Does it give a thorough picture of your child's needs? Is it clear what kind of support will be provided?  Does it reflect the views of you and your child? To help your child record their thoughts the NAS, together with the Department for Education, have developed a toolkit called 'This is me'. 

Categories of needs

Reports on children and young people on the autism spectrum may refer to needs which fall into different categories. Look for evidence of these when you consider professional reports or advice. Check that they appear in your child's plan, where appropriate.

Communication needs

Your child may have difficulty:

  • processing, understanding or using language (referred to as receptive and expressive language skills)
  • interpreting instructions literally.

Social needs

Your child may:

  • display impulsive behaviour
  • act inappropriately with peers
  • avoid contact with others.

Processing information

Your child may experience difficulties including:

  • planning and organising information
  • forming concepts and understanding abstract ideas 
  • predicting and anticipating events
  • processing spoken information
  • differentiating between relevant and background information
  • finding noisy or busy environments distressing
  • switching between one activity and the next.

Behaviour difficulties

Your child may have difficulties managing their behaviour because they:

  • don't always understand 'social rules'
  • aren't comfortable with change or unexpected events
  • don't like people to interfere with their routine
  • try to control their environment, but in inappropriate ways. 

Other difficulties

These may include:

  • attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), both of which may mean your child finds it hard to concentrate on tasks
  • dyspraxia, which can bring difficulties with co-ordination from catching a ball (gross motor skills) to holding a pen (fine motor skills).

We can't give an exhaustive list of the difficulties that autistic children may face. For this reason, it's important to read the plan carefully to make sure that all the individual needs of your child are mentioned.

Possible types of provision

The plan tells you about the provision that will be made to meet your child's educational needs. Check that the provision mentioned relates to the needs identified in the reports.

You might expect to see some of the following included:

  • frequent, supervised small group activities 
  • a programme for personal and social development 
  • a behaviour management programme 
  • additional supervision or assistance to help your child stay 'on task' (for example a learning support assistant, sometimes known as a teaching assistant) 
  • access to additional special needs support to cover unstructured times of the school day, such as lunch and break times 
  • a language programme to be developed by a speech and language therapist or with direct input from a speech and language therapist 
  • a teacher and/or learning support assistant with a specific qualification and/or experience in teaching and supporting children on the autism spectrum
  • a learning support assistant to help in delivering a modified curriculum 
  • a distraction free learning environment
  • a programme to develop language and communication skills 
  • a programme to develop social skills 
  • structured tasks and routines 
  • visual prompts and a visual timetable 
  • clear, unambiguous instructions at all times.

Requesting a school place

When you receive the draft plan, there will be no school named. This is because you have the right to request a particular school or college of the following type to be named in the plan:

  • Maintained nursery school
  • Maintained school, academy or free school(mainstream or special)
  • Non-maintained special school
  • Further education or sixth form college
  • Independent school or independent specialist colleges (where they have been approved for this purpose by the Secretary of State and published on a list available to  parents and young people).

If you make a request for a placement of the type described above, your local authority must comply with your preference and name the school or college on your child’s EHC plan unless it would:

  • Be unsuitable for your child’s age, ability, aptitude or SEN; or
  • Be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources.

Once you have told the local authority of your preference, they must consult the governing body, principal or proprietor of the school. This means that they will send a copy of your child’s draft plan to the school and they have 15 days to respond. The local authority will consider any comments made before deciding whether to name the school on your child’s plan. 

If you have asked for a school that is outside of your own local authority, the local authority that maintains that school will also be consulted. Once a school is named on the final plan, your child must be admitted.

If you make representation for a place at a non-maintained early years provision or at an independent school or Independent Specialist Provider (ISP) that is not on the secretary of state’s approved list, your local authority must still consider your request.

The local authority is not under the same conditional duty to name it as described above, but they must have regard to the general principle that children should be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes, so long as this is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and does not mean unreasonable public expenditure.

