Changing school and the 15 February deadline

If your child has special educational needs (SEN), then 15 February has significant meaning – this is the date by when the local authority (LA) must issue a new Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN for children who are moving on to a new phase of education.

What do we mean by a new phase of education?

The 15 February deadline applies if your child is moving from:

  • Early years education to primary school
  • Infant to junior school
  • Primary/first  to middle school
  • Primary to secondary school
  • Middle to secondary school

What must the LA do?                                                                  

The LA should already have asked you for your school preferences and have sent you an amendment notice or an amended proposed EHCP/Statement. You will have had the chance to respond to the LA’s proposed school with your own preference and the LA must have consulted with your school.

By 15 February the LA must issue a final EHCP/Statement for every child going through a phase transfer as listed above, even if they attend a ‘through’ school, for example, one that goes from 3 to 19 years.

The 15 February deadline is set out in statute –  Reg 18 (1)(b) The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 and is the cut-off date for good reason. The aim is to allow sufficient time to resolve matters if parents disagree with the named school. This means enough time to go through mediation (for EHCPs), to lodge an appeal and for it to be heard and resolved before the start of the new term in September. It also allows time for schools and parents to prepare their child for transition.

Post-16 transfers

The deadline is different for those moving to post-16 education. The deadline here is 31 March in the year of transfer.

What to do if the LA has missed the deadline?

Each year LAs miss the 15 February and 31 March deadline and this year is likely to be worse because LAs are already struggling to meet the 31 March 2018 deadline for transitioning all Statements to EHCPs as set out by the Children and Families Act 2014. We wrote about his in January this year – ‘Are we nearly there yet?’.

You need to find out what is causing the delay. You could ask the LA to issue a final EHCP/Statement immediately but you may want to consider doing this if, for example, the LA is consulting with your preferred school and there a good chance that it may be named.

Whatever the reason for the missed deadline, do not allow the situation run on indefinitely. Tribunal appeals take time to prepare and run to +12 weeks before a decision is made. The Tribunal gets very busy in the summer term and school places fill up.

Ultimately, you could take action against the LA for failing to carry out its duties – an action called judicial review – but you can only do this where there is no other effective means of challenge. This means that you must have tried other options, such as writing to them, first.

Speak to a solicitor before considering this line of action.

Not happy with the school named on the EHCP/Statement?

Try mediation with the LA but if this fails you can challenge the LA’s decision by appealing to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

If you would like to talk about your child’s special educational needs then please contact us at senexpertsolicitors@boyesturner.com or call 0118 952 7219 – our specialist SEN solicitors are here to help.

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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