Although Statements of special educational needs have been around since 1981, for many parents, the Annual Review (AR) remains a bit of a mystery, even for those of us who have been rattling around in the system a while. The introduction of the Education, Health and Care plan in 2014, didn't improve its clarity. There are some small tweaks in the wording under the Children & Families Act, and it’s that wording I’m going to stick to here.
Why have a yearly review?
At least once a year, the EHCP must be reviewed to see if it is a) still required and b) needs updating (amending). Just to be a bit nit-picky, it is not the meeting that is the AR, it is the letter that comes from the Local Authority (LA) four weeks after the meeting. Four weeks is set in law, two weeks for the Headteacher to prepare and send a report to the LA, and two weeks for the LA to decide what it wishes to do. I shall return to this, after the AR meeting!
The Annual Review meeting
Most parents will have their meetings at their child’s school, some will have meetings at the young person’s college and a few will have meetings held elsewhere, for example, those who electively home-educate may have their meeting at home or at a neutral venue.
The LA must:
- consult the child and the child’s parents (or the young person) and take into account their views, wishes and feelings;
- consider the child or young person’s progress towards achieving the outcomes specified in the EHCP and whether these outcomes remain appropriate, and;
- consult the school or other institution attended by the child or young person.
This is in the SEN Regulations (SEN Reg 19). Hold the thought about the middle one – outcomes - for a moment.
I’m going to assume that the child or young person attends a school (but if they don’t, the duty falls to the LA). Parents must be given at least two weeks’ notice of the AR meeting. The parent and their child must be invited, or the young person, along with:
- the Headteacher;
- a LA officer (EHCP case worker);
- a health care professional and;
- a LA social care professional
(SEN Reg 20(2))
Who organises everything?
The person arranging the meeting must obtain advice and information about the child or young person from those just listed above, and must circulate this at least two weeks before the meeting.
Hang on, back up there for a moment... An EHCP is an Education, Health and Care plan, so the AR is a meeting in which information from Health and Social Care is also bought to the table, not just Education. I’m not going to attempt to speculate how often this actually happens…..
Outcomes for the child or young person
Going to go back to outcomes. So, here we are, two weeks before the date of the meeting and we’ve just been given lots of information regarding how far our offspring has progressed towards meeting their outcomes as written in the EHCP – or have we? We should, at this point, be able to look at (e.g.) Alfie’s ability to reproduce the 44 sounds in English…. Yes? No?
There is no point in a school producing this information as we pull up our chair. If the information is not circulated, a polite, ‘Oh dear, you seem to have missed me off the circulation list’ email might do the trick. If not, ask the school to put the meeting date back and to allow two clear weeks. If that happens, the LA is likely to miss their 12 month deadline to review the plan – which is a Statutory Duty. This is not your problem but theirs!
The idea of getting the information two weeks ahead is so that you can give it careful consideration. If Alfie has not met this outcomes, why not? How close did he get? Should the outcomes remain, be removed, or be tweaked? Maybe Alfie has indeed mastered all 44 sounds and is moving on to onset-rime (e.g. cat/sat/mat). If so, you and the school should suggest a new outcome. If Alfie is expected to master all 44 sounds within the next few weeks, again a new outcome may be in order. If Alfie is way off, why? Is the provision correct? If not, what needs changing? What does the school have to say?
Given that EHCPs should to contain a number of outcomes, the two weeks’ notice is clearly needed. If Alfie is in Year 9 or above, provision to assist his preparation into adulthood and independent living should also be considered.
What happens after the meeting?
Where the child or young person is still in a school, the Headteacher must prepare a written report after the meeting, setting out their recommendations for any amendments they consider necessary. This must be sent to the LA within two weeks. This report should also set out any areas of disagreement regarding the proposed amendments from those attending the meeting. Where the child or young person does not attend the school, the LA makes the written report. This report should also contain the information circulated two weeks before the meeting.
The AR meeting therefore, brings everyone together with the relevant information of what has been happening over the past year and collects the child and parent, or young person’s views. The information is considered in regards to the outcomes and should also include proposed changes to outcomes, and needs/provision, where necessary.
Within four weeks of the meeting, you get ‘the AR letter’. Not only should it state whether the EHCP will be maintained in its current form, amended or ceased (SEN Reg 20(10)), it will also contain information about what you should do if you disagree with the LAs decision.
Amending an EHCP
If the LA decides to amend the EHCP, they should do this without delay. A notice specifying the amendments must be sent to the parents or young person, along with evidence to support those changes. The parents/young person has 15 days to:
- make representations about the content of the draft plan;
- request that a particular school or other institution be named in the plan;
- request a meeting with an officer of the local authority, if they wish to make representations orally
(SEN Reg 22(2)(c))
The LA must send the final EHCP as soon as is practicable, and in any event, within 8 weeks.
However, there is a pretty major flaw to the reforms – you can’t appeal outcomes in the SEND tribunal. If the LA is not considering your or the young person’s views, wishes and feelings and/or has set waffly or inappropriate outcomes, your only recourse is via a Judicial Review.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We will be putting together an Annual Review Flow Chart very soon, so watch out for it!
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