EHC Plans and Post-16 Education

With the introduction of Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans, the way young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) receive education after the age of 16 has changed.

Transferring Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Children To Secondary School

Previously a local authority had a duty by law to carry out a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) for all young people that had a statement of special educational needs and were continuing in education or training outside of a school after the age of 16. In September 2014, the SEND system for post-16 education changed with the unification of SEND planning under EHC Plans.

In this guide, we will highlight the following aspects of post-16 education for SEND young adults:

How EHC Plans Cater For Post-16 Education

EHC Plans can be in place to outline the educational provision and placement for young people with SEND up to the age of 25.

EHC assessments are a collaborative effort between educational institutions, parents, local authorities, and professionals involved with the young person. EHC Plans identify the young person’s needs, the additional support required to meet these needs, and desired outcomes for the young person.

The parent of a young person with SEND, or indeed the young person themselves, may disagree with the local authority on the contents of the EHC Plan. You have a right to challenge a local authority on the following points:

  • It would be unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the child; or
  • The child’s attendance at the school would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources

Personal budgets may also factor into post-16 education provision, and the amount provided within an EHC Plan could play a part in how educational provision is delivered to a young person with SEND.

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Preparing For Post-16 Education

As with any big change in life, early preparation is key to ensuring a comfortable transition from secondary to post-16 education.

Planning for post-16 education provision should begin while the individual making the transition is still in year 9, so that all available options can be researched and scrutinised. Much like the transition from primary to secondary, the jump to post-16 education can be daunting – ensuring that the young person with SEND is aware of the changes, and is comfortable with them, can go a long way to preparing them for post-16 education.

Early engagement in the planning process of an EHC Plan is recommended before the jump to post-16 education, as any disagreements with the local authority outlining future education provision or placements may take a long time to resolve. Addressing these disagreements early can help to ensure that an EHC Plan that has been agreed upon by all parties is in place before the young person finishes secondary school – If it isn’t then an appeal can be submitted to the SEND Tribunal.

Talking to the young person's current education provider outside of an official EHC Plan meeting might also help to prepare for the transition, as it can help to establish how receptive the school will be to requests in an updated EHC Plan.

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What Part Does A local authority Play In Education Provision Post-16?

Local authorities are legally responsible for the preparation and implementation of post-16 education provision via an EHC Plan. At the year 9 annual review of an EHC Plan, a 'Transition Plan' should be drawn up, with this plan clearly outlining the steps that need to be taken during the transition to post-16 education.

Local authorities should co-ordinate with the school's careers service in every annual review from year 9, with this collaboration having the express goal of ensuring that the young person's post-16 education provision successfully hits the targets outlined in an EHC Plan.

Deadlines are set out in law to ensure that local authorities are completing their required steps within a reasonable timeframe. As EHC Plans need to be amended to plan for post-16 education, local authorities have until 31 March of the year the young person is transitioning to issue an amended final EHC Plan, which sets out the provision and names the institution that will deliver the education or training.

With the transferral of Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments to EHC Plans the role played by local authorities in cases where a young person is due to start a Further Education (FE) college has changed. In previous years a Statement of SEN would cease if a pupil with SEN attended an FE college, meaning that the local authority would no longer have any responsibility for the young person's education, instead support could be provided through a Learning Difficulty Assessment. This has changed with EHC Plans, as FE colleges can be named on EHC Plans, meaning that the local authority's legal duties under an EHC Plan continue even if the young person attends an FE college for post-16 education.

Learning Difficulty Assessments are in the process of transferring to EHC Plans. However, all young people continuing in education or training beyond 01 September 2016 who are supported with a Learning Difficulty Assessment must be issued with an EHC Plan by that date, if one is needed.

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Challenging Post-16 EHC Plans

Like any EHC Plan, post-16 plans can be challenged when they are issued, or through the Annual Review process. One of the most common disagreements between parents and carers of SEN school leavers and a local authority is the institution named on an EHC Plan.

If you have researched local institutions and feel that there is a better option for the young person than what has been laid out in their EHC Plan, then the decision can be challenged through an appeal to the SEND Tribunal, which will allow you to try and name another institution that you feel would be suitable

In cases such as these it is recommended that a challenge is brought to the Tribunal as early as possible, as the appeal process could result in an institution not being confirmed and in place for the start of the school year.

Often challenges to a post-16 EHC Plans run without too much issue, as local authorities can be receptive to suggestions. However, the most common point of disagreement on suggested changes lies within funding, as local authorities can be unwilling to contribute budget to EHC Plans. They can also be reluctant to name a placement or allow a certain provision. When mediation does not resolve disagreements or if mediation doesn’t take place a case can be made to an SEND Tribunal.

Facing an SEND Tribunal can be a daunting task and it is advisable to seek legal advice prior to the tribunal. Simpson Millar has a team of SEN education specialists, who will be able to advise how best to prepare for, and approach, the Tribunal.

Contact Us for Expert Legal Advice

If you would like to challenge a local authority over an EHC Plan or Statement of SEN, our team of experienced education specialists can outline the best process for your specific case, providing tailored advice on how to take your case against the local authority.

We're here to offer clear and practical advice, ultimately helping to ensure your child receives the best education and the best start in life.

Contact us today on 0808 129 3320 to find out how we can help you.

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Imogen Jolley - Education Law Solicitor | Simpson Millar| Lancaster

Imogen Jolley
Partner, Head of Education & Community Care

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