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Local Authorities Failing Thousands of Children with Special Educational Needs

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Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) should set out the special educational provision (SEP) your child or young person needs to meet their Special Educational Needs (SEN). EHCPs should be forward-looking, supporting your child or young person’s interests and preparing them for adulthood.

Local Authorities across England are ‘failing’ thousands of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) by missing the final transition Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) or statement deadline, causing ‘unnecessary’ confusion and distress to those affected.

The legal deadline for Local Authorities to notify the families of children in England who have an EHCP in place in regard to which school place they have been allocated is 15th February.

But figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request by specialist Education Law Solicitors here at Simpson Millar have revealed that in 2017, 103 of the Local Authorities in England who responded reported some sort of delay.

The total figure amounts to 17% of the total number of children in England with an EHCP in place; a staggering 2421 (out of 14079) pupils.

Local Authorities who fail to meet the deadline are in breach of their statutory duty, as families who are not notified of their school by the deadline have less time to manage the transition process for the children, many of whom struggle to adapt.

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Ongoing Investigation into Council Delays 

In a report released on the 21st December 2023, it was found that Hertfordshire County Council was acting unlawful every time it failed to complete a child’s EHCP within the 20-week time frame. It was released that only 38% of EHCP’s were completed in the set time limit – making the problems with Local Authorities an ongoing for children across the UK.

Along with Hertfordshire, articles have been released about the failings of Derbyshire County Council and Somerset Council, who have been fined for delays in SEND support. These Local Authorities join the mass majority in the UK who are failing the support that children require in the school place.

One of our Education Law Solicitors said;

“It’s the responsibility, and indeed the legal duty, of the Local Authorities to carry out a Transition Review and an Education Health and Care needs assessment for children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs who will be moving into secondary school this September,”

“The 15th February deadline is crucial for parents who need time to prepare their children – many of whom need additional support during times of change - for the transition, and for those who wish to appeal the provision or placement set out in the plan.

“The fact that so many Local Authorities have been unable to meet the deadline in the past is quite concerning and hugely upsetting for parents.”

The Education team points out that the deadline was introduced to make sure parents and teachers have enough time to prepare a sensible transition for children who otherwise risk getting a poor start in secondary school; as well as providing sufficient time to lodge an appeal if parents are unhappy with the allocation.

“By missing the deadline, it means that parents have less time to appeal a decision, and because of this it’s not uncommon for children to miss the start of the school year while the appeal process takes place. For any child missing out on the start of school can have a detrimental effect, but this is particularly true for children with additional educational or health related needs.”

“Based on previous figures, hundreds of children with SEN could be subjected to a stressful, poorly managed and hugely overwhelming transition from primary to secondary school which is extremely concerning.”

“We would urge the Local Authorities to do all that they can ahead of the deadline to ensure that all affected pupils receive their notification in time to ensure no one is left in limbo, as has been the case in previous years.”

“For those who do fail to meet the deadline, it’s possible that they will be subjected to legal action in order to hold them accountable for failing to meet their statutory duty.”

Simpson Millar is also urging parents to take note of the deadline, and to be aware that if they do not receive their transition education healthcare plan by the 15th February, they are entitled to take legal action against the Local Authority to speed up the process of receiving notification, and for lodging a potential appeal.

“The sooner a parent takes legal action against a Local Authority who has missed a deadline the greater chance they stand of getting prepared for September. Local Authorities usually engage quickly with threatened legal action when they have missed deadlines, as they know the Courts will not be impressed” Imogen added.

“This time is crucial, so we’d urge parents to be vigilant, and to get in touch with our team of Education Lawyers in the event of a missed deadline.”

What to Do if Your Local Authority Hasn’t Followed the Process

If your Local Authority hasn’t issued the final amended EHCP, then you could seek Judicial Review action against the Local Authority might be an option in this situation. This is a claim to the High Court seeking an Order that the Local Authority issue the final EHCP. Before taking a claim, a letter known as a ‘letter before claim’ is sent to the Local Authority and this usually resolves the matter. Do seek legal advice if you think this is necessary.

How Simpson Millar Can Help

At Simpson Millar, we have a team of some of the leading  Education Law specialists in the UK. Our expert Education Solicitors and SEND Lawyers canhelp you find the right solutions for your child, 

We’re proud to say that we offer practical advice which is based off many years of expertise in the industry and everything relating to Education Law. Our expertise also extends to working alongside other solicitors and Case Managers during or after litigation.

We are proud to say that we always represent parents and children, and not the Local Authorities. Because of this, we are wholeheartedly focused on giving expert advice to you, so that you can navigate the system and get the solutions that your child needs.

Our Education Solicitors cover all areas of Education Law, and anything and everything related to special educational needs and EHCPs.

If you need help with an education issue, get in touch with one of our specialist Education Lawyers on 0808 239 9764.


UK Government. (n.d.). Make a freedom of information request. Retrieved from

The Comet. (2023). Herts County Council EHCP delays found unlawful, High Court. Retrieved from

Yahoo News UK. (2023). Council issues apology, invests £1m after EHCP delays. Retrieved from

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

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