EHC needs assessments: Process

Some children with SEN may need more support than would be ordinarily available at the SEN support level. These pupils receive support through an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

An Education, Health and Care needs assessment (EHC NA) is a detailed exploration to find out what your child’s special educational needs are and what provision should be put into place to meet them. It is the step before an EHC Plan (often known simply as a ‘plan’), but doesn’t always lead to a plan being written.

An EHCP is a legal document that describes a child or young person’s special educational, health and social care needs; it details the support that is required to meet those needs; and how that support will enable the child or young person to achieve set outcomes and realise their aspirations.

Does my child need an EHC NA?

If you are concerned that your child is not making progress despite the level of support they currently get at school or in their educational setting, you have the right to ask the Local Authority (LA) to carry out an assessment of their needs. They will consider whether your child has or may have a level of needs that requires their provision to be made via an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Check out our information on SEN support. It is expected that the education setting will have tried all they can to meet your child’s needs from their own resources. Watch our webinar, “What is an Education, Health and Care Plan and does my child need one?” for more information.

The Legal Test

The Local Authority (LA) must apply Section 36(8) of the Children & Families Act 2014 (CAFA 2014):

“The local authority must secure an EHC needs assessment for the child or young person if, after having regard to any views expressed and evidence submitted under subsection (7), the authority is of the opinion that—

1) the child or young person has or may have special educational needs, and
2) it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.”

EHC needs assessment Timeline

The EHC Needs Assessment Process

Step 1

Making an EHC NA Request

Step 2

LA decides whether to assess

Step 3

The Assessment

Step 4

Draft EHCP/No Plan

Step 5

Final EHCP

Step 6

Annual Review

Read on to find out more details about what should happen
during the 6 key stages of the EHC Needs Assessment process,
and how you can be involved with these.

Step 1 - Making an EHC NA Request

Who can make the request?
• A parent
• Young person age 16-25
• School
• Anyone else can bring a child to the LAs attention E.g. foster carers, health and social care professionals, or a family friend, where they think it is necessary.

How do I make the EHC NA request?
You should make a written request and keep a copy of your letter. Your letter should set out why you believe your child has or may have SEN, and why you believe they may need special educational provision to be made through an EHC Plan. Send this to the LA’s SEN Team.

There is no legal prescribed format to submit, although LAs may expect you to fill in their own forms for making a EHC needs assessment request. Just note that any imposed criteria to be able to make the request is unlawful.

The LA can only refuse to assess your child if your submission does not indicate potential SEN and/or potential SEP, so make sure this is made completely clear in your application, with supporting evidence.

What is the LA looking for?
Evidence that despite action taken to identify, assess and meet the Special Educational Needs of your child, they have not made expected progress. Your submission should include:

• SEN – The nature, extent, and context of your child’s SEN
OTHER NEEDS – Physical, emotional, social development and health
needs, including relevant evidence from professionals
• LEARNING PROGRESS – Academic attainment or developmental
milestones and the rate of progress. How this has been reviewed over
time. Ensure you have highlighted that there is a highly significant
barrier to learning in comparison to others their own age
• PAST/CURRENT ADDITIONAL SUPPORT – Action already taken by school
to meet your child’s SEN, and whether they have sought/responded to
any advice from external professionals. Areas where progress has been
made, but only as result of much additional intervention and support,
over and above what is usually provided
• OUTCOMES WANTED – What you want to achieve through access to
special education provision. i.e. achieving educational outcomes,
preparation for adulthood, independent and social skills etc.

Making an EHC Request (Webpage)

Find out more details about making an EHC needs assessment request here

Parental EHC Request Guide (Southampton)

Use this guide to help you fill out the forms specifically for Southampton City Council residents

Parental EHC Request Template Letter

Use this template letter if you wish to write to the LA requesting an EHC needs assessment

Step 2 - LA decides whether to assess (By 6 Weeks)

Consideration of EHC NA
The LA must confirm to you and the school, as soon as is practicable, that they are considering an EHCNA. They have a duty to consult you and check over the evidence submitted before making their decision.

Paragraph 9.14 of the SEND Code of Practice provides guidance for LAs to use when deciding if an assessment is necessary, however this is not an exhaustive list. Remember that the legal test is a low threshold and any imposing policies or additional requirements are unlawful.

The Decision – whether to assess or not
The LA must notify you of their decision within 6 weeks of receiving the request. This is required by regulation 4(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. The LA should always reply to you as a parent or young person – even where the request was made by the school or college.

If the LA decides not to carry out the EHCNA
You will have the right and the opportunity to appeal against this decision. The decision letter must notify that there is a right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), and should contain details of a mediation service for you to contact.

If the LA decides yes they will carry out the EHCNA
The process moves on to the next stage.

