Phase Transfer Deadline For Children With SEN Is Approaching
The Law Of… knowing about the phase transfer deadline
Wednesday 15th February is an important date for the parents of children with Statements of Special Educational Needs (SSEN) or Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).
This is because it's the date by which local authorities are legally obliged to confirm the school a child should attend if they are due to undergo a phase transfer that year.
James Betts, Solicitor in Education and Community Care, explains what parents need to know about this deadline.
What Do Parents Need To Know About The Phase Transfer Deadline?
Whether your child has an EHCP or a SSEN and they are due to transfer from one school to another this year, for example from primary to secondary school, local authorities have a legal obligation to confirm which school your child should attend by 15th February.
The local authority should inform parents about its decision by issuing an amended EHC plan, which names the school they have chosen.
What Is A Phase Transfer?
The 2014 SEN Regulations define a phase transfer as a transfer from:
- Relevant early years education to school
- Infant to junior school
- Primary to middle school
- Primary to secondary school
- Middle to secondary school
- Secondary school to a post-16 institution (although in this case it is important to note that the date for this deadline is 31st March, as opposed to 15th February)
If your child is due to undergo any of the transfers set out above, the 15th February deadline will apply.
Why Is There A Deadline?
There are 2 reasons why the deadline of 15th February has been set.
- Firstly, it provides certainty and allows essential and necessary transition planning to take place to ensure that children are prepared and ready to start at their new schools. This is particularly important for children with special educational needs such as autism as they often struggle to cope with change and require more support as a result.
- Secondly, it ensures that parents will have time to challenge the decision through the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) if they disagree with the school that is proposed by the local authority.
The local authority will need to confirm its decision by issuing an amended final statement or EHC plan naming the school they propose from September. This will give parents the right to make an appeal to the Tribunal, and it also means that parents will get a decision from the Tribunal before their child starts school.
If, for any reason, you're worried that the local authority isn't going to meet this deadline you should get in touch with them as soon as possible.
Otherwise, there's a risk that it might not be possible to get a decision from the Tribunal before September. This means that your child may have to attend the school of the LEA’s choice, even if you think it's unsuitable for them.
What Can Parents Do If The Local Education Authority (LEA) Misses The Deadline?
It can be really frustrating when local authorities fail to meet important deadlines or make decisions that you believe aren't necessarily in the best interests of your child.
If the local authority fails to meet the deadline, this can be challenged through judicial review.
From our experience, a strongly worded letter pointing out the clear legal obligations generally lead to a quick resolution for parents. If this is not the case, it's possible to ask the court to intervene. In this situation, it's difficult for the local authority to justify any reason for the delay.
What Can Parents Do If They Disagree With The School Named By The LEA?
If parents disagree with the school named by the LEA, they can appeal to the Tribunal. Any appeal must be brought within 2 months of the date of the LEA's decision (i.e. the date of the covering letter sent with the Statement or EHC plan).
How Can Simpson Millar Help Parents?
If the local authority doesn't contact you by 15th February or you disagree with the school that has been proposed for your child, contact our specialist Education Law solicitors as soon as possible.
We have been drafting appeals and representing parents in Tribunals for years and know that acting quickly, but effectively, makes the world of difference.