Worrying statistics regarding SEND reforms & EHCP transition deadlines

The Department for Education (DfE) has issued a new newsletter summarising recent events in relation to the new special educational needs and disability (SEND) reforms.

SEND reform statistics

Perhaps most shocking are the findings from the December 2015 implementation survey of local authorities (LA). 90% of LAs responded to the survey so the figures are a good indicator of how successfully the changes are being implemented. The figures show that LAs are struggling with the implementation. Key figures include:

  • 19% of LA’s completing most of their assessments within the 20 week time frame.
  • 64% of LA’s stating there are issues gathering information from health professionals.
  • 53% of LA’s stating there are issues gathering information from care professionals.
  • 27% of LA’s stating there are issues gathering information from educational psychologists.
  • 69% of LA’s stating there are issues with LA capacity.
  • 24% of LA’s stating they are very confident they will complete the transition review process expected during 2015/16.
  • 26% of LA’s not very or not at all confident that they will complete the transition review processes expected during 2015/16.

I expect the LA’s in between the 24% very confident LAs and bottom 26% not very/at all confident don’t know either way i.e. the transitions may or may not happen within the 20 week time frame and may or may not include all the assessment reports as required by statute. A situation that cannot offer much confidence to parents of children with SEND.

The findings of the survey speak for itself.  LAs are struggling with the SEND reforms despite extra funding and despite this being the second year of the new reforms being in place.

Deadlines for transition to EHCP

The DfE has had to re-emphasise to LAs that there is a requirement to complete phase transfer reviews and issue final Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) on time. As a reminder, for secondary schools LA’s must issue final EHCP’s by 15 February in the calendar year of transfer or 31 March if the transfer is from secondary to post-16 placement.  The DfE acknowledges that not all LAs have been doing this and urges them to progress reviews as quickly as possible.  Where LAs have not issued final plans on time, the DfE urges LAs to write to parents to clarify which school the child/young person will attend and to provide a timetable for when they will issue the final EHCP.  We have written about this before.  As we explained the 15 February/31 March deadline is to allow parents/young people time, if they are not happy with the final Plan, to appeal and to have their appeal heard and resolved in good time before the start of the new placement.

Bearing in mind that EHC needs assessments can take up to 20 weeks (or longer in some cases), this means the transition must have started at least 20 weeks before 15 February/31 March.  Some LAs have turned this around to make it appear that they have deliberately chosen to leave the transition review after the 15 February/31 March deadline to allow for assessments nearer the date of transition so that both placements can be involved in discussions around support required at the new placement.  Whilst this sounds very child centred, it is not correct application of the law.

Some LAs have issued an amended Statement on time naming the new placement, thereby giving parents a right of appeal, but not carried out the EHC needs assessment. In addition to the need to name the new placement, parents also need to be sure that their child will be well supported in their new placement.  If a thorough review has not happened for a while (often not since the child started school i.e. pre-Reception), then the EHC needs assessment is desperately needed to bring the description of the child’s needs and support required up-to-date, particularly before the move to a new placement. If there is any disagreement about the support offered, then parents and young people, need to be given adequate time to appeal and have their appeal heard and resolved before the start of the new school year. Leaving it so late creates additional anxiety at a time that is already unsettling.

This is the second year of transitions to EHCPs.  The DfE has said that their SEND advisers will continue to monitor and follow up with individual LAs.  My question is how will the DfE monitor the current situation any differently to previous monitoring?  If the Department was monitoring the situation in the first year of reforms, why have measures not been put in place to ensure we are not in the same place this year?  LAs will have known of the numbers of children/young people transitioning to new placements for some time. It would be difficult for LA’s to argue that transition has not happened because of a lack of funding given the enormous funding released by the DfE to implement the changes.

If you know of someone or if your child has not yet received an amended EHCP (or 31 March, if your child is transitioning to a post-16 placement), and your child is transitioning to secondary school or going through another phase transfer (eg first to middle school), you need to make sure that you have received a letter from your LA, naming the school that your child will be moving on to and letting you know when the transition to ECHP will be happening.  You should also ensure, that the timetable that the LA provides, will leave you with enough time to appeal the decision to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, should this become necessary.  Remember that you need to leave at least two-three months to have your appeal resolved before the end of term.

You can read the whole DfE February 2016 newsletter here.

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