Whichever the LA decides, they must notify the parents in writing and explain their reasons for the decision. 

What can you do?
You should make a note of the 6 week deadline for the LA’s reply. If they do not respond in time, you can use IPSEA’s model letter to complain to the LA (below).

SEN Support & Whether Your Child Needs an EHCP

Use this to help you consider what has already been done and whether there are more options to consider before an EHC assessment

Appealing a Refusal to Assess Decision Factsheet

Use this to guide you through what to do if you receive and disagree with a Refusal to Assess decision

Failure to Respond (Complaint) Template Letter

If the LA do not respond within the time limit (within 6 weeks), you can use this template letter to make a complaint

Step 3 - The Assessment (By 16 Weeks)

What advice/information must the LA seek out?
• The needs of the child or young person
• What provision may be required to meet such needs
• About the outcomes that are intended to be achieved by the child or young person receiving that provision
• If within or beyond year 9 – advice in relation to provision for preparation for adulthood

Who from?
• The child’s parent or young person
• Education provider
• Health care professionals
• Educational psychologist
• Social care
• Anyone else the LA thinks is appropriate
• Any person reasonably requested by the parent or young person

How you can be involved
The LA must ensure the parent and child/young person are included in this
stage and supported to be able to participate in decisions.

The final EHCP must describe the needs and support your child must receive in enough detail so that the reader can clearly tell what must be delivered, how often, how long for, and by whom. This detail is referred to as specificity. Therefore, all evidence must be clear, accessible and specific.

In light of this, here are some points to consider before confirming you are
satisfied with the evidence/professional reports:

• How recent was the info obtained?
• Does it appropriately address outcomes?
• Is it sufficiently detailed about all your child’s needs?
• Is it quantifiable and specific about provision required to meet all of
those needs?
• Watch out for woolly phrases in the recommendations such as:
“access to”, “opportunities for”, “input from”, “may benefit from” etc.

(COMING SOON) Parental Contribution Guide

Use this to help you organise your thoughts and put together your contribution to your child's EHC needs assessment

(COMING SOON) Specificity Factsheet

Use this factsheet for more details about what to look for in the advice and reports from professionals to ensure specificity

Failure to Assess Properly (Complaint) Template Letter

If the LA does not obtain adequate advice that does not address needs, provision and outcomes, you can use this letter to make a complaint

Step 4 - Draft EHCP/No Plan (By 16-20 Weeks)

There are only 2 possible outcomes from an EHC NA
1. The LA decides to issue an EHC plan and sends a draft plan; or
2. The LA decides not to issue an EHC plan

If the LA decide not to issue an EHC plan (No Plan)
A notification letter will be sent to parents/young person explaining the reasons why. The legal test is whether it is necessary for special educational provision to be made in accordance with an EHCP. The letter must state your right to appeal this decision and contain details for a mediation service to contact.

If the LA decide to issue an EHC plan (Draft Plan)
The LA will send you their decision in writing along with a draft EHCP. Once a draft plan has been received you will have at least 15 calendar days in which to –
• Make representations about the content of the draft EHC plan, and to request that a particular school or other institution be named in the plan; and
• Require the LA to arrange a meeting between them and an officer of the LA at
which the draft EHC plan can be discussed.

Choosing a School
When writing back to the LA regarding the draft EHCP, you can request your preferred choice of placement and have a back-up choice. The LA must name your chosen school in the EHCP unless they can prove that it is;
1. Unsuitable for your child or
2. Incompatible with the education of others or
3. An inefficient use of resources

You can find details of local schools and their SEN provision on your LA’s Local Offer website. Tour around potential schools if you can, ask questions and compare notes. 

For further information and advice about choosing a school, please see our resource on the topic (below) to help you make your decision. Please remember that our service is impartial and therefore we cannot recommend specific settings.

Contents of an Education, Health and Care Plan

EHC plans can be long and complicated. They are required by law to contain certain sections, and it is important to ensure your EHC plan matches the legal requirements. If it doesn’t, it could make it difficult to enforce.

An EHC plan does not have a fixed format – each LA can develop its own ‘style’ – but legally they must contain a number of separate sections.

Under Regulation 12 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”), an EHC plan must have the following sections:

Section A – Parent/Child Views & aspirations
Section B – Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Section C – Health Care Needs (related to SEN)
Section D – Social Care Needs (related to SEN)
Section E – Outcomes (intended result of SEP)
Section F – Special Educational Provision (including therapies)
Section G – Health Care Provision
Section H – Social Care Provision
Section I – Name & Type of Education Placement (left blank in draft)
Section J – Personal Budget / Direct Payments
Section K – Index / Evidence Documents

Check the contents of the draft EHCP
• Remember to check for specificity.
• Does Section B list all of your child’s needs?
• Does Section F list specific provisions for each individual need in Section B?
• Are the outcomes in Section E up-to-date and appropriate?
• Watch out for woolly phrases such as: “access to”, “opportunities for”, “input
from”, “may benefit from” etc.
• Use the IPSEA EHCP checklist to check all areas of the draft plan.

