As a parent or carer, you want to make sure your child’s EHCP covers everything they need. SEN legal expert, Laxmi Patel looks at specific information in EHCPs and why vague terms are not good enough.
Many people ask me ’how specific does an EHCP have to be?’. Followed by ‘how specific is specific?’.
I always tell them, when it comes to ECHPs and specifically Section F, Education support, the answer is as specific as it can be.
It is set out in law that any support in Section F (education support) of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) must be so specific and clear that there is no room for doubt as to what has been decided.
And there is a very good reason for that.
Parents and all professionals need to know what must be delivered, by whom, how often etc. Without that level of specific information in EHCPs, it is impossible to monitor whether or not the support has been delivered.
Although set out in law, a recent case in Oxfordshire made the point again that a high level of specific information is required, even when the education placement is in a special school or a mainstream school with a special resource base.
What is great about this case for other parents is that it gives helpful examples of what would be considered unlawful provision (because it is not specific enough) in Section F of the EHCP.
Examples of lack of specific information in EHCPs
Here are some examples of what might be written in an EHCP and why it needs more detail.[C] is the child in question
- [C] will have support from a Learning Support Assistant.
Why is this unlawful? Such a statement as this fails to identify how much support the child will have, or what training and experience the Learning Support Assistant should have to support the child. If a child has complex needs and difficulties, it is important that there is detail as to the exact support the child requires and how that will be delivered.
- [C] requires a programme to develop his social communication and social interaction skills delivered in 1:1 and small group settings with opportunities to practice new skills learnt throughout the day.
Why is this unlawful? Simply stating that a programme is required adds nothing to the EHCP and doesn’t set out exactly what the child needs. The programme must be described, and its content must be specific to the child’s requirements. The use of the word ‘opportunities’ is vague, meaningless and can’t be enforced, meaning you won’t be able to challenge it for specific detail. This is why it’s important to get specific information in EHCPs before they are agreed.
- Daily opportunities with a teacher to improve self-esteem and develop a positive self through increased awareness of individual strengths and attributes and through achieving success in a variety of contexts.
Why is this unlawful? Again, the use of the word ‘opportunities’ is vague, meaningless and unenforceable. The description of support gives no understanding of what provision will actually be provided. It needs to detail what is required, what specific activities, tasks and support your child needs to achieve these outcomes.
- [C] requires a structured programme to develop his motor planning coordination skills.
Why is this unlawful? Again, there is no detail as to what is required. Details of the programme must be set out; including who will deliver the programme? How often will it be delivered and for what duration? Who will assess and review the programme and how often?
- [C] requires the equivalent 25 hours of support to be used flexibly across the school day to include individual, small group and whole class teaching to meet the outcomes described.
Why is this unlawful? This, again, is vague and lacks specific information on what is required, when, for how long etc. Also, ask what is meant by equivalent? Who is to provide the support? It is this detail that you need in the EHCP.
Key points for getting specific information in EHCPs
The focus needs to be on the specifics of your child’s needs and what he or she requires to meet them.
If you are told that there is a need for some flexibility in the EHCP, it cannot be used as a reason for lack of specific information where detail could reasonably be given.
If your child’s EHCP has vague, unspecific and meaningless words in Section F, you must not ignore them, ask for detail, speak to the relevant people and ensure the specific detail is included when drafting an EHCP.
What to do next with your child’s EHCP
Check Section F of your child’s EHCP, either now or in preparation for the next Annual Review.
- Are there plenty of ‘opportunities for’ your child to do things?
- Is there a lot of flexibility?
- Is it difficult for you to know exactly what support your child should be receiving?
- If so, make sure you ask for amendments, and specific ones at that.
Were you aware of the need for specific information in EHCPs? Is your child’s EHCP specific enough? Let us know in the comments below, tweet us @weareMFON, find us on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laxmi Patel is Partner and Head of the Special Educational Needs Team at Boyes Turner LLP.