The local authority should also make sure that the independent school would admit your child before naming it in the plan, as an independent school not on the Secretary of State's approved list does not have a duty to admit your child, even if it's named.

Personal budgets

A personal budget is an amount of money that you can apply for to buy the services or support that your child’s plan says they need. Personal budgets are optional so you do not have to have one, but if you do request one, your local authority must consider your request. 

Your local authority must also provide information about organisations that may be able to provide you with advice and assistance to help you make informed decisions about personal budgets.

Once your local authority has completed an education, health and care needs assessment and confirmed that they will issue a plan, you have the right to request a personal budget. They can include funding for special educational, health and social care provision.

The funding can be given in four ways:

  1. By direct payments so that you would receive a sum of money to spend.
  2. Through 'notional funds', so that you would not handle any funding directly but can tell your local authority how you want the money spent.
  3. Held by a third party who will handle the money on your behalf (further detail about who the third party might be is not yet known).
  4. A combination of the above.

Where a direct payment is proposed for special educational provision, you local authority must get agreement from the educational setting if any this is to be delivered on their premises. Without this agreement, your local authority can't go ahead.

Your local authority does not have to agree to a request for direct payments. If they refuse, they must set out their reasons in writing and give you the right to request a formal review of their decision.

Details of the proposed personal budget should be included in section J of the draft plan.;

Finalising the plan

If you make any suggestions for changes to your child’s draft plan and these are agreed by your local authority, the final plan should be sent to you as quickly as possible.  In any event, it must be issued within 20 weeks of the request for an EHC assessment being made.

The final plan can only differ from the draft plan as a result of your representations, including a request for a personal budget and inclusion of the name of the educational setting.

If your local authority wants to make other changes, they must re-issue a draft plan and give you a further 15 days to comment.

If your local authority does not agree to any or all of the changes you have suggested, they should still send a final plan and give you notice of your right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, SEN and Disability (SEND) and the time limits for lodging an appeal. You have two months from the date you received the letter accompanying the final plan to lodge your appeal. 

The final plan must also be sent to the school named in it, and the head teacher or principal must make sure that those teaching or working with your child are aware of their needs and have arrangements in place to meet them.

The plan must be reviewed at least once a year, but if your child’s needs change significantly, a review should be held as soon as possible to make sure that the provision specified in the plan is appropriate.

More information about reviewing plans is available in our information annual review of education, health and care plans.

Children and young people in youth custody

If it seems likely that a child or young person in youth custody might need support from an EHC plan on their release, an EHC needs assessment can be undertaken while they are in custody.

Local authorities must not cease an EHC plan when a child or young person enters custody. They must keep it while they are detained, and maintain and review it when the child or young person is released.

If a child or young person has an EHC plan before being detained (or one is completed while they are in custody), the local authority must arrange appropriate special educational provision and, if the plan specifies health care provision, this must be arranged.  

Free legal advice and representation can be sought from Project EPIC, a service run by lawyers to help to children and young people aged 18 and under who are in custody get the education they need.

Timescales from EHC needs assessment to plan

Once the local authority receives a request for an EHC needs assessment to take place they have six weeks to make a decision about whether to carry out an assessment.

If the local authority decides not to assess they will write to the parents with information about their right to appeal and the requirement for them to consider mediation.

If the local authority decides to assess they will:

  • seek advice from parents and a range of professionals within six weeks (unless there are exceptional circumstances)
  • decide whether or not to make a place after receiving all the advice.

If the local authority decides not to make a plan they will write to the parents within 16 weeks of the date they received the request for an EHC needs assessment, telling them that they have the right to appeal. 

If the local authority decides to make a plan they will issue a draft within 20 weeks of the date they received the request for an EHC needs assessment.

Please see flowchart for further information on this process.

Other resources

More help from our charity

  • This is me! - My assessment profile, a toolkit that gives children and young people the chance to say what changes they would like to make to education, health care and social care plans, developed by the NAS in partnership with the Department for Education.
  • Further help for parents trying to obtain an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service.
  • For general help and information please contact our Autism Helpline

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