Thinking about an EHC needs assessment

Many parents ask themselves whether their child might need an EHC needs assessment – especially if they’re struggling at school or their support doesn’t seem to be right or be enough.

In reality, only a few children have an EHC needs assessment and plan. For every ten children in England with special education needs or a disability (SEND), two will need an EHC plan and eight won’t.

Most children and young people with SEND go to a mainstream nursery, school or college and are supported by their staff, resources and funds. Teachers and other professionals regularly review how a child or young person is getting on and support them to learn, develop and feel safe. This is called special educational needs support or SEN support.

Find out more about SEN support in nursery, school or college and EHC plans below.

There is also information about other part of the needs assessment.

What support is available in nurseries, schools and colleges?

SEN support in nurseries, schools and colleges is based around the specific needs of each child or young person. The staff, equipment, resources and support that help your child are decided using something called the graduated response. This is an ‘assess, plan, do, and review’ cycle. That means if your child special educational needs, the school or college should:

assess what support they need
plan the support
do the support set out in the plan and then
review how well it’s working

Information about your child’s needs, support and goals should be written down in a plan, which is used by staff and updated regularly. Schools and colleges use all kinds of plans, so your child’s plan may look different from one for a child from a different school. What’s important is that your child has a clearly written plan which lists all their needs, support and goals. For most children and young people with SEND the support the school gives works and they make progress.

But sometimes the support for a child isn’t enough or isn’t right. Your child may not make the progress that’s expected and start to fall behind other children their age. Or their difficulties in school get worse not better, and their behaviour at school or home becomes more challenging.

If things aren’t going well for your child and they’re not making progress, your first step is to ask for a meeting to review their nursery, school or college plan. At the meeting you can talk about the support they’re getting, what may need to change and how you’ll know if any new support is working.

If reviewing the plan and making changes to the support doesn’t make a difference, you can ask whether a needs assessment for an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan should be the next step.

You can find out more about the support that’s available in schools on the Devon SEND Local Offer pages.

Does my child need an EHC plan to get support or funding at school?

No. All schools and all school and academy sixth forms, sixth form colleges, further education colleges and 16-19 academies have funding for children with SEND. Early years settings such as nurseries can also get extra money to support a child with SEND.

Your child doesn’t need an EHC plan to get funding and support in nursery, school or college.

What is an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan?

EHC plans are for children or young people aged up to 25 with special educational needs (SEN) who need more support than can be given through SEN support in their mainstream nursery, school or college.

An EHC plan is a legal document that describes your child or young person’s

• special educational needs
• health needs (in terms of how these affect their education)
• social care needs (in terms of how these affect their education)

It explains

• the extra help your child will be given to meet their needs
• how that support will make a difference to them
• how their support can help them to achieve what they want in life

EHC plans are made by a local authority after an EHC needs assessment. A plan can include your child’s health or social care needs as well as their educational needs, but they won’t get a plan if they only have health or social care needs that don’t affect their education. Your local authority (LA) must make sure that your child or young person gets everything that’s in their plan. EHC plans became law in 2014 and have now replaced Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments.

One of the main aims of an EHC plan is to give a child or young person support that helps them achieve the best possible results in their journey towards adulthood. It may seem like a long way off, but even from early years the support set out in a plan should challenge a child to become as independent as possible. This means taking small regular steps towards developing the skills they’ll need for adult life.

What goes into an EHC plan?

An EHC plan is made up of information given to the local authority by

  • you
  • your child or young person
  • the people who support your child or those who have assessed their needs.

The plan should

  • describe positively what your child can do and what they’ve already achieved
  • set out your views, your child’s views and their goals for the future
  • clearly and specifically list what your child’s needs are and the support they will have
  • say what difference the support will make to them (outcomes) – these should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

The SEND Code of Practice is the legal guidance about special educational needs and disability (SEND) support for local authorities to follow. It gives a detailed list of what should be in an EHC plan. The Council for Disabled Children also has a guide to good examples for the different parts of an EHC plan.

What if staff at school or college think my child doesn't need an EHC needs assessment or a plan?

Parents are sometimes told by professionals that they don’t think their child needs an EHC needs assessment, or that an assessment would show they don’t need a plan. This can feel uncomfortable, as ideally it makes sense for everyone to support the application for an EHC needs assessment.

If your child’s teacher or the SENCO don’t want to support an application for assessment, ask if you can meet to talk about it, to see whether you can come to any agreement. If that’s not possible and you want to go ahead and apply, you can ask for a needs assessment yourself without the support of nursery, school or college. You can also contact us for advice and information.


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Page last updated: March 2019 Page due for review: March 2021