Local Authorities Set to Miss Transition Deadline for Special Needs Children


Councils are using delaying tactics to distract parents from the fact that they will miss the legal deadline for preparing a vital transition plan for children with special educational needs.

Transfer a Statement over to an Education Health and Care Plan

By 15 February, local authorities must have produced a final transition Education Health Care plan for children with special educational needs. But with just a week to go, many parents have yet to receive a draft plan, which they should have a minimum of 15 days to review.

Local authorities have a legal duty 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 February deadline is crucial for parents who need time to prepare their children for the transition, and for those who wish to appeal the provision or placement set out in the plan.

Specialist education solicitor Thomas Mitchell from Simpson Millar says he has already answered numerous calls from worried parents who are yet to receive the draft plan.

He says: “Local authorities have a legal obligation to meet the deadline for reviewing the needs of children with special educational needs, and to prepare an Education Health and Care plan if necessary. Those that fail could face a judicial review.

“The transition from primary to secondary school can be hugely overwhelming for children with special educational needs. The deadline is there to ensure parents and teachers have the necessary time to prepare a proper transition for these children who otherwise risk getting a poor start in secondary school.

“Given that we are already receiving calls from parents who haven’t even received the draft transition plan yet, we can say for certain that several local authorities across the country will miss next week’s deadline. That is wholly unacceptable and parents have the right to hold them accountable. Without knowing where their child will attend secondary school, they can’t begin the planning and handover process, which is absolutely vital.”

Thomas says some local authorities are trying to stall by engaging parents in a conversation about the plan, which is yet to be drafted. “The draft plan should have been ready a minimum of four weeks before the final deadline so that parents have enough time to review it and provide important feedback. Local authorities should be working on producing these plans – not playing for more time.”

Being included in organised induction activities before the summer holidays is essential for children with special educational needs – some of whom need additional time and support to cope with all major life changes.

“Parents are right to be anxious; they don’t know where their child will be going to school and which provision will be available. They feel in a state of limbo; many are worried that their child will miss the crucial introduction period, or that there won’t be enough time for a proper handover between past and future teachers.”

According to Thomas, the vast majority of appeals are successful in securing better provision or support for children, but the process takes time.

“If a child’s transition plan isn’t done in time, parents who wish to make an appeal risk running out of time before inductions begin, and even the school year. This is not a process that should be rushed but by leaving it too late, local authorities are leaving parents in-between a rock and a hard place.”

Transfer a Statement over to an Education Health and Care Plan: The process

The local authority will gather information and advice about the child’s needs, the provision needed to support those needs and the expected outcomes. Advice and information will be sought from the parents, the child and their school, an educational psychologist and other professionals. A dedicated Transition Review meeting should take place where the parents are invited to attend. If the conclusion of the assessment is that an Education Health and Care Plan is required, then the local authority must produce one and give the parents a minimum of 15 days to review and comment on it. Parents can request whether they want their child to attend a mainstream or special school, and name their preferred choice. Afterwards, the local authority will consult with the school in question and then issue a final plan.

Parents are allowed to launch an appeal to the tribunal if they disagreed with the description of their child’s special educational needs, the special educational provision, or the placement.

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