Parents of Children with Special Educational Needs Urged to Act Now

28th August 2019

Parents of children with Special Educational Needs who are still awaiting a final transition Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) or statement are being urged to take action against the Local Authorities in the North East of England amidst concerns that dozens remain ‘in limbo’ ahead of the new school year.

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

But figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request by specialist Education Lawyers at Simpson Millar ahead of the new academic school year, have revealed that in 2019, eight Local Authorities in the region who responded reported delays.

The total figure for delays amounted to 15% of the total number of children in the North East with an EHCP in place; a staggering 130 (out of 862) pupils.

And whilst many Local Authorities may now have caught up, families still awaiting a final decision regarding their child’s school places are being urged to take urgent action in order to speed the process up.

Specialist education expert Imogen Jolly, from Simpson Millar said, “The figures relating to the number of children affected by the missed deadline in the North East is concerning, and whilst some authorities may now have caught up it’s likely that many families remain in limbo.

“In such circumstances, it’s not uncommon for children to miss the start of the school year whilst the school admissions appeal process is ongoing, and of course that child missing out on the start of school can have a detrimental effect. This is particularly true for children with additional educational or health-related needs.”

Imogen 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 risked getting a poor start in a secondary school; as well as providing sufficient time to lodge an appeal if parents are unhappy with the allocation.

“Based on these recent figures, dozens of children with Special Educational Needs could be subjected to a stressful, poorly managed and hugely overwhelming transition from primary to secondary school, which is extremely concerning.

“For those Local Authorities who did fail to meet the deadline, it is possible that they have been subjected to legal action in order to hold them accountable for failing to meet their statutory duty.”

Sunderland City Council was the worst performing Local Authority, with 61% of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) not recieving notification of their secondary school place by the deadline.

Other poorly performing Local Authorites in the North East included North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council at 54%, and and South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council at 50%.

Imogen continues, “The Local Authorites must do better to ensure that all affected pupils receive their notification in time going forward, to ensure no one is left in limbo, as has been the case in previous years.

Simpson Millar is also urging parents to take note of the deadline for next year, and to be aware that if they did not receive their transition Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) by the 15th of February, they are entitled to take legal action against the Local Authority.

“The sooner a parent takes 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 contact with our team of specialist Education Lawyers in the event of a missed deadline.”

North East Regional Statistics as obtained through a Freedom of Information Request carried out by Simpson Millar relating to the number of children with special needs with an EHCP transitioning from primary to secondary school in September 2017.

The shortfall figure shows the number of children who did not receive their final transition Education Health Care Plan or statement – notifying them of which school they had been allocated - by the 15th of February deadline.

It is the statutory duty of local councils to meet this deadline.

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