For further details on EHCP content, click on the link below in the Final EHCP section.

Responding to a Draft EHCP Template Letter

You can use this template letter to structure your response to the LA about your draft EHCP

Choosing an EHCP Placement (Q&A Sheets)

You can use our Q&A sheets to compare schools/settings and add your own questions

Choosing a Nursery/ School/College (Resource)

For further information and advice about choosing a school, please see our resource here

Step 5 - Final EHCP (By 20 Weeks)

What must happen?
The LA must consult with the school you have requested and other schools they are considering.
• Following these discussions a final plan is issued with necessary changes from the draft and a school is named in the plan.
The LA has 15 calendar days from receiving your draft comments to do this.
• An EHCP should take no longer than 20 weeks from the initial request to the issue of a plan.

Check the finalised EHCP
• Has the LA made any changes in response to your representations?
• Specificity?
• Are you satisfied with the school/institution named in the EHCP?
• If you still have disagreements with the contents of the EHCP, you can lodge an appeal with the SEND Tribunal.
• If you are happy with the EHCP – then sit back and observe/monitor the effects of your child receiving the provision in the plan.

Content of an EHC Plan (Webpage)

For further details on the content of an EHC Plan and what each section must include, find out here

Appealing a School Placement Decision Factsheet

Use this to guide you through what to do if you disagree with a Section I Placement decision

Failure to Send EHCP (Complaint) Template Letter

You can use this template letter to make a complaint if you don't receive a copy of a draft or final EHCP

Step 6 - Annual Review (Every 12 Months)

What is an Annual Review?
The Annual Review is the statutory process of looking at the needs and provision specified in an EHC Plan, and deciding whether these need to change.
It is a statutory process, not a meeting.

The Local Authority (LA) carries out the Annual Review and often delegates parts of the process to the school/college.

The first review of the EHC plan must be held within 12 months of the EHC plan being finalised. Subsequent reviews must be held within 12 months of the previous review.

How you can be involved

What to think about when preparing your views:
• What progress has your child made towards the outcomes in their plan?
• If your child has not made progress in some areas, what do you think needs to change? Are new strategies of support needed, or perhaps some new advice?
• Is the learning setting still appropriate?
• Have there been any new assessments or observations?
• Have any new needs been identified?
• Have any of the outcomes been achieved?

All about Annual Reviews (Webpage)

For more details about the Annual Review process, find out here

Annual Reviews and how you can be involved (Resource)

For further information and advice about Annual Reviews, please see our resource here

Failure to Complete Review (Complaint) Template Letter

You can use this to make a complaint about the annual review process not being followed properly

Rights of Appeal during the EHC Process

• Refusal to Assess (first 6 weeks)
• Refusal to issue an EHCP (16-20 weeks in)
• The Contents of the final EHCP – including chosen school (end of assessment)

The LA will have based their assessment and decisions on the advice/information that was submitted. If you feel there is something missing, you may need more evidence to back it up.

You can contact us to request our detailed factsheets for these appeals and make a referral to us for individualised support.

Lodging an Appeal – Checklist & Overview
1. Make a note of your appeal deadline. Add to calendars, diaries, set reminders
2. Received signed LA decision letter – opening your right of appeal
3. Obtain signed mediation certificate (after considering mediation)
4. Complete SEND35 appeal form (or SEND35a) with your reasons
5. Add the EHCP and all documents listed in Part K (if issued)
6. Add the evidence documents that support your appeal
7. Add a chronological list of all the documents enclosed
8. Make scans/photocopies of your appeal bundle, keep originals for your records
9. Register your appeal: submit a COPY of your bundle to the SEND Tribunal
10.Submit any further evidence that is relevant up until the evidence deadline

Further Information on the EHCP Process

Reading the relevant legislation in:
Children and Families Act 2014 (Section 36-44)
SEND Code of Practice 2015 (Chapter 9)
SEN Regulations 2014 (3-10)
• Browsing your Local Authority’s “Local Offer”
• Getting in touch with your local SENDIASS and reading our factsheets
Other organisations such as IPSEA, Contact & the Council for Disabled Children

EHC assessments Resource

You can find all this information in our downloadable EHC assessments resource from our parent training programme here.

This is also available to watch via our pre-recorded webinar with further commentary here.

Find out more about EHCPS

Resolving Issues & Appeals

Are there problems with your EHCP and/or the process? Find out how to resolve these here


Do you have concerns over the money side of things? Find out more about funding for children with EHCPs


Find out about what transport arrangements you can get for your child with SEN and your rights

Skip to content