EHCP Plans – Pros, Cons & Criticisms

EHCP plans (Education, Health and Care Plans) are plans put in place to support a child’s educational, health and social care needs from ages 0 – 25.

They unlock much-needed funding and support for students so they can participate in mainstream education and transition to life outside of school.

What is an EHCP Plan?

EHCP stands for Education, Health and Care Plan. An EHCP outlines the support that is required for a child in England who has special education needs (SEN). It can provide the child with additional support such as one-to-one tuition to allow them equal opportunities to succeed as other students in mainstream schooling.

Video: What is an Education, Health and Care Plan?

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Who Requests and EHCP?

Parents and teachers can both suggest an EHCP assessment takes place.

What Happens during an EHCP Assessment?

The Local Authority will conduct the assessment, with involvement of parents throughout the process. Considerations will include:

  • The child’s wishes, views and feelings. The child should also be provided with the necessary support to participate in the decision making process.
  • The parents’ wishes. Parents must be able to understand everything written in the plan, consulted throughout the process, and have the right to contest findings.
  • The child’s special educational needs (SEN). This includes cognitive capacity, learning disabilities, communication abilities, social, emotional and mental health, and sensory and physical requirements.
  • Health and safety considerations. Children with serious physical or mental disabilities need to be catered for, including ensuring they have sufficient access to classrooms and that their mental health is prioritized.
  • Any requirements for social care for the child. This can include out-of-school requirements and rights to participate in school outings.
  • The intended outcomes should be for the child. These will be reviewed annually, but may include educational benchmarks that the child could reasonably reach with support.
  • The educational or classroom provisions that should be put in place. This might include one-to-one support, extra lessons and support, or resources required.
  • The health provisions that should be put in place. This may include physical classroom requirements for children with mobility requirements, medication requirements, or medical training for teachers.
  • The social care provisions that should be put in place. This often includes social care support for families to ensure the child is safe at home and can successfully complete their homework.
  • The school the child will attend. This may be a nursery, local school, or further education institution.
  • The required budget and how that budget will be spent to support the child.
  • Supporting evidence from experts. Reports from speech therapists, medical professionals and so on are placed here.

Further requirements include:

  • It must be written in language anyone could reasonably understand (no jargon).
  • It must be written with the advisement and consent of the parent and child.
  • A child in Year 9 or above must also have a provision that outlines how the child will be helped to transition from school into the community.

History and Background of SEN in England

Statements of special needs have been in place for many decades. As time has passed, new provisions have been included and changes made:

  • 1978: Warnock Report suggests statements of SEN should be produced to provide additional needs to students who require them. This would help integrate students with additional needs into mainstream classrooms.
  • 1981: Education Act of 1981 mandates that SEN statements be written for students.
  • 1991: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK government, states children with disabilities should be given support to become independent individuals (Article 23). Article 28 also states that education should be provided to all children regardless of ability.
  • 1993: Education Act of 1993 introduces staged assessments. Now, schools had to prove they made sufficient efforts to cater to the child before a Statement of SEN could be put in place. SENCOs (special education needs coordinators) were introduced into all schools to help facilitate SEN support.
  • 2001: SEND Act states that schools should provide 3 levels of support: ‘school action’, ‘school action plus’, and ‘statement of SEN’. The Act also states that the views of the child should be taken into account during the statement of SEN process.
  • 2008: Lamb Inquiry finds parents are dissatisfied with the lack of consultation and their limited rights to contest SEN statement findings.
  • 2014: SEND Code of Practice and Children and Families Act (2014) replace statements of SEN with EHCP plans.

EHCP Plan vs. Statement of SEN

Statements of SEN, officially ‘Statements of Educational Needs’ existed up until 2014.

In 2014, the government SEND Code of Practice Review (2014) found that statements of SEN should be changed to EHCP plans. This recommendation was put into law with the Children and Families Act (2014).

EHCP plans have benefits over SEN statements, including:

  • The plan now considers health and social care needs alongside educational needs in order to take a more holistic approach to the child’s wellbeing.
  • The EHCP now follows the child until they are 25 years of age (unless they go to university, get a job, or request that it be closed). This helps facilitate transitions into post-education community life.
  • Parents have more say in the decision making process.
  • Multi-agency involvement was enhanced.
  • EHCPs get reviewed annually.

Benefits, Challenges and Criticisms

Benefits of EHC Plans

  • Provides admission priority to any mainstream school in your local catchment area.
  • Provides the child the ability to enter a school outside of their catchment zone.
  • Follows the child up to age 25, except in universities.
  • Legally mandates that the child should get the support listed on the plan.
  • Grants additional help that the teachers and students need to ensure successful mainstream integration of students with special needs.
  • Works had to include parents in decision making processes and give them a genuine voice at the table.

Challenges and Criticisms of EHC Plans

  • Support and funding delays. In 2017, it was reported that over 4,000 children with approved EHCP plans still got no additional support.
  • Wait lists for getting a Plan. In 2016, 1,710 children were waiting for a plan. By 2017, that list of students waiting for plans jumped to 4,050 – more than double!
  • Many Local Authorities refuse to grant EHC plans to students. The process of challenging Local Authority decisions causes stress and financial hardship to families.
  • When a child is granted an EHC plan, the school must cover the first £6,000 of the cost of the plan before additional government funding is provided. This provides a disincentive for schools to issue plans.

For further information on criticisms and challenges of EHCPs, I recommend reading this article from The Guardian.

References and Further Reading

EHCP plansCowne, E.A., Frankl, C. & Gerschel, L. (2015) The SENCo handbook: leading and managing a whole school approach. Routledge, London.

Norwich, B., & Eaton, A. (2015). The new special educational needs (SEN) legislation in England and implications for services for children and young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 20(2), 117-132.

Palikara, O., Castro, S., Gaona, C., & Eirinaki, V. (2019). Professionals’ views on the new policy for special educational needs in England: ideology versus implementation. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 34(1), 83-97. (read it online for free here)

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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