Let’s get the technicalities out the way – no one makes an EHCP application. What they actually make is a request to the local authority for an ‘EHC Needs Assessment’ (EHCNA). If this request is accepted, this may or may not end up as an EHCP.
Clearly, not every request for an EHCNA is accepted by a local authority. For a child or young person (CYP) who you know has significant needs, how can you increase the chances of your EHCNA request being accepted, so that they get a step closer to having an EHCP?
How can you ultimately make sure they get the support, legal protection and additional resource that comes with having an EHCP?
The legal test
The Children and Families Act gives us much of the legal framework around SEND. It tells us that a local authority must accept a request for an EHCNA, if it is of the opinion that:
(a) the child or young person has or may have special educational needs, and
(b) it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.
(CAFA, 2014, Part 3, Section 36, 8)
All that needs to be shown in the request for an EHCNA is that the child may have SEN and that it may need provision in accordance with an EHC Plan. You don’t have to prove that they have either; you just have to show that it may be the case.
The Code of Practice advice
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 gives additional statutory guidance around EHCPs. It gives some detail, beyond the CAFA’s legal test, of what should feature in a request for EHCNA:
- Evidence of the child or young person’s academic attainment
- Information about the nature, extent and context of the child or young person’s SEN
- Evidence of the action already being taken...to meet the child or young person’s SEN
- Evidence that where progress has been made, it has only been as the result of much additional intervention and support
- Evidence of the child or young person’s physical, emotional and social development and health needs
(SEND Code of Practice, 2015, 9.14)
This provides a useful additional checklist of what should feature within your request for an EHCNA.
A handful of tips
My submission of many requests for EHCNA since 2014 has taught me that it’s wise to also show the following, where possible:
1. That you’ve worked with external professionals. That you’ve read their recommendations and implemented them, where your school’s current level of resource enables you to do so.
2. That you’ve put in more provision than you’d expect to do for a child remaining at ‘SEN Support’ level. Showing that this costs more than £6,000 per year is the often-quoted rule of thumb (though it’s not written into law as such). As 3.7% of pupils nationally have an EHCP, it will be helpful if you can show that any percentile scores are down at around this level (while also understanding that SEND is not always quantifiable in this way).
3. That any additional provision you’re requesting will support the child to make increased progress. Make it clear that the (i.e.) speech therapy input, specialist teaching or TA support in class will support that child’s development in school beyond its current trajectory.
4. That if the child’s needs impact upon the learning of other children, this will be lessened by this child having an EHCP.
Don’t forget the legal test. Some local authorities will insist upon several cycles of assess-plan-do-review, educational psychologist reports and engagement with their local authority advisory teachers, before they accept a request.
However, these protocols don’t trump the legal test, which simply states that a child may have SEN and that this may be in accordance with an EHCP. If you have shown that these 2 things are true, there is no valid, legal reason why your request for an EHCNA should be rejected.
Gary Aubin is a MAT SEND lead. He is the author of The Lone SENDCO, a Handbook with over 300 questions and answers for busy SENDCOs, now available for pre-order here. He also authors a blog about the inclusion of children with SEND in mainstream schools, at www.sendmatters.co.uk
Children and Families Act 2014
Special educational needs in England, Academic Year 2020/21 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK