Young people with special educational needs (“SEN”) can be supported up until the age of 25 – well beyond compulsory school age. Annual reviews are an opportunity for the child or young person to discuss with their family, school or college, and the local authority (“LA”), what they would like to achieve as they grow up. The aim of this is for young people with SEN to be supported towards greater independence and employability.

From Year 9 onwards, the local authority has a duty to ensure that the annual review meeting “consider[s] what provision is required to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living” (Regulation 20(6) and Regulation 21(6) of the SEN and Disability Regulations 2014).

Start planning early

The SEN and Disability Code of Practice (the “Code”) has the detail of what ought to be considered in annual reviews from Year 9 onwards.

For teenagers, preparation for adult life needs to be an explicit element of their planning and support. Discussions about their future should focus on what they want to achieve and the best way to support them to achieve (paragraph 8.7 of the Code).

There may be very good reasons to start planning for adulthood sooner than Year 9 and the Code suggests that it can be helpful for EHC plan reviews before Year 9 to have this focus too. 

Person-centred planning

Planning must be centred around the individual and explore the child or young person’s aspirations and abilities, what they want to be able to do when they leave post-16 education or training and the support they need to achieve their ambition. Local authorities should ensure that children and young people have the support they need (for example, they might need an advocate) to participate fully in this planning and make decisions. Transition planning must be built into the revised EHC plan and should result in clear outcomes being agreed that are ambitious and stretching and which will prepare young people for adulthood (paragraph 8.9 of the Code).

It is important the child or young person themselves can give their views and cover the topics they think are important. Some helpful resources to assist with this are:

There are some key points for annual reviews and transition between school and further education and/or training:

  • planning depends entirely on the young person’s aspirations and abilities and what is needed to support them to “achieve their ambition”: the EHC plan must fit the individual young person and not the other way around;
  • young people should be appropriately supported to participate and make decisions. Parents and carers need to think about how best to enable their young people to make decisions when the time comes;
  • transition planning must be built in to the revised EHC plan. Although outcomes will need to be revised remember that only the contents of sections B and F of an EHC plan can be appealed and it will be crucial that the transition planning is specified and quantified in section F of the revised plan;
  • the outcomes sought for a young person must be “ambitious” and “stretching” and “prepare young people for adulthood”. This is very important when thinking about education or training for young people aged 19-25 where provision tends to be more bespoke (and harder to get).

What is preparation for adulthood?

As this depends entirely on the individual, there are no hard rules. The Code has some useful examples of what this might be (see paragraph 8.10):

  • support to prepare for higher education and/or employment;
  • training options such as supported internships, apprenticeships and traineeships;
  • support in finding a job, and learning how to do a job (for example, through work experience opportunities or the use of job coaches);
  • help in understanding any welfare benefits that might be available when in work;
  • preparation for independent living including where the child or young person wants to live in the future, who they want to live with and what support they will need;
  • considering local housing options including housing benefits and social care support available;
  • support in maintaining good health in adult life;
  • support in participating in society: this is a wide-reaching concept and includes such things as understanding how to get about (using transport and benefits options relating to this) and making and maintaining relationships.

Crucially, the Code makes clear that: 

Where young people have EHC plans, local authorities should consider the need to provide a full package of provision and support across education, health and care that covers five days a week, where that is appropriate to meet the young person’s needs.

Five-day packages of provision and support do not have to be at one provider and could involve amounts of time at different providers and in different settings. It may include periods outside education institutions with appropriate support, including time and support for independent study.”

(Paragraphs 8.39 and 8.40 - IPSEA’s emphasis)

Some young people with EHC plans may be unlikely to ever live independently or to go into paid employment. This is not a reason to stop supporting them, as they are likely to still benefit from special educational provision to help them make the progress of which they are capable. See our page on what to do if the LA takes away your EHC plan for more information.

Who provides this support?

The support required should be set out in the EHC plan. Reviews in Year 9 onwards should identify what action should be taken, and by whom, to provide the support the young person needs (paragraph 8.11 of the Code).

Remember that anything which educates or trains a young person is capable of being special educational provision. Health care provision and social care provision which educates or trains a young person must be specified and quantified in section F of the EHC plan.

See the section on what an EHC plan contains and our EHC plan checklist to see whether the EHC plan contains everything it should, and what changes you should ask for.

It’s also important to remember that schools and colleges have duties to participate in the planning process for Year 9 onwards.  Paragraph 8.24 of the Code says:

If it is clear that a young person wants to attend a different school (sixth form) or a college, then that school or college must co-operate, so that it can help to shape the EHC plan, help to define the outcomes for that young person and start developing a post-16 study programme tailored to their needs.”

What if the young person is not in education or training?

If a young person has an EHC plan and is aged under 18 but is not receiving education and training (for whatever reason), the local authority must review the plan “to ensure that the young person continues to receive education or training” (see SEN Reg 29).

Whilst this is not, strictly, an annual review, the local authority must conduct the review in accordance with SEN Regs 18 and 19: which means that the local authority must follow the steps set out on the page about the annual review process.

And finally…

The local authority must not cease an EHC plan simply because a young person is aged 16 or over.

Young people with EHC plans may need longer in education or training in order to achieve their outcomes and make an effective transition into adulthood. This is something else that the local authority must take into consideration at annual reviews for young people aged 19-25.

See our page on what to do if the LA takes away your EHC plan for more information.


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