Claire and Catherine from Somerset’s Statutory SEND team talk through some of the improvements made in February 2022, as part of our Local Offer Live series, explaining what families should expect from each step of the Annual Review process and Amendment process.
Once an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is in place, it should be reviewed at least every 12 months. Reviews must focus on the child or young person’s progress towards achieving the outcomes set out in the plan. The review should also decide whether the plan and targets are still right. Reviews should be arranged to be held every year (within 12 months from the date of issue of the final or previous review, not the date of the amended plan). But there are some exceptions to this:
- For children under the age of 5, going a year without a review is seen as being far too long. It is recommended that their EHC plan will be reviewed every 3 to 6 months. Because of this, the review process may not always have the full involvement of wider professionals as outlined below, although families must be consulted of any recommendations for changes.
- Where a child or young person is approaching a ‘phase transfer’ and are transferring between key phases of education. For example, nursery to reception; first school to middle school; primary school to secondary school or secondary school to post 16 education. These reviews will have a deadline in the spring term so that there is enough time to communicate with their new education setting. This may mean that an annual review meeting will happen earlier than expected, to make sure there is enough time to have the plan finalised by the statutory deadline.
- A parent or education setting can request an early annual review if they feel there are sudden and/or significant changes to the child or young persons’ needs and/or provision required. If a child or young person with an EHC plan is at risk of permanent exclusion an early annual review should be held.
Although the code of practice clearly states that plans must be reviewed every 12 months, it also says that it does not expect plans to be changed or amended very frequently. The local authority then looks for evidence of a significant change in need, whether a change of placement is needed, or if the child or young person is approaching a phase transfer as key criteria for whether amendments should be made.
An annual review is commonly mistaken to be purely the meeting hosted by an educational setting focusing on the child or young person’s EHC plan. It is in fact the name for the five step process, which includes a meeting.
What happens at the annual review meeting
In most cases the local authority asks the education setting to co-ordinate and hold the annual review on its behalf. The setting’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) will usually take on this role, making sure that families and all professionals supporting the child or young person have at least 2 weeks’ notice of the review meeting. In advance of receiving invitations, written contributions should be requested from all relevant professionals, as well as from the family and child or young person. These should then be sent alongside the invitations, to give all attendees time to read, digest and prepare thoughts ahead of the meeting.
The meeting will usually take place at the education setting and will be chaired by a member of staff, usually the SENCO or class teacher. The review meeting will want to hear the child’s or young person’s views on their education, their support and what they want to happen next. It is really important that the voice of the child is shown in the process, regardless of their age or level of need. For young people in Year 9 and above, the annual review process must also focus on preparation for adulthood.
Families will also have the opportunity to give their views and wishes for the child or young person’s future. In the meeting, the current Education, Health, Care plan will be looked at to make sure that it still represents the child’s or young person’s needs and that the outcomes and provisions are still relevant to meet the needs. Any changes that are required will need to be captured on the annual review report and will need to be evidenced. Families can also use the annual review meeting to request a personal budget for their child or young person.