Back to School Special: Day 2 - EHCP Annual Reviews and Phase Transfer Reviews

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Back to School Special: Day 2 - EHCP Annual Reviews and Phase Transfer Reviews

This is the second article in our ‘Back to School’ series; yesterday we examined the content of Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs). You can find the article here.

Annual Reviews

Local authorities (LAs) must review EHCPs at least once every twelve months, and should review every six months for a child under 5 years.

The process and timescales for EHCP annual reviews are outlined in the SEND Regulations 2014. In most cases the LA requests the school/college arranges the annual review meeting, but whoever is arranging the meeting must invite and request advice and information from the following, and must circulate that advice to all invitees at least 2 weeks before meeting date:

  • the child’s parent or the young person;
  • the provider of the relevant early years education or the head teacher or principal of the school or other institution attended by the child or young person;
  • an officer of the authority who exercises the LA’s education functions in relation to children and young people with SEN;
  • a health care professional identified by the responsible commissioning body to provide advice about health care provision in relation to the child or young person;
  • an officer who exercises the LA’s social services functions in relation to children / young people with SEN

At the annual review meeting the pupil, parents, school, LA representative, and other professionals (if attending) will consider the pupil’s progress towards their EHCP outcomes, and whether the needs and/or provision specified in the EHCP require amendment. If the pupil is in or beyond year 9, the meeting must also consider provision to prepare them for adulthood and independent living. If there are concerns about the suitability of the current placement or a change of placement is requested, this will be noted.

Within 2 weeks of the review meeting, the school/college must send a report to the LA and everyone invited to the meeting. The report must set out recommendations for any amendments required to the EHCP.

Within 4 weeks of the meeting, the LA must send a decision letter to the parents or carers notifying them whether they intend to amend the EHCP, maintain the EHCP as it is, or cease to maintain it. If the EHCP is to be amended, the LA must include the draft amended EHCP with its decision letter.

If a change of placement is being requested, the LA must consult the placement and will also approach other placements that may be suitable.

The LA must issue a final amended EHCP within 12 weeks of the Annual Review meeting.

You can read our other article on the annual review process here.

Phase Transfer Reviews

‘Phase transfer’ refers to the movement from one stage or phase of education to another, i.e.

  • early years provider to school
  • infant school to junior school
  • primary school to middle school
  • primary school to secondary school
  • middle school to secondary school
  • secondary school to post-16 institution

Pupils with an EHCP are not subject to the usual admissions process at these times. Instead, the LA will complete a phase transfer review (sometimes called a ‘transition review’).

A phase transfer review is very similar to the usual EHCP annual review, but parents will be asked to indicate their preferred placement for the following academic year and the LA must issue the final amended EHCP naming the pupil’s placement by 15 February (or 31 March for transfers to post-16 education). Taking the usual annual review timescales into account, the review meeting should therefore take place early in the autumn term - ideally no later than October.

We recommend families start thinking about future placement up to 24 months before the pupil is due to transfer, and visit potential placements as early as possible. The Children and Families Act gives parents the right to request:

  • a maintained school or nursery
  • an Academy
  • a non-maintained special school
  • an institution approved by the Secretary of State under section 41 Children and Families Act 2014 (often known as a s.41 independent school)
  • a further education institution in England

If parents request a place at one of these types of institution, the LA may only refuse if the placement is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the pupil; or because the attendance of the pupil there would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others or efficient use of resources. The LA cannot refuse a placement simply because the school/college is ‘full’.

Parents requesting an independent placement that is not s.41 registered will need to have an offer of a place. However, there is no obligation on the LA to name this type of placement.

If all parties agree that the EHCP is up to date, the only change is to the named placement, and the LA is advised of the parents’ preference, then a final amended Plan can be issued fairly quickly. However, if any other part of the EHCP is to be amended, the LA must send a draft version to parents within 4 weeks and allow them at least 15 days to return their comments.

Parents disagreeing with the final EHCP are strongly advised to appeal to tribunal as soon as possible, or matters may not be concluded before the pupil is due to transfer to their next placement.

You can read our other articles on phase transfer reviews here:

What else do I need to know?

Parents can take a representative – such as a solicitor – to the annual review / phase transfer review meeting if they wish.

There are strict timescales around EHCP reviews: LAs and schools/colleges will need to ensure information and advice is sought from professionals before the annual review meeting, and not after the meeting, as is often the case.

We are SEN experts. To speak to one of our team about how we could help with your child/young person’s EHCP review, call 0118 467 6547.


I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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